Anyone who has ever let a 3-year-old “help” sweep the kitchen floor knows who’s really doing the chore. Watching your broom handle sail within centimetres of a stack of dishes - all while a dirt cloud settles on your benchtop - would make the most patient parent question the value of giving age-appropriate chores to a toddler.
Still, finding age-appropriate chores for kids can give you both bigger benefits than made beds and clean rugs, advises Elizabeth Crary, parent educator and best-selling author of Children and Chores based in Seattle in the United States. “Research shows the single best predictor of success in your mid-20s is doing chores as a young child,” she says.
That doesn’t mean you should hand your toddler a power washer, Crary says, but it does mean that when your tot asks to help, it’s best to engage her enthusiastically. “Kids at this age really like to pitch in. If you can get them hooked on helping now, later it becomes a part of what they do in the family and in their community,” she says of the effects of finding age-appropriate chores for kids. To get your little one excited about cleaning up, Crary offers some tips.
“Research shows the single best predictor of success in your mid-20s is doing chores as a young child.”
— Elizabeth Crary
When giving chores for kids, make it fun
Helping toddlers turn tasks into games will serve them well as adults. “Instead of telling them not to leave their toy trucks in the hallway, show your children the ‘lanes’ in your home and ask for their help in keeping them clear,” Crary suggests. You can even make “parking spots” for toy cars and trucks with string or rulers.
Consider your child’s age
It makes sense to involve little ones in keeping floors clean because that’s where they spend most of their time—and make the biggest mess. “When kids are 1 or 2 years old, they can help you with putting their toys away,” Crary says.
“Chores are most effective when children can master one task at a time.”
— Elizabeth Crary
A few years later, after they’ve mastered the task and established a routine, you can teach them how to use a broom or a damp mop. Later, they can vacuum. “Chores are most effective when children can master one task at a time,” she adds.
Offer choices when assigning chores to kids
Instill a sense of responsibility - not just obedience - by offering choices and giving children freedom to manage their time. “When my son was young, his job was to empty the wastepaper baskets. He turned 7 and didn’t want to do it anymore, so I wrote all our household tasks on index cards and let him trade it for something else.”
Crary’s son chose vacuuming, which, she adds, in the short term was a little more work for her. “In the long run, teaching him how to vacuum really paid off!” While chores for kids may not be easy at first, they will make life easier down the road.
Show and tell
Kids have unique learning styles, Crary says. “Some children prefer to get information verbally, some need a visual demonstration, and some need to actually perform the task as you explain it to them.” Demonstrating the different chores for kids, such as how to work the broom and dust pan, rather than simply asking them to sweep the floor, may be the ticket to a crumb-free kitchen floor.
Now that you know how to find age-appropriate chores for kids, get to assigning. Your home will be clean in no time.