If you're a parent (or you used to be a kid) you're familar with the concept of chores. My grandmother was born in 1914. Growing up on a farm in central Pennsylvania with twelve brothers and sisters, I guarantee you she and her siblings knew the meaning of the word chores. In today's world, family farming may not be quite as common as it used to be, but chores are as important as ever. In fact, I'd say they're even more important today for reasons besides the simple fact that the cows need milking.
Consider for a moment the basic tasks of modern life... housecleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry, lawn care, car care, communicating with service providers, and pet care to name a few. As adults, mastery of these simple skills is a big part of life running smoothly and as adults, we should be able to do these things with our eyes closed. Yet, how can we expect to master them by adulthood if we don't learn them as kids?
As kids grow from infancy to adolescence, they become more and more capable but only under the direction and teaching of an adult. A parent's primary job -- aside from providing love, food and shelter of course -- is to recognize their child's abilities at every age and teach that child life skills, so when their little adult-in-training leaves the nest they're fully prepared to fly on their own. To do anything less is a terrible disservice to them.
If you're wondering how and when to give your kids responsibilities around the house, here are some age-appropriate tasks that kids can (and dare I say should) be doing:
Ages 2 – 3
Don't expect perfection or independence, just encourage them to help. They love helping at this age! It's the concept and introducing the habit of helping that's most important, not the task itself.
Help make the bed (pull the covers up)
Pick-up their toys and put them away
Hang clothes on wall hooks
Put dirty clothing into a hamper
Help feed animals
Help wipe up their own spills
Help clean up in common areas
Ages 4 - 6
They're able to work more independently at this age and boy do they want to do things on their own! Again, show them how, supervise and praise, but don't expect perfection. Your goal is to help them succeed, not to do it for them.
Any of the above plus:
Make their own bed
Help set the dinner table
Clear dishes from the table after meals
Retrieve the mail / newspaper
Dust the furniture
Help cook and bake
Help carry and put away groceries
Ages 7 - 12
They're getting more independent and proficient by this age, especially at 10 to 12. Try not to micro-manage if you can help it!
Any of the others plus:
Take care of pets
Prepare simple foods
Help wash the car
Vacuum, sweep and mop
Clean the bathroom completely
Rake leaves and shovel snow
Help with laundry
Hang and fold laundry
Take out the trash
Ages 13 and Older
Rejoice! If you've taught them well, by this age you should be able to leave a list and expect great results!
Any of the others plus:
Change light bulbs
Replace vacuum cleaner bags
Clean out the refrigerator
Clean the stovetop
Make grocery lists
Do all laundry functions
Mow and edge the lawn
Giving your children regular responsibilities from an early age is so good for them! (Despite that they may protest) It teaches them that they have something to contribute, since they can't contribute to the family team financially. They learn that valuable contributions can take forms other than money. Chores also teach kids accountability and in the midst of learning to do simple household tasks, they learn important skills they can apply in other areas of life, such as problem-solving, decision-making, prioritizing, project management, planning, and delaying gratification.
One of the greatest benefits of chores is your child's growth. As children learn and master increasingly challenging tasks, their self-esteem and overall confidence builds. By giving kids chores and making them accountable for their household responsibilities, you prepare them well for the day they leave your nest and build their own.
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