My daughters are two and four, and even at these young ages I see how much they welcome some responsibility around the house, and how proud they are when they can accomplish “grown up” tasks. Household chores provide a wonderful way for little ones to learn and practice new skills. Parents may also find that they come to appreciate the task in a new way, as you start to view it as a learning tool.
In my home, I’ve noticed how much smoother mealtimes are when I invite the children to help with some preparation and some clean up afterward. In the morning, as I put their breakfasts on the table, I fill the sink with warm soapy water and set up a sturdy stool. We eat together, and then I ask each child to take a turn washing her own cup, bowl and spoon at the sink. Usually, at least one of the girls will enjoy this so much she will continue to help me wash other dishes, pots and the table.
I’ve also designated one kitchen drawer, “The Kid Drawer” where the child-sized utensils, place settings and napkins are kept. They’ve each begun to pick their items and set the table for lunch and dinner. This gives them a useful task to focus on during those hungry moments before the meal is ready, and it keeps them from fussing with each other too much.
Because they’re young, I’m not a stickler about chores. If they’re playing quietly or engrossed in an art project before mealtime, I won’t interrupt them. But if they’re looking for something to do, while I’m busy in the kitchen, it’s been fun to have their help, and I do believe we are setting the stage for continued participation as they grow.
Inviting young children to help with chores does mean that the grown-ups need to slow down and relax a little. We need to view their involvement as an opportunity to connect, to share an experience and to help the child practice a new skill. They are learning about life during these moments in the kitchen or dusting or making beds, and that is just as important as the housework that needs to get done (or more important!).
Who’s helping in your house? Do your children have chores?
For parents of young children, here are some additional articles that go much more in-depth into the how’s and why’s of inviting children to help with household tasks. Enjoy!
Joyful Toddlers: Young Kids and Chores
Simple Kids: Kids in the Kitchen
For Small Hands is a wonderful resource for child-sized kitchen utensils and tools for yard work.