Are you sick of picking up after your child? Get him to do it himself - along with a number of other toddler-friendly household chores, explains early childhood educator Cheryl Dennis.
One of the things two of my three grown-up children still complain about is the fact they had to do the dishes when they were younger. One would wash, the other would dry, and they'd both put them away. By the time their youngest brother was old enough to help out, we had bought a dishwasher. Decades later, the older two still complain about how unfair it was that their little brother didn't have to spend ages up to his elbows in a sink full of dishes.
It's a privilege of parenthood that we can tell our kids what to do (within reason, of course). We're in charge of their development, and it's one of our duties to guide our children to behaving like responsible members of our family and our society. When they are ready, both physically and emotionally, it can be really rewarding for both parents and children to give little ones the opportunity to help out around the house. What may start out as us telling them what to do will soon transition into helping children feel like they are really contributing members of the family, working together for the good of their family "team". This not only fosters independence, it helps them to learn skills that will serve them well throughout life. And the bonus is that you won't have to do quite so much picking up after their messes if they're cleaning up themselves!
To encourage your child to participate, start by making their chores into a game, shower them with praise, and remember that their standards are different. With a little practice over time, you may be surprised at how much "live-in help" you have.
Each child's level of skill and physical ability is different, so there is no hard and fast rule of what they can do at a particular age, although the following are general guidelines as to what might be appropriate from about the age of two up to five. Try to work with your child as soon as you notice he can follow directions. It may be as early as 18 months of age, and long before they can talk. Keep in mind that younger toddlers often can't follow multiple directions at once, so you might have to modify your instructions into individual parts that they can easily keep track of. As your toddler matures, he will be able to follow multi-part instructions, such as, "Open your backpack, take out your lunchbox, and put it on the kitchen bench."
When you're thinking of implementing some chores for your child, give him at least a week to master one skill, with your supervision and assistance when necessary, before introducing a new one. Once the first skill is mastered, you can add another, and another, and keep building on their abilities and encouraging them to extend themselves just a little bit more. Be prepared for accidents and mistakes, and continue to praise their efforts. You might have to clean up after them for a little while longer while they get the hang of things, but this will change over time and with gentle persistence.
From about age two, toddlers may be able to:
At this age, don't concern yourself with results. It's all about reinforcing the experiences and following directions. Keep smiling as they look to you for praise. Remember that two is a very young age and some of these skills may not be mastered for a couple of years, but it's okay to start working on them now. Three-year-olds have increased physical abilities and are a bit steadier on their feet, as well as are better able to grasp items in their hands and manipulate objects.
From about age three, toddlers may be able to:
From the age of four, children have better communication skills, and can follow more complicated directions. They're also becoming adept at reaching things on shelves using stools, putting pieces together, and taking initiative with tasks that they can do. If you make certain chores a part of their daily routine, they will remember how to do them and will only need brief reminders of what comes next - and sometimes they'll remind you!
Four-year-olds may be able to:
By the time your child is five years old, they have reached a very helpful age, as they've mastered many skills and enjoy helping out. Make the most of this before puberty strikes! They will use many skills when they are at school, so this is the time to really help them to shine.
Five-year-olds may be able to:
This is by no means a definitive list, and you'll undoubtedly find many more chores that are specific to your own family! But it will give you a general idea of what you can let your child try. If he has a hard time and gets frustrated, try something else, and go back to the original chore in a few weeks' time. But always let your child try a task, especially if he asks you.
The time you invest now will be well worth it in the long run, and remember to always praise their efforts above all else.
Cheryl Dennis is an early childhood educator with over 30 years of experience in the classroom. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of four. Her grown-up daughter still loathes doing the dishes.