Appropriate Chores for Young Children

Children can learn a lot from doing age-appropriate chores
By Elizabeth Steenkamp

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When we are born, each of us is entirely reliant on others, making childhood an apprenticeship of sorts that gradually prepares us for adulthood. From infancy, children reach out to the world, beginning with their mother and father. As that bond is cemented, children seek more triumphs and competence.
As a parent and educator, I know that living in the 21st Century, boasts a demanding and dynamic lifestyle; at home and in the classroom. So it is important to instil a sense of ownership and pride within our children from a young age. By assigning responsibilities (chores), we are teaching them to build their self-esteem, teaching self-help skills and encouraging their independence so that they too will one day be able to cope with the demands of society.
Asking young children to help with tasks not only ”lifts the load” as a parent or a teacher, but children learn empathy by sharing responsibilities and become more self-confident when they accomplish their assigned task, particularly with little or no guidance. Chores are great tools for establishing routine, which may reduce opportunities for confusion or disagreements amongst siblings or other toddlers in a classroom environment.
Giving children chores
Remember, each child develops at his own pace, so some children may be ready for chores, while others will only be able to perform tasks with some support. Start with one or two chores; it is important to only start with a few tasks at a time. You definitely don't want to overwhelm your child or make them feel pressured. The main aim in giving your toddler chores is for them to feel capable, not overwhelmed.
As children approach chores, it’s guaranteed they’ll do things differently, and messier than you! But as they gain finesse through trial and error, they’ll achieve mastery and build pride. Don't expect perfection or correct the work that the child has done. There is plenty of time for that later when the child is more competent at the task and has more confidence. What you want to focus on now is rewarding the child's effort and your patience and gentle guidance will mean a lot.
In addition to simple chores, young children can also take care of their own cleanliness, grooming, clothing and toys. Here are some chores that are sure to help you create independent and confident children.
  1. Pick up toys and books and put them in their suitable place (you must first assign clear places for your child's belongings)
  2. Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket - this can be done after bath-time, in the morning, and before bed-time.
  3. Wipe the table after meals - not only is this an easy task, but they will love doing it!
  4. Dusting and wiping - make it fun! Purchase a bath hand puppet to use when dusting or wiping to “collect all the dust bunnies.”
  5. Unload the groceries - after a grocery trip let your toddler hand you items out of the grocery bags while you pack them away.
  6. Help set the table - just be sure to only give your toddler safe, unbreakable objects.
  7. Let them help you make the bed - do this chore together and squeeze in a little bonding while you work.
  8. Clean up spills and messes with a paper towel, sponge or a child-sized broom.
  9. Water plants - for this chore, provide measuring cups and a bucket of water and then let your toddler delight in pouring it into the pot and feeding the plant.
  10. Sweeping - Use a toddler-sized broom and dust pan. While this is one chore that generally creates more work for you, they love helping and sweeping the dirt back and forth.
  11. Pushing buttons - If there are buttons that need pushing let your toddler do it - elevators, dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer, even the coffee maker. Toddlers love buttons! This isn't quite a chore but is still teaching little ones to follow directions. It also teaches them that they are capable, they can do it, and when possible, you will let them.
  12. Help in the kitchen - there are so many ways toddlers can help in the kitchen from stirring to pouring to washing fruit.
Chores given to children will enable them to contribute to the family, and care for themselves and their personal belongings. It is a standard plan in an apprenticeship for adulthood!
Elizabeth Steenkamp is the Principal of Junior Colleges Castillian.

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