But there are other reasons I want my kids to help out around the house. Doing chores teaches them responsibility and it encourages strong family ties (we're a family and we work together to help each other).
I started teaching my kids to pitch in before they were even a year old. I would encourage them to help me put the toys back into the box as soon as they were old enough to understand the concept of picking something up and putting it in something else.
Little Man is almost two now, and he cheerfully sings the clean-up song while putting toys back in the appropriate place. He throws things in the garbage for me (sometimes without my blessing), puts shoes by the door, and helps put silverware away in the drawer (I just wish he'd wait until they're clean). Of course, it helps that he loves to copy his big sister.
Princess turned four in January and she has regular chores she helps with. Sometimes she needs a pep talk or the threat of a time-out if she doesn't do as she's told, but she always ends up doing them. She helps me put the clean dishes away, folds washcloths, puts away her clean underwear and socks, helps me clear and wash the table after meals, and puts dirty clothes in the laundry basket. When I'm cleaning house, I expect her to be at my side or readily available to help me if I ask her. She also knows that she has to clean up after herself. If she spills her milk at lunchtime, she goes over to the drawer to get a towel and takes care of it.
So what can you expect your child to be able to handle? Here are a few suggestions:
1-2 years old:
- Pick up toys.
- Simple helpful tasks such as getting a clean diaper, throwing garbage away, etc.
2-4 years old:
- Clear their own dishes after meals.
- Put some of their laundry away (I keep Princess's socks and underwear in boxes so it's easy for her to put them away in the proper place).
- Be Mommy's helper when Mommy's cleaning house.
4-5 years old:
- Dust furniture.
- Wipe down kitchen table and bathroom counter with a wet rag (don't let a child this young use dangerous chemical cleaners).
- Make bed.
5-6 years old:
- Can do more chores without close supervision.
- Wash dishes (leaving the pots and pans or tough-to-clean dishes for Mommy).
- Help fold laundry and put away.