There are about a bazillion charts and lists you can find about age appropriate chores for kids. I don’t have that here. I do have advice on helping kids get started with chores and take responsibility for a certain task. Other than helping put dirty clothes in the basket and helping pick up toys after playing, I don’t have my kiddos help with much before age 3. They just kind of do everything with me and I talk about it all while I do it. But, no one task is their responsibility. But after age 3, here is how we do chores for kids in the Joyful Momma house.
When Verity turned 4, I gave her the task of being the bathroom helper. Anytime I would walk into the kid bathroom and see a mess or disorganization, I would send her in and give her just one task at a time. Put clothes in the hamper. Close the shower curtain. Throw kleenex in the garbage can. Put the brush in the drawer. Use wipes to wipe toothpaste off the sink (she just uses baby wipes).
I would give her one instruction over and over for weeks at a time until I could just send her in and ask her to get the bathroom cleaned up and ready for guests.
I try to teach my kids that guests can come by at any minute and we want them to feel welcome by doing our best to be prepared. That only happens about 50% of the time, but it sure is a task worth learning. Now, at age 4, I have Harrison tackle bathroom duty in the morning just before leaving for school and just before bed. Then it stays in pretty good shape.
My favorite trick for getting the kids really going on cleaning their room is to use my iPhone camera.
I go in and take a starting picture and then sit in the livingroom (or wherever) and assign one task to start. As soon as that task is done they get to take my phone in and take a picture and bring it back to show me. I then assign the next task and we continue on.
They have the best time and it doesn’t seem to overwhelm them with EVERYTHING that there is to pick up at the end of the day. This idea came to me at the end of my third pregnancy. Sitting at the end of the day was about all I could muster…..so the phone trick it was. And it really continued to work well when I had a brand new little nursling always in my arms. These days, I just tend to sit in their room and give them pointers and suggestions and I pick one of the assignments to do myself so that we can all work together to get it done.
At age 3 and 5, the girls could share the task of sweeping the floor. I have a broom that is about 3 feet tall and a dustpan with a long 3-foot handle on it that is upright. Verity would do the sweeping and Nora followed her around with the dustpan for V to sweep the crumbs in to. It is funny to listen to them try to work together and accomplish the task.
We now use a Dyson cordless vacuum after meals to snatch up all the dust and crumbs and as early as 3, they were strong enough to handle the task. If you kids don’t like the loud noise of the vacuum, put a pair of headphones on them.
As far as laundry goes, Verity does the washing and drying (with help as needed) and I do the folding of the clothes. At age 4, I start them on folding small towels and washes rags. Each child knows how to put away their own stacks of clothes. I divide up the clothes and they just take one stack per drawer at a time. This gives us a little higher success rate of getting the garments in the right drawer.
At age 5, my kids were good enough at folding articles of clothing and hanging items up, that they took over the folding. I would sort them into a pile for each child and they take on the folding.
Things don’t stay perfectly folded, and that is not my goal. My goal is willing obedience to help and take responsibility. In time, keeping their clothes wrinkle-free will be a concern of theirs…..or not.
*Now, don’t get me wrong here, I do laundry for everyone start to finish plenty during the week. They get to doing homework and such and it gives me a chance to serve THEM by folding and putting away their clothes. But this is a non-stop family job that everyone gets to participate in and tackle together.
When Nora was 3 she was my helper right before dinner getting the table set. She couldn’t reach the dishes so I set them out for her on the counter and she set the table. At lunch and breakfast, I choose one child to serve and they take the dished up meals to each person. They LOVE getting to be the one who serves.
Now that the girls are older and have really been trained over time on how to do these chores, it is so much easier. The training takes consistent effort, encouragement, and grace. We do “room check” before bed and they get 2 quarters for their wallet if it is tidy and in place for the evening. They LOVE earing a little money.
What chores do you have your young ones help with?
I know that this will be a constant ebb and flow of tasks as my kids get older and can do more.
I really like to focus on a cheerful heart and willing obedience with helping. That is a skill all in its self.
Happy Teaching. Happy Homemaking!