Chores. No one really likes them, but they’re a part of everyday life. Dishes need to be done; clothes need washed, clutter needs picked up and trash needs taken out. As adults, we’ve pretty much got the chore thing figured out. We know how to wash clothes without turning all of our whites pink. We know that we need to rinse the dishes a bit before throwing them in the dish washer and we know that you should never toss knives into a sink full of dish water. We’re not necessarily geniuses, or at least I’m not, but we’ve got enough figured out to keep our home from going up in flames. But how do you think we got that way? Someone had to teach us! We grew up helping our parents wash dishes or clean up the yard. Our mom or dad eventually taught us to separate our colors from our whites and what needed washed on a special setting.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important it is to teach our kiddo’s life skills like this. Sometimes, as parents, we get so wrapped up in the alphabet and teaching them to count, that we forget that they will be running a household someday. Whether they decide to marry and settle down immediately, or if they live alone focusing on their career. No matter where their life takes them, they’ll always have a home that needs cared for. Learning the laundry game is important and teaching them some organizational and de-cluttering skills could be a life saver when they move into a tiny college dorm. Plus, no one ever complained about having an extra helping hand for the 18 years that they’re still at home!
Obviously, you can’t teach a 2 year old to run a load of laundry by their self. But, it’s never too soon to start teaching your little one ways to help out.
1 – 3 Years Old
Now is a great time to start encouraging your child to help clean up after their self. When they drag all of their toys to the living room floor, encourage them to lend a hand in getting it all back to their toy box when they’re finished playing. They can also be given a damp sponge or rag, without any cleaner, to help wipe down countertops or dust furniture. Often times, at this age, it will be a super fun task for them and helps instill a sense of responsibility for their own messes.
3-6 Years Old
By this point, they’re old enough to start helping with a few of the larger tasks. Have them help you separate your laundry and take this opportunity to explain to them why you’re separating and showing them how to work the washer and dryer. This is also a great age to get them involved in after dinner clean up. Allow them to clear the table, help you pack up any left overs and include them in dishes. Whether you’re washing by hand or loading a dishwasher, they’re at the perfect age to start stacking the dishwasher appropriately, or rinsing and drying the dishes. Given that they’ll be starting school within this time frame, encouraging them to help pack their snacks or lunches is also a wonderful idea. It also helps to ensure that they’ll be happy with their food for the day!
6-9 Years Old
Now is the time to really start pushing some organizational skills. Have them go through their bedroom once every few months and encourage them to get rid of anything that they don’t use, don’t play with, or is simply causing clutter. Show them how to organize their things in a way that makes it easy to find and makes clean up a lot quicker and easier. I give my kinds a 3 month rule; if you haven’t played with it or used it in the last three months, and it doesn’t have some sort of sentimental value, get rid of it. If it’s still in good condition, we donate. What can’t be donated we recycle or trash.
9-12 Years Old
At this age you can start giving them a few bigger chores to tackle on their own, such as running a load of laundry or handling the after dinner dishes. You can also have them sweep, dust the furniture or wipe down the bathroom. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep a close eye on them, but it’s a good time to start encouraging some independence. Allow them a chance to figure out the best way to tackle the job and finish it all on their own. But of course, always step in if they’re about to turn all of your clothes pink!
12-15 Years Old
By this point, they should be well accustomed to the daily chores around the house. Giving them a schedule or even a simple little daily list will help nourish their growing responsibility. A chore chart or to-do list when they get home from school will help them learn that certain responsibilities have to be dealt with before they can do the “fun” things. Nothing excessive, just a short list of two or three things that have to be done along with homework before they get to visit friends or play video games. This is also an opportune time to start assigning them large jobs such as helping with mowing the yard or sweeping and mopping.
15-18 Years Old
By now they’ve got this. Keep strong with the chore list and ensuring that they understand their responsibilities and the importance of making sure they get things done. They’ll most likely be driving at this point. So, if they have a car that’s another great responsibility lesson. Make sure they understand their accountability; washing the car, keeping gas in it and keeping up with maintenance is their responsibility.
The Great Allowance Argument
I remember asking my parents for an allowance years ago. I was told that I have a roof over my head, a place to sleep every night and food to eat. That was my allowance, and I understand that now. Plus, my parent’s made it by, but they didn’t have a lot to spare. So, I don’t necessarily encourage handing your child a butt load of money every time they do their chores. After all, no one is going to pay them to clean their own house when they get to that point. However, a little encouragement never hurt anyone. A simple sticker chart when they’re young works wonders. If they do all of their chores for the week or month without giving you any trouble, perhaps a small toy, outing to the park or a few bucks are in order. As they get older, a trip to the movies with their friends or a little gas money can go a long way.
As their parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids are ready to take on the world. The alphabet and counting and reading and math are all extremely important. But as an adult, I’ve known people that couldn’t do their own load of laundry. I want my kids to be “smart”. I want them to have a great education. But I also want them to be able to be able to cook their own meals and run their own household. In the midst of the reading and writing and arithmetic, we can’t forget to teach our children how to live.