Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chores for Kids

She may sweep willingly, but clearly picking
up the bits from the Guess Who game
(in the background) is just a bridge too far.

Now that she's three, I've started giving Peanut chores. She's always helped me around the house but she now has proper responsibilities.

All her jobs are still closely supervised, and usually prompted, but I firmly believe that kids are part of the family team, and need to pull their weight. Which in her case, is all of about 15kg.

I ask her to make her bed and dress herself in the morning. That's pretty simple because she has a doona, and she is easy-going about her clothes. I can just pile a suitable outfit next to her bed at night and she will put it in the morning without complaint. (Well, except for shoe choice. But if she forgets her favourite shoes out by the trampoline and they get rained on and are all sopping, Mummy is NOT going to let her wear them. Lesson learned, Peanut. Lesson learned.)

Anyway... she has to set the table before meals, especially dinner, and she does a great job. Sure, the knives and forks end up a loooooong way apart, and usually on an angle, but she is contributing to the meal preparation and lightening my load, and that is what really counts.

Speaking of lightening the load, she had also started helping out with the dishes. She begs and begs and eventually I let her wash the plastics. She has even learnt to stack them so they drain. Since we have a dishwasher, all that leaves me is the knives and the pans. Win! I really can't explain how tempted I am most nights to let her try to wash the giant saucepan, but that would just be mean and discouraging, and I don't want to metaphorically kill my golden goose.

Something that doesn't help, at all, is Peanut sweeping the floor after meals. She is so enthusiastic that the crumbs fly everywhere, hitting the walls and scattering under the fridge. But I am looking on this as future skill, and hopefully in a couple of months she will have it mastered and I can permanently retire from that five-times-daily chore.

One thing she loves to do is her own laundry. She can fill the machine (it's a front loader), put in the powder and set the dial. When it's done she drags the laundry basket outside and hangs her clothes on the clothes horse. She started out using about ten pegs per tiny shirt, but she has become more efficient with practice.  This is lucky, as ten pegs crowding on a scrap of fabric ensures that it will never, ever dry, and  this can be upsetting for a toddler who wants to bring her clothes back in to fold them. Poor poppet.

Peanut also helps me out with my chores. She can clean the lower half of the windows and mirrors, dust the low shelves and wipe her little table. I'm hoping she will keep it up as she grows, slowly taking over more cleaning real estate without noticing, and eventually be willing to do the whole house!

If you have little ones, I'd love to know what jobs you've given them. Any ideas will be enthusiastically trialed in my house too!


  1. Little m who is 3 in September, and I do most things 'together'...the cooking is one thing she has done since very early on...I line all the ingredients up measured and she puts it all in and buzzes it all ....she can peel carrots, and fold face washers...little ones amazing want to help is fantastic...harness it I say, harness it and use it..cos it all helps around here...Now, if only my almost 9 and almost 11 year olds were so eager as well....

  2. I couldn't agree more with this - I spent enough time living on campus at uni to know that kids who aren't taught life skills are at a severe disadvantage when propelled into the big, wide world (and at great risk of being killed by their flat mates lol). I usually stick to a rule I read somewhere (I'm thinking Bonnie Maslin here but could be wrong) that they can do as many chores as years old they are...so Two Foot Guru has five morning chores, One Foot Guru has two...and then the same amount in the evening and on cleaning morning. I am like you and never say no to a helping hand - they cut soft stuff with butter knives and set tables, hang out washing, sweep floors (they love the dyson because it is red race car colour lol), they love washing the car, pulling weeds, brushing the dog...you name it they are up for it....not sure if it will last but whilst the enthusiasm is there it is a great time to get them to learn some skills.

  3. Suz, I should repost my "cooking with kids" article, I think you'd like it.

    Milko, we tried weeding, but it turned into an indiscriminate ravaging of the garden. Apparently the little carrots "come out easier!". Brushing the dog is a good one, I'll have to give that one a try, he's a patient lad. I don't wash the car. I should, but I don't. ;)


  4. When I was a little one, I loved to do some of the household task to help my mom.

  5. When we're hauling loads of firewood out to the wood shed, or picking grapes in the backyard vine, I look at my 3 boys and understand why farmers had big families; it really does lighten the load! It's amazing how they can help; your little one is probably too small for bathrooms, but I wrote about our chores recently on my blog at http://tunheimfamily.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/any-australian-child-labor-laws-on.html.