Young children not only CAN help you clean up around the house, often times they even WANT to help! They love to be with us, and imitate us. A two or three year old doesn’t know that spending time with you wiping down the table or sorting silverware is supposed to be “work” while spending time with you playing Candyland or coloring is supposed to be “fun”. It’s all fun for the young child! Some parents don’t allow their young children to help, because cleaning does take longer with them underfoot, but you are missing a great opportunity then. Maybe washing dishes does take longer, and maybe you’ll have to re-wash some of the silverware if your youngster drops them on the floor – but besides teaching your child some important life skills, you can also teach him the value of a job well done. You can boost his self-confidence, and build a strong relationship with him. And, you just might actually have fun doing it, too!
Chores Young Children Can Do
So, what are some things you can expect your young child to do? ANYTHING! As long as it isn’t dangerous for him to help. He won’t be able to scrub a toilet or bathtub with a toxic cleanser, but straight white vinegar works great for cleaning almost anything, and it isn’t toxic to either your child or the environment. A young child can’t dry and put away sharp knives, but he can dry and put away the spoons, forks and butter knives. Having him sort them into the silverware tray is a great pre-math skill, as well. The young child can set the table, pour milk or water into beverage glasses, fold and put away laundry, pick up his toys, sweep, dust, vacuum and take out the trash. He can feed a pet, make his bed, water the plants. I taught my youngest daughter how to use the washer and dryer when she was just three years old. She needed to use a stool to reach the top-loading washing machine, but it was a chore she did well and willingly. And when she went off to college, she just laughed at all the incompetent Freshmen who seemed stymied by the coin-operated laundry facilities.
How to Get Started
The next week(or next month, if you or your child need more time), teach him a new chore, but still expect him to do the first one that he learned. Now, he will make his bed every day AND help set the table. He gets one sticker on his chart for doing both chores well – but you will be helping him for several days with the new chore, remember. He really should get the sticker the first three days in a row.
Keep Teaching a New Chore Every Month
Continue on in this manner, for years – until he is a young adult, and KNOWS how to do any chore you can think of. By the time he’s twelve or thirteen, he could be learning how to check the air in the car’s tires, mow the lawn, wash the windows. By the time he’s fifteen or sixteen, he can learn how to put the storm windows on the house, or winterize the lawn mower. Don’t stop teaching him, until you run out of chores for him to learn. Some people will say about a child, “I taught him everything he knows”, but a better statement would be, “I taught him everything I know.”
Use Child-Safe Materials
Just a few reminders: use child-safe cleansers. You can clean almost everything in your house with either white vinegar, or baking soda. Use sturdy, non-tipping step stools for the young child. Keep cleaning materials that are child-safe, in a low cupboard that he can reach, so he can clean up his own messes once you’ve taught him the right way to do so. Organize his bedroom or toy room so that there is a place for everything and everything in it’s place – with photographs laminated onto sturdy bins, so the child knows exactly where everything belongs. Use positive reinforcement.
Everyone Needs A Helping Hand Once in a While
And sometimes, just sometimes, get down and help your child. Once in a while, he may really be too tired to pick up his mess. Maybe he had friends over who left without helping. Maybe he is under the weather, or maybe his biorhythms are down! But wouldn’t you love to have a child say to you some day, “Gee, Mom, you look really tired. Why don’t you go take a rest and let me finish the dishes?” Any behavior that you want your child to learn, you need to model it first. Who knows, maybe it will pay off some day when you least expect it!
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