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When to Introduce Young Children to Chores

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By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

“Make your bed,” “Clean your room” and “Take out the garbage” are statements most parents have uttered more times than they care to remember. Chores get a bad rap, but if you think about them slightly differently, you can start your child on the path to becoming more helpful, perhaps even without having to ask.

While the word “helpful” doesn’t often come to mind when thinking about toddlers, research and everyday experiences show that young children are naturally inclined to help. We see this evidence in the caring behaviors they exhibit early in life, such as comforting people by patting them on the back. Young children are often eager to help their parents with chores around the house. Let’s be honest, though – toddlers and preschoolers can be clumsy and messy, so their offers to help may slow the work down. This raises a question: When is it appropriate to ask your children to help with chores? While you may be inclined to do the tasks yourself, giving your children the opportunity to assist you can cause them to become more helpful. You may have to re-wash the dishes your children just washed, but the experience of contributing to the family can help promote a sense of purpose and self-confidence.

Giving your children a choice of chores may motivate them to get started. Prompt them with a simple question: “Should we put away the clothes or set the table first?” Start with easy, fun tasks your child is naturally interested in doing, such as matching socks, cracking an egg or sorting the silverware. Watch for opportunities when your children are curious about what you’re doing and want to help. This may happen more often than you expect.