The eternal question from young parents, “when do we start getting the kids to help around the house”??
My simple answer the day they are born !!!!! does that sound ridiculous ??? to some it may but you need to look at what getting our children to help around the house means and why we do it.
Children learn in many many ways, watching, listening, doing, trying, failing and helping.
The younger they are (2 to 4) the more they need help and encouragement, in the very early stages of their development they are watching what is going on around them. Everything we want them to do now has to be shown, replicated and made fun. The attention span is short and you need to be on your toes.
As they develop their little personalities (4 to 7) the helping period will start, everything you want to show your children now is done through asking them to help. At this age they respond well to helping, this is where they start to replicate our behaviours so having them do tasks beside us really works for them.
Now they are beginning to develop a bit of independence (8 to 10) this is the time to start giving some small simple tasks to complete without being tied to your left leg. They will enjoy lots of praise and encouragement so make sure you let them know they are doing a great job. If they make a mess of something jump in beside them and help them fix it.
The next phase of development is (11 and up) this can be the most difficult time for us and them, they really want to be independent but they don’t necessarily want to do the tasks. This is where we as parents need to be firm and set tasks that they can complete and can be good at. Don’t be afraid to support them either pre-teens are on the cusp of not wanting to know us and still loving us, keep the boundaries tight and keep the tasks short and specific.
It is our responsibility to example to our children what sort of adult we want them to become, they will learn by us showing, supporting and doing with them. Barking orders and criticising only demeans our children and undermines their esteem. If we want them to learn we need to be the best example for them.Enjoy your kids when they are young they grow up all too fast.
Here is a little list that might help all you parents and carers.
Age Appropriate Jobs for Children around the House
2-4 year olds – need lots of encouragement and will help a bit if tasks are used as a game, make things fun for them.
Putting away their toys
Putting dirty clothes in a basket/hamper
Help feed dog/cat/fish/hamster
Bring extras to the table eg salt , pepper, sauce etc
Tag along while dusting sweeping etc
4-7 year olds – Children of this age naturally want to help, they learn by replicating/observing. This is where we teach by showing and doing.
Put away their things eg toys, school stuff, sports kits etc
Help set the table
Help feed the pets
Help water the plants/garden
Help make their bed
Bring down clothes for washing
Help clear the table
Help load the dishwasher
Help in the garden (small tasks)
Help put away small shopping
8-10 year olds– if you have been working with your children to become independent now is the time to start giving them their own tasks to complete.
Making their own bed
Taking responsibility for watering plants
Clean and hoover with direction
Show them how to set and clear the table
Show them how to hoover and dust
Feed pets (depends on type of pet and how your comfortable your child is interacting with the pet)
Help choose and make dinner
Bringing their washing down
Help clean the car
Do the washing up
Load / empty the dishwasher
Take rubbish out to the bin
Help in the garden
11 year olds and older – will now be more able to complete tasks independently but may be less willing, this is where you as a parent needs to be able to set planned and regular tasks.
Take out/in the bins
Set/ clear the table for dinner
Clean their own room
Put away the shopping
Clean the bathroom
Clean the kitchen
Mow the grass/work in the garden
Do their own laundry with support
Choose and make small meals on own
Help wash the car/wash car
Wash dishes/load or empty dishwasher
Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.