Chores, there is no time like the present!
By Jenny Luing, Home Visitor and Parent Educator at Coon Rapids Preschool and Family Place
Kids and chores, chores and kids. Does figuring all of this out take up entirely too much time? Not for some of us. “Chores are one of my all-time favorite parenting topics”, shared Jenny Luing, Home Visitor and Parent Educator at Coon Rapids Preschool and Family Place. “There is immense value in having children participate in household chores, and there are opportunities for building countless school and life skills in doing this,” shared Luing.
One of the first reactions parents share when discussing chores is that there isn’t enough time. Well, now it just might be a perfect time! With the extra time at home many of us have now, it may be a good time to consider incorporating chores into your family’s daily routines.
Why should young children have chores?
First and foremost, children want to feel like they belong and that they are needed. Jobs or chores are a way to accomplish this; they allow children to feel a part of the ‘team’ that works toward common goals and, most of all, feel connected to the family.
Second, children learn skills that will benefit them in school as well as for the rest of their life. Luing shares, “Chores give kids the chance to build competencies and enhance their sense of self-esteem.” She continued, “they can learn about time management, accountability, perseverance, organization, cooperation, effort, flexibility, empathy, gratitude, problem solving and responsibility.” Chores are the first opportunity for your children to begin building their work ethic.
Another reason for children to have chores is to share the workload. Family life is busy and chaotic, and children can and should be part of the work. Sharing the workload connects families, and it also can lead to more awareness and appreciation.
What chores should my children be doing?
There are many age-by-age chore guides - view an example of an Age by Age Chore guide online. “My suggestion”, shared Luing, “would be to look at what tasks you are doing daily and weekly, and consider what part of these tasks your child could be a part of.”
Laundry is ongoing, a toddler can begin to help carry laundry, pair socks, put clothes away, and fold washcloths. A young child could be responsible for setting the napkins or silverware out for each meal. Luing gave an example, “if garbage day is Wednesday, on Tuesday your child could help collect garbage from the bathroom or take out the recycling.” Take time to think about what needs to be done in your household and how your children can help with these tasks.
How do we make chores happen?
Chores do not automatically happen - children need to be taught the necessary skills and have time to build routines. Families who are successful with chores take the time to teach, to set expectations around the child’s ability and to schedule chores throughout the week. A suggestion from Luing, “work side-by-side with your child, it will give you the opportunity to teach as well as assess your child’s abilities”.
In terms of getting things done, it is good to establish a “tidy time” or a chore time that will be helpful in building routines. Luing explained, “as parents are beginning to have new expectations for their children, it may be helpful to use the “when / then” parenting tool”. Parents first set up the parameters and expectations, but then can utilize this tool by saying something like “when the chores are done, then we can go for a bike ride” or “when everyone is done with their job, then we can play a game”.
So, will adding chores to your children’s daily routine be happening in your house? Here’s a final thought to share, a University of Minnesota 20 year study found that the best predictor of adult success was based on if they had begun doing chores at an early age… as young as 3 or 4. It’s never too late to start.
Licensed parent educators are happy to share parenting tips or point families in the right direction of resources available. Anoka-Hennepin Community Education provides Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) resources for families with children ages birth to grade three, year-round. Subscribe to receive more updates and resources via email from ECFE.