Children–even young children–can do chores, and it teaches them to contribute to the household. Chores are a wonderful time for good conversations, too. Little children can learn vital household vocabulary, and older children can (and will) ask hundreds of questions. Learning chores is the essence of simple quality time.
Children can fold clothes.
Let your child fold their kid-size clothes. Will they be perfectly folded? No. Will they be wrinkled when your child puts them on? Probably. However, they can do this! When they are tall enough to reach into the laundry basket and pull out a pair of pants, they are old enough to fold them. In time, they will learn to do the chore better by watching you. If you don’t want them folding their clothes, let them fold towels and washcloths instead.
Children can sweep.
There are toy brooms and dustpans in discount stores, and they are cute! Teach your child to sweep with a set of those, or with a brush and dustpan. I don’t mean for them to sweep up nasty dust bunnies or clumps of pet hair, but they could sweep up their cheerios that fell off the high chair tray. They can be very helpful, as long as they aren’t in any danger or filth. This helps them learn to clean up after themselves, too. To make it fun, you could teach them a tune to sing while sweeping. Think of using something like “this is the way we sweep the crumbs, sweep the crumbs, sweep the crumbs.”
Children can dust the furniture.
Swiffer 360 dusters are kind of fun to use, and they trap the dust they pickup. Let your children carefully wipe off a tabletop or an entertainment center with one of these dusters. Teach them not to shake the duster, but carefully rub it along dusty surfaces. Children do a GREAT job dusting, so be sure to brag about how CLEAN the surfaces are when they finish!
Children are great at wiping baseboards, bannisters, and doorknobs.
If they aren’t old enough to use a “handy-wipe” or Clorox wipes, they can use a moistened washcloth to do these chores. Just don’t use any harsh chemicals. Let them see the difference in the dirty part and the clean part, so they know how important their cleaning is!
Children can set and clear the table.
Having dinner together at the dinner table is a wonderful, simple habit to initiate, even if you can only manage it a couple nights each week. When you do, allow your children to set the table! Create paper placemat “guides” with large circles where the plates go, small circles where the glasses go, and outlines of forks, spoons, and butter knives where they go. Children may drop a plate or glass, so get an inexpensive set that isn’t breakable. Be sure to take a picture of a neatly set table and make a big fuss about what a great job your children did!
Children can do other chores, too.
When my little ones were at the stage of sleeping in a toddler bed, I used only a fitted sheet and a light-weight comforter. The kids were easily able to “make” their beds, which involved placing their pillows in the right spot, and making sure the comforter was straight on the bed. They were really good at that chore, and it established a good habit.
If you have simple storage solutions in their rooms, children can easily put toys in their baskets, and books on their bookshelf. If there are too many toys, the job will seem too complicated. Keep a manageable number of toys/books in use and store neatly (with others packed out of sight). Diligently ensure that there’s a place for everything in the child’s room.
As long as there is no swallowing hazard, children can sort items and find matches. Leave socks in the clean laundry basket, and let the children put the pairs together.
Children can do LOTS of outside chores–raking leaves seems to be a favorite. There are child-sized tools at garden centers, and children love to “help.” They also love to garden.
In summary, INVOLVE your children in the running of the house. They aren’t guests who constantly need to be picked up after. Set timers for 3 minutes, and have everyone do a quick clean in whatever activity is happening. Keep your attitude positive, and they will catch on!