Preschoolers are not usually the age group someone automatically thinks of when it comes to chores. The word itself has such a negative connotation that it almost seems wrong to associate with children. But I want to change the mindset of how we think about this for a minute. Chores should really be thought of as responsibilities for children to build upon, that will facilitate their independence.
The ultimate goal of raising children is to make them independent, self-sufficient, empathetic and positive contributors to society. If we start giving children age-appropriate responsibilities, that will lay the groundwork to shape children to become these amazing humans.
Looking ahead to the kids' elementary school career and all the way through to high school, the environments in which they will be in every day, they will need the tools to be independent in most areas outside of academics.
I am going to run through one particular task to give an explanation of the progression that can take place. For simplicity, I am going to take a morning routine task and break it down by age. These will be estimates on the ages, but I'm more concerned with the progression. Changing from jammies to clothes is one task that every parent must conquer. A one year old has the capability of taking and putting their jammies into the hamper. When they get a little older, they can help choose their clothes when you give them a couple choices. As they get better at that, they can begin to add getting undressed and dressed on their own.
These responsibilities can give children a sense of control. It will teach routine, time management and even self-motivation. There is an opportunity for a child to have a responsibility in almost every task of the day. I suggest picking tasks that are going to be occurring daily, in order to keep the consistency. I have listed some parts of the day and some suggestions for responsibilities. Trying this new approach will take some letting go for parents. Things will not be done perfectly, and that is OKAY. Just remember why you are doing what you are doing. Know that this will create more work for you now, but in the long-run it will save you. You have to be ready to cheer on, congratulate, and cheer up children sometimes as they work through the different emotions of reaching a goal. Demonstration, explanation and sometimes redoing the chore behind the scenes will happen but the benefits of these tasks are life lessons and are most definitely worth it. These should never be used as punishment, but rather a "job" that has to be done. Explaining that everyone has a job to do and teamwork is how everything gets done is a very important.
Personal Care Chores:
- Changing clothes (just putting clothes in hamper, help choosing an outfit, attempting to change themselves, full changing routine)
- brushing teeth (just getting out/putting away the toothbrush/toothpaste, applying toothpaste, attempting to brush own teeth, full teeth brushing routine)
- bathing (apply body wash, apply/rinse body wash, apply shampoo/conditioner, full routine)
- brushing hair get out/put away hairbrush, attempt to brush, full routine with styling)
- going to the bathroom (flush/shut lid, wash hands with soap, wipe themselves with TP after pee, begin to wipe after BM)
- put dirty clothes in hamper
- make bed
- eat breakfast
- get ready for the day
- get own plate and cup and utensils
- put finished plate/cup/utensil/napkins in designated spot
- wipe up the area they sat at
- clean up outdoor toys
- pull weeds
- water plants
- help wipe down cars and windows
- care for pets (feeding & clean up)
- dry floors after being mopped (sock skating is always fun)
- dusting (socks on their hands)
- clean up toys
- empty small room trashes
The responsibilities you give to the kids will always look different for each individual family but the principle behind them is the same. Foster an environment that provides each child to take the steps to becoming an independent, self-sufficient, empathetic, responsible, resilient and positive contributor to society. It sounds like a big feat but it really is just one small step at a time. You are doing great!