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How Can Your Children Help Around the House?

A very timely piece in our school newsletter this week has reminded me of all the tasks that little ones can do around the house.

I like to get children helping around the house from an early age. They learn to be independent, to feel like they are contributing to the running of the household, and to take responsibility for things. Raising two boys, I am very conscious of wanting them to grow up like my husband, who shares household duties evenly with me.

I've taken this directly from the Plenty Valley Montessori School newsletter, and credit goes to Greg Steers-Carter, who has written exactly what I have been thinking about lately. Thanks, Greg!

The age groupings are a guide only, and it may be developmentally appropriate for your child to complete tasks from different age groups. Why not keep the list in a prominent place in the kitchen for those times when your child asks what they can do to help?

It is important that you have appropriate, child sized tools before you ask the child to do the job. For example, if you are going to ask your child to sweep, you will need a child sized broom.

Two and Three Year Olds

  • Pick up toys and put them away in the correct place.
  • Put books on a shelf, magazines in a rack and newspapers in the recycling area.
  • Sweep the floor with a child-sized broom.
  • Set the table.
  • Clean under the table after meals with a dustpan and brush.
  • Choose between two different foods for breakfast and lunch.
  • Carry dish and cutlery to the kitchen after meals. Scrape the plate. Place it on the counter or in the dishwasher.
  • Brush teeth, wash and dry hands and brush hair. You will need to supply a sturdy stool or step(s) in the bathroom so your child can see himself in the mirror.
  • Undress himself. Dress himself with some help.
  • Mop up spills or accidents.
  • Put away boxes or cans from the supermarket on lower shelves.
  • Accompany you to the recycling centre and carry items from the car to the various bins.

Four and Five Year Olds

  • This is a good age to begin using a goal chart. Choose jobs together and put them on the chart. When the jobs are done, the child and parent(s) enjoy a special treat together. Please note this is not about rewards or bribes but an acknowledgement of cooperative achievement. It may be as simple as sitting down and having a cup of tea and a chat together or going out to visit the library or the park.
  • Help with grocery shopping and suggest food to purchase.
  • Polish shoes.
  • Feed and water pets.
  • Assist with raking, weeding and planting.
  • Help make his bed.
  • Help vacuum with a lightweight cleaner.
  • Help vacuum with a lightweight cleaner.
  • Help fill and empty the dishwasher.
  • Dust furniture.
  • Begin some food preparationsuch as pouring his own drink, spreading butter, etc on bread or toast pouring cereal
    adding topping/jelly on ice-cream
    tearing up lettuce for a salad
    adding ingredients to a dish mum or dad is cooking
    hold the electric mixer to mash potatoes or combine ingredients for a cake
    prepare plates for the family dinner
    clean up afterwards.
  • Bring in the mail.
  • Polish silver
    help polish the car.
  • Sharpen pencils.
  • Dressing on his own
    including choosing an outfit for the day. (Please don’t fling open the wardrobe and say help yourself – have a limited number of sets that are appropriate for the time of year so he then chooses for success.) Low shelves and drawers facilitate this.
  • Learn to tie his shoes.
  • Scrubbing the sink
    toilet and bathtub.
  • Cleaning mirrors and windows.
  • Separate the wash into various loads.
  • Folding clothes and putting them away.
  • Learn to answer the telephone and how to dial emergency numbers.
  • Help clean out the interior of the car.
  • Take out the rubbish and recycling.
  • Begin learning social skills - sharing toys with playmates asking before going out to play etc. The child should be able to play for short periods without adult attention. (Make sure your environment supports this.)
  • Begin to suggest family activities he would enjoy - to be taken from the "entertainment fund”.
  • Begin handling money – paying for small purchases in cash and receiving change.

Six and Seven Year Olds

  • Water house plants and outdoor flowers.
  • Sweep the patio or deck.
  • Begin using sharp knives to peel vegetables and using the stove and microwave to prepare simple food.
  • Carry in the grocery shopping.
  • Prepare his own school lunch.
  • Gather wood for the fireplace.
  • Take his dog for a walk (if the dog is not too big).
  • Give the dog a bath.
  • Be responsible for bandaging minor injuries.
  • Wash out the rubbish and recycling bins.
  • Wash walls, mop floors.
  • Straighten or clean the cutlery drawer.
  • Hang his own clothes in the wardrobe (rail need to be at an appropriate height for him to achieve this).
  • Do simple ironing.
  • Leave the bathroom in order – hang up towels, put dirty clothes in the washing basket, etc.
  • Care for his bicycle including locking it when not in use.
  • Care for outdoor play equipment.
  • Use an alarm clock to get himself up in the morning. Go to bed at night on his own.
  • Carry lunch money and notes to school.
  • Run errands in the neighbourhood when parents ask.
  • Take telephone messages and write them down.

Print the list up and add to it as you think of tasks.

Have faith in your child

My seven year old recently asked me if he could walk to the shop and buy milk on his own. I knew he was capable of doing it but I was incredibly nervous about letting him go. The distance is short but he has to cross at two separate sets of traffic lights. I let him go but I followed him down the hill, hiding behind trees and parked cars so that he couldn't see me watching him. Of course he did it perfectly. He waited at the traffic lights, bought the milk and got the correct change, then did it all again coming back.

On his return he was justifiably pleased with himself, describing in detail how he'd managed each part of the journey. He even assured me that he'd said 'please' and 'thank you' when asking for the milk. I praised him and feigned nonchalance at the whole episode. He'd really done well.

The final word was left to him though. 'Mum?' he said, as I gave him a hug and told him how big and capable he was getting. 'Why were you following me and hiding?'

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