Having your toddler help set the table, pack away the socks or put his toys away into a toy container isn’t just keeping him occupied or assisting you. It’s one of the first steps to future success as an adult.
Julie Lythcott Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult recently shared this science in her Ted Talk on how parents can raise successful children (without over-parenting), saying: “Professional success in life…comes from having done chores as a kid.” She adds that the earlier you start encouraging this behaviour, the better.
“If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so, they’re absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole.”
She bases this on the Harvard Grant Study that’s been almost 80 years in the making and looks at how early life experiences have impacted health and ageing over time. The study, which started in 1938, has expanded to include the original participants’ offspring (who are now in their 50s and 60s).
This, and other research, reveal that those who are involved with chores from an early age go on to become employees who collaborate well and are empathetic to others. Plus, these children are more likely to work on tasks independently, as well as within a team framework.
This follows on from a 2018 study published in Science News that found toddlers may be more geared towards helping and doing “real” activities than imaginative or fantasy play. This stems from children in farming or hunter-gatherer communities who play with real tools or smaller replicas of the tools, are participating in what amounts to being adult work. “Kids like to do real things, because they want a role in the real world,” suggests psychologist Angeline Lillard of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
While imaginary play does play a role in development, a Developmental Science survey of 100 three- to six-year-olds in the US found only 35% liked pretend play, while 65% gravitated to real activities. Of these, 69% like baking, 74% enjoyed helping to take care of a baby, 60% liked to be involved in dinner preparation and 46% enjoyed washing dishes.
Another study, this one out of Pennsylvania State University and Duke University (which followed a group of children from preschool through to 25), found a direct link between being social as toddlers and greater success as adults.
Helping around the home or being allocated chores helps develop the social nature of your child. “This study shows that helping children develop social and emotional skills is one of the most important things we can do to help them prepare for a healthy future,” commented Kirsten Schubert, programme director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.