Psychologist Cindy Arenstein believes that giving kids chores may be one of the most important things you ever do. That’s because it gives them responsibility and teaches them there is only one way to get through the (inevitable) things we don’t enjoy in life, and that’s by doing them – an invaluable life skill. It’s because they are so disagreeable that chores are able to build inner strength and resilience – and, what’s more, it’s never too early to start.
Age 2-3 years
At this age, chores should focus around learning to pick up after yourself. “Chores like picking up toys, cleaning their rooms, making their beds and putting dishes away after a meal teach children to take responsibility for their own actions,” Cindy says. They should also be able to put their clothes in the laundry basket, and throw away rubbish.
You might find that, young as they are, kids battle to remember everything that’s expected of them, but a star chart (with a picture of each chore) may help. Remember to provide a reward as incentive: at this stage, a sticker will give them the sense that their hard work has been recognised and applauded.
Age 4-6 years
You can now start encouraging your child not only to take care of herself, but also to start doing chores that benefit the family as a whole. By now, she should have mastered the tasks related to taking care of herself and her property, so don’t balk at making things a little more complicated: there’s nothing to stop her from packing her own school bag and putting it away, for example. Also, spread the responsibility a little further: your child will now be able to pitch in with caring for the pets, setting the table and even putting away the groceries. It’s also a good idea to get her involved in basic house cleaning activities: she can dust, wipe down the walls, and pack away laundry. Cindy points out that because these tasks are more complex in nature, you might need to take some time to teach your child how to do them properly – then, continue to give her praise for a job well done, and you’ll find that she’s encouraged to keep going.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.