This essay won’t be about the school work children bring home from school, instead it will focus on the kind of work children can do at home.
Doing chores is a tradition in many families. The benefits include learning about responsibility, being independent, increasing confidence, making a contribution, the feeling of adding value to your family. Chores also give children the message that these tasks need to be completed for the household to run smoothly. Young children naturally want to be a part of the family and help. Sometimes we wait too long to introduce them because we don’t think children are ready.What are age appropriate chores for young children? As Infant and Toddler Guru, Dr. Virginia Varga told me, “Toddlers can do anything you prepare them for”. Young children learn by doing! There are many wonderful ways children can help. Look at this graph for ideas when choosing chores for young children.
A relaxed approach is best so chores are not a struggle. Role modeling the activity will be necessary to get started. And perhaps a “I’ll do one and you do one” turn taking activity will help facilitate rhythm of the work. Chores were a part of my life as a young child with 4 siblings. I remember my first chore was to clean the leaves of all of our houseplants. Later, I folded clothes, dried the pots and pans (my oldest sister always washed the dishes), cleaned the bathroom and my bedroom. My favorite thing to do was help my mother with the cooking. My husband grew up on a farm in Texas. He was always helping his dad with chores that included fixing and making things out of those items you don’t throw away cause you may need them some day. As a teenager, he could rebuild engines of all types of vehicles, take care of the livestock, prepare the fields on a tractor, repair fences, etc. He has often remarked that he enjoyed tinkering with machines with his father.
In our Montessori classrooms, children take care of their own belongings and classroom materials. They water the plants, take care of classroom pets, straighten the books in the library, bus their table after lunch and snack and sweep and mop the floor after spills, sort and fold towels, put away dishes. Many of these activities are located in the the Practical Life area of the classroom. All of these activities translate into work at home. Perfection will not happen every time or even consistently. Encouragement for effort and completion of a task goes a long way to help children repeat the task. Job charts can work well as a reminder. Money should not be attached to chores. Money does not mean that much for young children and can be a de-motivator as the child ages. For teenagers, allowances can be earned for going above and beyond the established chores.
Children who do chores learn responsibility and learn important life skills that will help them throughout their lives. It is not too late to start a plan now!