Whitefield Academy Blog
Three Chores Even Kindergartners Can Do
A few weeks ago, I had my bi-monthly, stay-at-home mom break down: “I feel like a servant! I’m drowning in mismatched socks!” etc. My loving husband talked me out of it and assured me that I’m appreciated, and though that’s lovely, it didn’t solve my problem of genuinely being overwhelmed by housework. Then, while reading Little House in the Big Woods to my three and five-year-old daughters, I had a realization: “Why am I the only one doing chores when there are two other women living here?!” Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sister were the exact same age as my daughters in her first book, and they did all kinds of chores! They helped wash and dry dishes, kept an eye on the meat smoking fire, churned butter, and Laura’s only toy was a corn cob wrapped in a blanket…and she loved it! But I digress. So following in Laura’s footsteps, I decided that it was time for my own daughters to start pulling their weight in our household.
The Benefits of Chores in Young Children
Chores have gone out of style. In a recent survey by Braun Research, 82% of adults surveyed reported doing chores as children but only 28% said they have their own children do chores. Well of course! When are kids supposed to have time for chores between homework, soccer, piano, dance, and dinner? Chores are no longer seen as the priority that they once were. But perhaps they should be. Marty Rossmann, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, published a study that “found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.” My kids will be more successful, self-sufficient, and my house will be cleaner? Sign me up!
How Do We Get Our Kids to Actually Do the Chores?
This information is all well and good, but how do I get Cindy Lou to happily and willingly take out the trash? The most common advice seems to be to start your kids young. Nicholas Long, the director of the Center for Effective Parenting at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, suggests that you not only start your kids with chores early but give your children “jobs that benefit the whole family.” At 16, it is easy for teens to argue that they like having laundry all over their rooms, but if you have your children vacuuming common areas or unloading groceries, they are participating in the well-being of the family and not only focusing on their own spaces; harder to argue with that. Surprisingly, research also suggests that tying chores to allowance “can actually lower intrinsic motivation and performance,” so not only should they start doing chores in grade school, but you don’t have to pay them! Excellent.
Appropriate Chores for Grade School Children
Because most of us aren’t churning butter or collecting wood chips for our meat-smoking fires (though more power to you if you are), it’s hard to know exactly what chores are appropriate for our younger children. From my own experiences with my children, I have found that more often than not, they are capable of doing much more than I give them credit for.
1. Setting the table. This one is pretty easy for little kiddos. If they can reach the drawers, kids are perfectly capable of grabbing the correct silverware and getting it to the table; you just have to be prepared to eat some meals with a soup spoon. If kids are too short for the drawers, it’s perfectly alright to put the correct silverware out on the table and have them place it.
2. Folding Laundry. I despise folding laundry, so when I realized my five-year-old could help, I was sold. Whenever I have laundry to fold, I make a pile of everything that is a square or rectangle (towels, napkins, washcloths, etc.) and have my daughter sit down and fold them. Avoid the temptation to tell her she’s doing “Great!” when she’s not actually folding it the way you want. Stick to your guns, and teach her the correct way to fold. Her younger sister also helps by matching all the socks and putting them in little piles to wait for mom to roll them. Then, when everything is folded, I hand off the piles to the girls to put in their drawers.
3. Vacuuming. This one requires a little bit of supervision, but kids LOVE getting to do jobs that make them feel grown up, and, double bonus, vacuuming helps with gross motor skills. My-five-year old is completely able to turn on the vacuum and move it around the living room; I just help with the turns and plugging it in.
This is a short list, but you could also add cleaning bedrooms, making beds, tidying toys, throwing clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, putting away kid dishes from the dishwasher, bringing plates to the counter, Windexing windows, sweeping the floor, the possibilities are endless! Starting kids early on chores not only helps moms who are going crazy, but helps to ensure that the kids will grow up into independent, self-sufficient adults. Absolutely a win/win!
If you’re interested in learning more about parenting kindergartners, click below for our webinar on preparing your child for kindergarten.
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