Housework is a chore that most of us just want to get through as quickly as possible and with the least fuss. Often when a child wants to help out, we are tempted to say, “No, I can do it faster.” But think again, by not allowing your eager child to join in, you have told him first that it’s boring, and secondly, that he can’t do it. Starting early with little tasks can encourage the idea that tidying up is something he can do and should keep doing.
A child under four may not able to tidy up properly after himself, but he can help with child-sized tasks using child-sized tools. So when he drops some crumbs, it’s a good idea to let him help clean them up using his own little brush and pan.
Starting from age of five, a child can begin to make sense of instructions and he’ll do even better if he is shown how. At this early age, the tasks should still be easy ones and related to what he does, such as tidying up his own toys.
You can make it easier for your child by planning your home with him in mind. Child-sized cupboards in his bedroom and drawers with “stops” that prevent them from being pulled out completely allow a child to reach and control his environment.
Make sure that hooks are within reach at child height or wardrobes have a low rail for hangers. It’s also a good idea to label drawers and cupboards, either with names or with pictures. This way, a child can easily see what belongs where. Having a step-stool handy allows a child to reach the basin in the bathroom to polish the taps, or the sink in the kitchen to help with the washing up.
As children grow, there are more and more little jobs around the house that they can help with. Dusting is an easy one for children of all ages. Give him a special cloth just like yours and your child will feel he is doing the same job as you. Don’t redo something that junior has not done well. A child can feel that he is no good at that little job. Or that it doesn’t matter if he does the job badly, mummy will come along and do it better.
Be careful not to give vague commands such as, “Put the cutlery on the table.” You might find a pile of spoons and forks just sitting in the middle of the table, not set out ready for dinner. You can work together with your four to eight-year-old to make a picture chart showing how to set the table, where the spoons and forks should sit.
Cooking is another area that children can help with, from washing the veggies when they are small, to cutting and chopping them when they’re bigger. Laundry needs to be sorted when dry, and folding a towel or a pillowcase is easy for a five-year-old. Sorting his own clothes and putting them away will some day expand to include ironing the clothes and then taking charge of the laundry one or two days a week. So start on the simple chores while junior is still young!