I start giving my children cleaning activities at around two years old. Now, before you call CPS on me for violating child labor laws, hear me out. :-) At two and three, children love to help mommy, and although mommy can do whatever it is much faster without said toddler help, that little bit of extra time is completely worth it.
First, you are instilling great habits in your child, such as order and cleanliness. Second, you are teaching him that he is important to the well-being of your home and as a member of a family has certain responsibilities that he has a duty to fulfill. Finally, your are training him to grow into a man who is helpful and considerate, a man who doesn't just assume that mommy/ his wife-y will take care of those dishes, but jumps into to help. Please ignore the male pronouns; I had to pick one...)
Allow me to illustrate my point. The rule at my house is that all children 2 and above help to clean the kitchen. For my 2 year old, that may mean that she "dries" off the chairs after an older child wipes them down. I may hand her her own bowl to bring to me by the sink, but I digress. Anyway, my 5-year old nephew was over and I started giving him and my almost 4-year old jobs to do like clearing and wiping down the table and pushing in their chairs . My daughter complied without complaint; this has become habit for her, after all. My nephew, however, complained, "Why do we always have to clean up after we eat every time?"
"Because if we left everything in the sink and on the table it would smell and could make us sick. We have a nice home to live in and good food to eat. God expects us to take care of what he has given us," I replied.
He retorted, "NO, I know WHY it needs done, but why do WE, (Kelly and I) have to do it? Why can't you just do it by yourself?"
Oh, sweet child.....
Okay, so assuming you agree with me that our children need housekeeping jobs to do, and I know you do, cause you are great moms, I am sure, you may wonder, what in the world can my 2-year old do? Below is a list of age-appropriate chores.
Use this a guideline! Every child is different, and will be ready to complete these chores independently at different times. Of course, always supervise your child and be ready to help them be successful at completely a task until you are sure they can do it by themselves.
2-3 Year Olds (They of course will needs a lot of help at first and will gradually learn to complete these tasks by themselves, under your supervision, of course.)
- Help to make bed-at first, this may mean simply placing her pillow on her bed after you have made it.
- Pick up toys and play things
- Take laundry to laundry room or put in hamper in her room
- Feed pets
- Throw away trash, take recyclables to indoor/garage container
- Help wipe up messes--at first you might have them dry the area after you or an older child.
- Take own dishes to the sink--or to mommy who is standing by the sink
- Hand silverware to mommy or older child to put away
- All chores listed above
- Help with grocery shopping, carrying groceries (nothing breakable, for your sanity), put away groceries
- Set/Clear table, put food away, etc
- Help put dishes in dishwasher, dry dishes (non-breakable), Put silverware away
- Help make food (always supervise and NO KNIVES)
- Put away own laundry--children this age may also want to help fold laundry. Start teaching them how to fold towels, socks, undies, etc.
- All previously mentioned chores
- Dish duty and put dishes away
- Take out trash and replace bag
- Take care of pets
- Most other household chores as you deem appropriate.
In the younger years, it is more important that your children learn to do each chore correctly than for them to be able to do them independently. Try to ensure they will feel successful and not overwhelmed by the task at hand by helping them with their chores as much as they need. At first you will be doing most of the work, but gradually expect them do more until they are doing the task by themselves. Praise often, and loudly!
Work beside your children as much as possible even as they get older. Modeling how to organize/clean your home environment is just as important if not more important than your verbal instructions. I think parents often do this with younger children, but expect that older children and teens do the work in place of themselves. While your older children and teens should complete their chores independently from you, this does not give you a free pass to pass off most of the cleaning responsibilities to your children. Instead, work with your children. Clean your room while they do theirs, work with them to clean up the kitchen. Dust while they sweep, etc.
If your children feel like, "your servant," they will come to resent, rather than embrace your cleaning philosophy. They may avoid/ or skimp on the chore to just get it done. Remember, the goal is NOT primarily to have a clean house now. The goal is to raise adults who take pride in their surroundings, know how to and have the desire to keep their space clean and orderly, (I am not saying perfect and spotless) and who believe they have a duty to help keep it that way.
Okay, I am off my soap box now. :-)
Anyway, I hope you find this age-appropriate chore list helpful. It is adapted from a list I found www.mothersruleoflife.com