Encouraging children to help with household chores

As school ends and summer begins, children often have more free time at home. With the responsibilities of school work ending, children can now be encouraged to take on some additional responsibilities at home.

In my preschool and kindergarten classrooms, and in every classroom I have visited, there was list of chores for the students. In my own classroom, I created enough chores so that every child had a job. The children would rotate through the job list so that each child had a specific job for the week and also had the opportunity to have each job at least once. Some jobs, such as Calendar Helper or Line Leader, were perennial favorites. But regardless of the job that was assigned to them each week, without exception the children were always happy to take on the responsibility.

Taking part in some household chores can be just as important for young children. There are so many benefits of including children in household jobs and lots of easy ways to get them to enthusiastically pitch in.

Benefits of assigning children household chores

  • When everyone pitches in to help the household run more smoothly, a feeling of community develops. While this feeling is often more obvious in a family than in a classroom, the sense of being an important member of the group needs to be promoted in both situations. Especially in this crazy, busy world, it is important for children to realize that they are part of a group of people that works together.
  • A sense of accomplishment is had by children who take on a task that they know benefits the group or their family. A child can feel satisfied when he knows that if he makes his bed his mother will not have to do it. And when a task is completed successfully, a child can observe his achievement and feel proud.
  • Children can hone skills when they take on chores at home. Bed making, feeding the dog or cat, or putting away laundry, for example, can encourage children to exercise large muscles. Collecting the mail and putting it into specific piles (letters, magazines, ads) can help a child hone his sorting skills. Setting the table for dinner can give a child practice with counting and patterns.
  • When a child learns a new skill, such as making her bed, she has the opportunity to learn to persevere. Any new task will likely be challenging at first, but with perseverance, the task can be learned. If a child is asked to try again and again until she is successful, she will recognize the value and importance of perseverance.
  • When a child understands that his family is depending on him to do his job, he will learn to accept responsibility. Perhaps the family can’t eat dinner until the table is set. Or the dog will be restless and unhappy until he is fed.
  • Finally, when children take on some of the chores, it means less work for parents!  Parents are busy enough these days and even a bit of help means a lot. Not only is it one less thing to do or think about, but it is also a very nice feeling for a parent when he knows that his child is helping, even in a small way.

How to engage children

Children usually enjoy taking on some chores at home, since they take pride in doing “adult work.”  But sometimes children balk at the idea of pitching in, especially if they see the job as boring or difficult. To encourage your child to be cooperative and even enthusiastic regarding household chores, try these tips:

  • To begin, let your child know that when everyone in the family accepts household chores, the entire family benefits. Help her understand that being a family member means contributing in appropriate ways. This is a statement of fact and not a jumping off point for argument or debate.  By calmly expecting every person in the family to pitch in, your child will learn an important lesson about the importance of personal contributions to a group.
  • Allow your child to have some input as chores are assigned. If a child believes that his feelings and wishes are heard, he is likely to accept the responsibility more eagerly and follow through more consistently. Also, a household job that you think is boring may actually intrigue your child and capture his interest.
  • Make the task doable so that your child can feel a sense of accomplishment. In other words, set your child up for success. Put pet food on a low shelf that is easily reached, for instance, or buy a small stool to help your child reach into drawers or cupboards. Think about your child’s abilities and create jobs that match his skill sets.
  • Demonstrate how you would like a task done so that your child knows what to do and what you expect. Talk aloud as you demonstrate how to complete the chore. A verbal description, along with the visual demonstration, helps to communicate your expectations and provide clear instructions. After demonstrating, watch your child as he attempts the task and provide some helpful feedback. One note here:  Remember that your child may not be able to complete a task with your precision and accept his best efforts.
  • Be a role model by enthusiastically doing your own chores. Demonstrate a sense of pride or accomplishment when you complete a task.
  • Keep a chart to record compliance. Often this visual representation of your child’s efforts helps her understand how she is contributing to the family.
  • Finally, show your appreciation in appropriate ways. Recognize when your child completes and task and offer praise, thanks, and a hug!

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