Copyright 2006 Karin Vibe Rheymer Stewart
When my husband was in college, a number of his fellow students were bringing their dirty laundry home, and Mom was coming once a month to clean their room. This wasn’t because they were lazy, but they simply didn’t know how to do the laundry or house cleaning!
Don’t let your children become like those students… Apart from the fact that teaching your children house and other chores prepare them for life on their own, they’re also chores that you don’t need to do! I know, I know, it takes time to teach them how to do it, and there will be quite a few times when you will need to finish the job behind them, but once they know, you will never need to do it again until they leave… And, at least until they reach eight or so, they will be proud to be entrusted with “big people” tasks.
So, what tasks can be safely delegated to your children? It depends on their age, but there are things they can do as early as 2 years old. Below is a list of tasks by age group:
Toddlers: Can dust with an electromagnetic cloth or baby wipe; Spray and scrub the sink and bathtub with water and a sponge; pick up toys or other floor clutter and put them in baskets or bins – if the baskets are labeled with pictures, they can even put the right toys in the right container! At this point, anything you give them to do except putting the toys away will be more to give them something to do while you are cleaning, but they will try to do their best if you take the time to teach them, and it will seem natural to them when they graduate to more complex tasks.
Preschoolers: Sweep with kid-size broom; spray and squeegee windows using lemon- or vinegar-water (inside windows only, please!); use a handheld vacuum; wipe sinks using baby wipes; empty a small trash basket into a bigger bag; scrub corners of kitchen chairs or other small spaces using a clean toothbrush or nail brush and a cup of water; make beds (preferably with a comforter, it’s easier for them); fold towels; put clothes in drawers; hang clothes on hooks; put dirty clothes in hamper; help feed animals; wipe off baseboards, windowsills with small cloth or wearing old socks on their hands; help wipe up spills; dry unbreakable dishes; pick up litter in the yard.
Kindergartners: sweep small areas with a dustpan and broom; clean bathroom sinks; hang up the towel after a bath; store bath toys; help in the kitchen (stirring, tearing lettuce, etc. – no knife yet!); set the napkins and silverware on the table; clear dishes from the table (depends on your child, you know if they risk breaking them or not); help load the dishwasher; straighten plastic dishes in a cabinet; help straighten pots and pans; sort family members’ clean laundry; dust furniture; strip linens from beds; straighten books on a bookshelf; put game and puzzle pieces in correct storage containers; use a lint remover to pick up pet hair on furniture; tidy up their room.
Younger Elementary School Kids: Make beds (any of them); take out garbage; sweep stairs and walks; clean the car and help wash it; vacuum their own room; sort and straighten toys; fold and put away laundry; empty the dishwasher; feed and care for pets; set and clean the table (but only with unbreakable dishes and cups at this point); sort clothes for washing.
Older Elementary School Kids: Clean bathroom mirrors; vacuum; clean toilets; clean countertops and the kitchen sink; mop small-area floors; use the washer and dryer; wash, dry and put away dishes; clean pet areas; clean cobwebs and dust in high places with a pole; sweep the garage; set and clean the table (by the end of elementary school, they usually are able to do it with regular dishes and glasses).
Teenagers: Can do everything you do, except for the most intensive jobs, or the ones using noxious products, such as deep-cleaning of the oven, or removing mold from the bathroom tiles.
So, when will you sit down and create a chore chart for your children? What chores will you assign to each, depending on their ages? What will you do with the time you are saving this way?