Can your child understand simple requests? Is he walking independently? Congratulations, he's ready to start helping out around the house!
Teaching your child to do simple household chores will not only help him learn and develop, it will also boost his confidence. You'd be surprised by how much your child wants to help, and how much satisfaction he gets from completing a task.
Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, Principal of Far Eastern Kindergarten, agrees. The mother of two says both her children have helped with household chores from an early age. "It's a good place to begin to teach respect and responsibility as a member of the same household. You create the mess, you clean up the mess," she says. Not only will your child learn the values of respect and responsibility, life skills such as keeping a place orderly and cooking are useful in helping a child gain independence -- which ultimately contributes to his self-confidence.
Learn new concepts through household tasks
Doing simple chores will also help your child to practise logical thinking and problem solving skills -- all of which will enhance his academic performance. "One example is the understanding of the process of evaporation. It is so easy to explain to children the process of evaporation when doing the laundry," explains Mrs Ang-Oh. "Your child will learn to choose a windy and hot place to dry his wet clothes. He will make sure the clothes are properly stretched out before hanging them."
Match abilitites to chores
The important thing is to match the right chore to your child's abilities -- you want to set them up for success, not frustrate them with overly-difficult tasks. Even a 15-month-old baby can learn to put trash in the bin, tidy up his toys or fetch a clean diaper and wipes.
Mrs Ang-Oh suggests starting as soon your child is able to walk without assistance but to "keep it sensible and under supervision". Keep to tasks that are within their ability range. "An 18 month-old toddler who is advanced in his development can easily help put soiled clothes in the wash and transfer them into the dryer or help peg them on clothesline/ bamboo poles after wash. As he develops, he can help to sort out clothes, fold them neatly and put them away in the right place," she says.
As your child develops and grows, add more chores to the list: A three year-old can set the table, while a four year-old can feed his pet or put away laundry.
Ms Amy F, who has a three-year-old daughter, says the little girl now does chores without prompting. "She would rather help than play with toys," says the stay-at-home mother. "The duties she is responsible for are putting the cutlery away, watering the plants, putting away her toys after play, and [carrying out laundry chores] like matching socks and folding clean washcloths."
Make it clear with a chart
One way to help your child get excited about doing chores is to create a chore chart. There are plenty of samples online that you can print out and paste to a wall -- but a great way to introduce the concept to your child is to brainstorm and create the chart together. It does not really matter what chart you use -- just remember that the simpler and easier it is to use, the more likely you will stick with it!
Ms April B, mother of two, started with a picture-style chart when her children were aged three and six. She made cards with pictures or photographs to represent each chore, then attached the cards to a large poster board -- one column per family member. As each chore was completed, she removed the card and put it away. "I had columns for each family member, including my husband and myself because at that age I felt it was important that they recognised that mummy and daddy do chores too," she explains.
"Both kids were responsible for feeding a pet each day. Both were responsible for tidying their room. Both helped set the table, clear it and empty the dishwasher. My older child had to pack her lunch before school and empty her backpack when she got home. I also had cards for personal care such as brushing teeth in the morning and before bedtime, brushing hair, getting dressed, etc.," she says.
"As they got older, their chores got a bit more in depth. Now that they are 10 and 13, they vacuum, mop, sweep, make meals, bathe the dog, take the garbage out, and much more!"
Establish a reward system
Younger children will find simply completing the chore and bring able to put the card away enough of a reward. Ms Rebekah E's toddler loved doing her chores. "She loved getting all her stars each day. It helped her go from not doing any chores to being able to do any of them when I ask," she says.
Older children might need a small reward system -- especially if they haven't gotten into the habit of doing chores while they were young. Some families set a price on each chore, allowing their kids to earn their allowance by helping out around the house.
If you prefer not to have a cash-based reward system, try letting your child earn points/ stickers for each chore completed. He can then trade those points or stickers for something desirable -- such as a fun outing, a treat or present.
Do not forget to hang the chart in a prominent place, such as by the front door or on the kitchen fridge. And if your child does not like it at first, be gently persistent -- after all, it is hard to create new habits overnight! Said Ms B, "It takes times and a little bit of effort to make it a habit (like with anything else). But keep at it and it pays off!"
Chores you can start with
Ages 2 to 3:
- put toys and books away
- place dirty clothes in laundry basket
- throw trash away
- help carry small items
- help by fetching things you need such as diapers or wipes
Ages 4 to 5:
Same as above, plus:
- feed pets
- wipe up spills
- make the bed
- tidy bedroom
- water plants
- use a hand-held vacuum
- clear kitchen tables
- put away clean dishes
- put away clean laundry
Ages 6 and up:
Same as above, plus:
- fold laundry
- sweep and mop floors
- replace toilet paper roll
- peel potatoes and carrots
Early Development Childhood Agency