The other week, I was upstairs, trying to put the baby to sleep. I heard my son come to the base of the stairs and shout out, “Mommy? You better come down here! We made a mess.”
Great. Just great.
I just ignored him, because 1) I was still trying to but the baby down, and 2) I really didn’t feel like dealing with it yet. I know, I know. World’s best mom – NOT.
But then – I heard the vacuum going. And when I went downstairs, expecting the worst, the only thing I found was some spilled sequins, and my 2 & 3 year olds frantically trying to clean it up.
You know, I’m not big on “making” my children do chores (because that just ends up being more work for me, and a big hassle). I’ve even had a few onlookers chastise me for not “making” them do certain household activities/chores on a daily or regular basis. Instead, I do chores around my children, and they tend to join in. So I was so happy to see that it was sticking. And I’m happy to report that my 3 year old will frequently do the following with ease and (oftentimes) enjoyment:
- Help place dirty laundry in the washer
- Help place clean laundry in the dryer
- Place the laundry sheets in the dryer
- Help move clean laundry into the laundry basket
- Help stir foods in a bowl
- Help dump/pour ingredients into a hot pan (with lots of physical guidance involved)
- Help measure ingredients
- Cut ingredients with kitchen scissors (like green beans) or a knife (with lots of physical guidance involved)
- Towel dry durable items
- Help unload dishwasher
- Set the table (with direction)
- Self-serve water into a regular cup from the refridgerator dispenser
- Carry a tied, small bag of trash to the garage (or other trash area)
- Place recyclables into garage
- Attempt to wipe up spills
- Participate in scrubbing floors, dining table, and counter by moving around water, sponge/washcloth, and dry towel (although their actions may not actively clean anything)
- Participate in cleaning the kitchen/bathrooms by using a spray bottle with water & paper towels to imitate guiding adult
- Vacuum with a stick vacuum
- Attempt to sweep with a small broom brush & dust pan
- Pick up toys when directed
I learned that there are three types of chores:
- Ones you can do with your kids
- Ones you can do in view of/around your kids
- Ones you can’t do with your kids awake – period.
This might seem obvious to you, but I really only figured this out recently. At first, I was only doing chores while the kids were asleep. This meant no break, and a messy house, since I couldn’t possibly get everything done in those small windows of time. Plus, I still needed some of naptime time to – you know – shower, eat, go to the bathroom….all those good things.
Then, I jumped on the “Do it with the kids – do it all with the kids!!” train, and that ride wasn’t nearly as fun/efficient/productive as I hoped it would be.
I realized I was expecting too much of myself time-wise, and too much of them developmentally. It’s ok if my house isn’t perfectly clean, and it’s ok if I don’t involve my children in every chore for learning’s sake. They do some chores with me (like scrubbing the floors and the kitchen table) and play while I do others (like washing the dishes).
And the laundry? Well, I’ve given myself permission to do that one myself, while they’re sleeping. Hello efficient laundry folding, goodbye massive mess. That’s a chore they can always learn another day year. And that doesn’t make me a bad mom.
There are times (and entire days, frankly) when he’s not interested, and that’s ok. I only force chores occasionally – for instance, picking up because the house is beyond trashed (ahem), or cleaning a mess he made that he shouldn’t have. Otherwise, simple invitation seems enough to me at this age. At only 3 years, I feel that exploratory and enjoyable learning is more important than checking completed actions off a list.
I hope this list was helpful to anyone who was wondering what might be age-appropriate for your child!
And if you’re brave, you can let them paint your house.
But it’s not for the faint of heart.