Do you have kids? If so, you know what mucky pups they can be – shedding clothing willy-nilly, getting more cereal over the bench than in their bowl, and leaving sticky fingerprints on everything they touch. Parents of teenagers will have marvel at their ability to step over school bags and shoes without looking up from their phone’s screen, and their apparent keen interest in science (that’s what all the mouldering coffee mugs are about, right?)
The good news is that, as well as making a mess, children are perfectly equipped to clean, so here is a list of age appropriate chores for kids. Actually, don’t think of them as chores but more as important life skills they’ll thank you for one day… we promise!
Toddlers and pre-schoolers are the best cleaning companions. Not only do they love the novelty of copying what you do, they can be easily fooled with a little reverse psychology (“ooh, I don’t know if you’re big enough to clean the skirting boards… oh, ok, you can have a go”) Give them a cloth and send them under tables to dust those places your back hates you to go. Activities like pairing socks, sorting clothes by owner or colour, and counting pegs back into the peg basket are all good for their development – win/win!
By the time your little darlings start school they are able to do more complex chores like dry dishes and put them away, unload the dishwasher, set the table, and even make their own lunches, though younger ones will probably still need help. Help develop independence and responsibility by giving them a check list of things they need to do before, and when they get home from school (eg: hang up uniform, or put it out to be washed).
I didn’t let my older son loose with the lawnmower until he was slightly older, but at this age he was more than capable of washing the car to earn some extra pocket money, while his younger brother did a reasonable job of cleaning the car’s interior. Let’s face it, most of the rubbish and muck in there was theirs anyway!
School uniforms are a bone of contention with me. While my kids have been polishing their shoes since they started school (thank you, Scuff Stuff) teaching them to iron their clothes has been a failure. Not only do they do a really bad job, they don’t care how wrinkled their clothes are. If I didn’t do it, they would go to school looking like the slept in the ironing basket. If you have the answer to this one, please let me know.
The late primary and early high school years is a great age to teach kids to cook. Start with simple preparations like chopping and cooking vegetables, moving on to the dishes they like the most. By the time they get to uni they should have a good choice of easy meals in their repertoire that will not only save them from a diet of Pot Noodles and hot chips, but also give their dating life a boost. There’s a lot to be said for someone who cooks a mean spaghetti Bolognese.
Some parents feel that it’s mean to get children to do housework, and that there’s enough time for that when they are older. While that’s true, it can be argued that participating in household chores teaches children valuable skills, gives them the opportunity to learn the connection between hard work and reward, and to understand their role and value in day to day family life.