Phyllis Dillar once said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”
Until your youngest child is around 9 years old, don’t focus on how neat the house is. Focus on training your children to pick up after themselves and take care of themselves. Training a child to do household work has to begin at a young age. Although training an older child is possible, the difficulty of doing so rises proportionally with the age of the child.
Here is a guideline. This is only a guideline. I do not attempt to include everything for every age. Also, some children can do some jobs at an earlier age while some children are not ready for certain jobs at the same age. Some children are more independent than others. Tailor the expectations to the individual child.
Age 2: Can put away toys with A LOT of help. This may mean that the parent puts away most of the toys, and the child puts away one or two toys. When my children were this age, I purchased totes. Dress-up went in one tote, dolls, clothing and accessories went in another tote, cars, ramps, street signs etc., went into a third tote, etc. Don’t waste time trying to sort. Grouping like items together will help your child with organizational skills, which will lead to success in math, English, and science later in life.
Age 3/4: Can put away toys with some help. This means the parent puts away around half the toys and the child puts away half the toys. I want to emphasize that at this age, the parent and child have to do this together. A parent telling a child, “Pick up your toys,” can be overwhelming to a child. Also, you are modeling to the child how to do the task. Other skills the child can work to master: choosing his/her own clothes, folding wash cloths, drying/sorting silverware, measuring ingredients and mixing them in a bowl. Again, these skills will lead to success in school. The key at this age is to be consistent, perform the task with the child, and expect the child to do the task immediately when told to do so.
Age 5/6: At this age, supervision is extremely important. Can put away toys without help. The parent has to say, “Go into the living room and pick up your toys.” At this age, the child is still too young for the parent to say, “After supper, pick up your toys.” The child simply will not remember to do this and does not have the self-discipline to do it even if s/he does remember. Children at this age can also pick out outfits for school, fold wash clothes/towels, unload the dishwasher (This depends on the storage situation. I, personally, do not recommend for children to stand on chairs to put away dishes.), put his/her own dishes in the dishwasher, follow a simple recipe with help. I do not recommend for a child to put items in the oven at this age. I also do not recommend for children of this age to cook on the stove. I did not allow my children to use the stove until they could reach the pans comfortably while standing in front of it. Also, they had to demonstrate the self-control necessary to avoid injury.
Age 7-9: I want to emphasize, at the age, the child must be supervised by an adult when performing these tasks, but the child should be able to perform the tasks independently. By this age, the child can do all of the above (except put items in the oven/cook on the stove) and should be able to follow a simple routine. The child probably will not be able to unload the dishwasher at five-o’clock, pick up toys at seven-o’clock, and take a bath at seven-thirty. However, the child can be trained to unload the dishwasher when s/he gets home from school, pick up toys immediately after supper, and take a bath after picking up toys. The child can also begin to be responsible for his/her own school supplies. I trained my children to leave their backpacks by the front door when they arrived home. At a certain time, I instructed them to remove any graded papers/letters to home, etc., from their backpacks and place them on the table. Then, they did their homework. After homework was finished, they placed the backpack by the door again. In the morning, all they had to do was grab the backpack on their way out.