Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How old should a child be when they start doing chores?

Dear Em,
Daddy says he never really had chores as a child. In my family, we grew up doing chores. There was laundry folding, vacuuming, & dishes. Since there were so many of us, we all rotated in our tasks.  I'm not sure how old we were when we started doing chores, but I remember doing them until I moved out of my parents' house. I think every family probably does things a little differently, & I don't think your daddy & I really decided for sure what the protocol was going to be for our family.

You're at an age where grown-up tasks interest you. If I ask you to clean up your toys, you're about as thrilled as if I asked you to go to bed (sometimes I think you'd rather go to bed). You'll do it, but it's definitely not your favorite. On the other hand, you're eager to help out with our tasks. While I'm cleaning the bathroom, you beg to help. Clorox wipes in your hands make me nervous, but I will give you a paper towel & tell you you can help by "dusting." You dust EVERYTHING- the floors, our beds, the cats- EVERYTHING. You're always underfoot as Daddy sweeps the floors. You smile from ear to ear when Daddy gives you a brush & dustpan outside of the area he's directly sweeping & lets you "sweep." They're not real cleaning activities, as you're still too young to dust or sweep without missing spots or making bigger messes. Mostly they're just tasks to distract you from making bigger messes while we're cleaning up.

A few weeks ago I was putting the groceries away & starting dinner. I gave you the option of playing in the backyard, but you were having one of those moments where you didn't want to play on your own. You whined at my feet & I tried not to trip over you while I rushed around the kitchen. As I looked at the pile of cardboard, bottles, & cans on our kitchen counter, I had an idea. I asked you to take the items out to the recycling bins. You were excited about the task, & since you took each item separately the task distracted you long enough for me to finish the things I needed to get done.

I've often had the question & have been asked the question "how old should the child be when s/he is ready for..." The funny thing about you is more often than not you tell us or show us when you're ready. At six weeks old you showed us you were ready to sleep in your crib by crying until we put you in it. You showed us you were ready to potty train by basically picking it up in a weekend. You showed us you were ready to dress yourself by telling us firmly that you want to dress yourself ("Is it a deal, mom? I can dress myself?" you pleaded). And now, kind of by accident, you've showed us that you're ready to have a chore.

It's now your job to take out the recycling. It's not a task you do quickly (you still mostly take things outside one at a time), but it's still a task that's all your own & one that you look so proud to do. I like that you have a chore of your own. You're learning about the importance of helping out at home & more about the importance of recycling without even realizing it.

I really can't wait until you're old enough to handle the vacuuming & laundry...just kidding...well, kinda kidding.

I love you so,


  1. How old is your daughter? My oldest is four and we be started with giving her little tasks like helping clear the table after dinner. She always wants to wash dishes, which I would love if she really could. I always remember having chores around the house so my girls will definitely have some. It s just a matter of which ones at which age.

  2. Em turned 3 in December. I totally agree! I would love for Em to clear the table, but we're still working on her holding plates without dumping all the food on the floor. LOL. One day at a time.


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