What age to start giving chores?

>>Since, I am a self-taught homemaker, I am not sure the best time and chore to start with for my children. At what age do you begin to assign chores? Is there a typical first chore you give them?<<

Basically I look for things they can do from the time they are a young toddler (about 15 months) – usually this is a small piece of something someone older is doing.  They can put dirty clothes in a hamper, and carry one item to the laundry room.  They can pick up items from the floor and put them where I tell them. They can put their cup or plate in the sink (if you lift them up or take it from them when they get there).  When they are very little, this means me walking with them to where it should go, but they learn quickly and know that their dirty clothes go in the clothes hamper, so soon they start doing it with minimal prompting.

None of this practically speaking makes your life any easier.  In fact, it will take more effort than not involving them- and that’s why most parents don’t have kids who help out in the house!  Be that as may, this is how I help my kids develop an understanding and a positive feeling about participating in the home tasks that need to be done.  I’m not so official around here that I assign very little children with chores.  What I try to do is make helping out an integral part of their lives.  When I see something they can do – and this is usually something very small – I give it to them with a big smile and an attitude of “oh, lucky you, you get to help!”  (And since I know some of you are wondering, if they refuse, I give them another big smile and say, “Yes, Mommy!”  This gives them a model of the response I want to see.)

Kids will copy you, so sometimes they end up doing jobs that I wouldn’t have thought of giving them, and doing it well. Recently, for example, ds2 was watching me clean the walls.  He ran to get a rag from the rag drawer, went to the bathroom to wet it, and started vigorously wiping the area that I was cleaning.  So I let him do it by himself, and he did a great job.

I don’t expect much until they are much older in terms of the final result.  What is important to me is them feeling good about helping out and getting the message that their help matters and is appreciated.

Avivah

10 thoughts on “What age to start giving chores?

  1. My kids have all liked to wipe up spills at around a year…if they spill, I give them a rag, and they are thrilled to be able to wipe it up.
    I might have to wipe up after them as well, but they learn from very early on to clean up after themselves. By 2, they are great at throwing their garbage in the garbage; putting dishes in the sink (to the point that I have to tell them they can’t put their milchig cup in the fleishig sink, and we have had tears from that!)

  2. Ooh, I forgot about wiping up spills! Yes, absolutely – we start giving our kids a rag to clean up their spills at a very young age. When they’re very little they just rub it all around, but by the time they’re 18 – 24 months, they run to get a rag themselves. You and your kids are off to a fantastic start! :)

  3. Thanks, this is the more or less the direction I’ve been heading in. I like the advice about regarding the child copying what you want them to say.

  4. I have the HARDEST time trying to get my children to clean up. I have tried organizing with them, drawing pictures on the boxes so they know what goes where, etc. however they still fight me about cleaning up. It very often turns into a screaming match, or me just giving up and doing it alone. My husband does help, so they do see him working too (i.e. they can’t say well Abba doesn’t do it, so we don’t have to either).

    Do you have any advice on how to get them to clean up (other than bribing them, or punishing them?)

    Thanks!

  5. Tamar, I’m not Avivah, and I’m not an expert, but I would not make it a power struggle.
    I would simply say that if this toy isn’t put away by X time (supper, bed time), it’s going to the basement. If they don’t care enough about cleaning it up to take care of it, they don’t need to play with it.
    I have quite a few toys in the basement now, and when I see they get bored of those, I can bring the other ones back up in a few months and give them another chance and usually then they are ready to take care of those toys.

  6. To clarify: “when I see they get bored of those, I can bring the other ones back up in a few months ” — when I see they get bored of the ones we have upstairs now, I can rotate with the ones in storage.

    We also have some special toys (aka toys with a lot of pieces, like a big bag of potato head, knex, etc) that I keep up high in my room and we take down for Shabbos morning or whatever when they have more play time and they know if they don’t clean it up nicely, they can’t play with it the next Shabbos, and I don’t have to worry about those pieces all over the place during the week :)

    1. I’m also not Avivah (and Avivah can correct me if I’m wrong about my idea) but one thing that I found that helped was getting a special closet (with a lock) for those “special toys”. These toys included the ones with many small pieces (such as legos), puzzles and games. (Note: My kids are on the younger side so if your kids are older it might work differently.) The rule was that only one toy could come out at a time and that toy had to be cleaned up before the next one came out. (Another Note: There were always toys in another bin outside of the closet so it’s not like they were without toys if the closet was locked.) This solved a few problems for me. First of all it meant the mess couldn’t get TOO big. Secondly, it made clean up easier for the kids as they were having trouble sorting so many small-pieced toys (even if they knew where they went it was still too overwhelming for them). Thirdly, it made the toys more exciting. I found that the toys were all being taken out at once and nothing was being played with. This helped make life a bit (ok, more than a bit) easier for us.

      1. Thanks for chiming in, Sara! I’m glad to hear others sharing their ideas and experience. My experience is only mine, and there are more paths than one that end up with a happy family

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