Contrary to popular belief, helping out with household chores is possible for toddlers. Better still, since they take pleasure in imitating our gestures, it gives them the impression of doing like the grown-ups and of being empowered. Finally, we can say that cleaning is beneficial for the development of children. But where to start with a toddler: sweeping, dusting, tidying up his room? In short, the question that arises is whether what housework to offer for what age. We can already present very simple activities between the ages of 2 and 3, when the child has mastered walking and begins to take an interest in imitation games. Rather than playing with plastic dishes or dressing a baby, you might as well use real everyday objects and learn how to use them! So let’s see concretely what are the household chores suitable for a child depending on his age.
Why start household chores early?
Yes, learning housework lends itself perfectly to the needs of young children aged 2 to 3! They like to imitate the gestures of adults, need to move and are at the same time looking for autonomy, so it fits perfectly.
In Montessori pedagogy in particular, we make the choice to empower children very young and to offer them participate in household chores as soon as they are able, that is to say around 3 years. It may seem abrupt to put toddlers into action in this way, because cleaning is considered by many to be painful and reserved for adults or older children.
However, in setting up her pedagogy, Maria Montessori had observed that even the youngest need a clean and orderly environment in which to learn. She called it the ” sensitive period of the order which goes up to 6 years. Cleaning and tidying up gives children the opportunity to work on their motor skills, to concentrate and to succeed in carrying out simple actions while having the feeling of doing “like the grown-ups”. Start household chores early is thus beneficial for the motor and psychological development of the child.
Using a sponge, picking up objects and folding fabrics from around 2 years old
Now let’s see where to start with a toddler. From 2 or 2 and a half years old, we will first show how master simple everyday gestures.
At this age, a child can learn to:
- sit on a chair then put it away quietly;
- open and close cans and bottles;
- use clothes pegs;
- transfer the water from one bowl to another by squeezing a sponge with one hand;
- transfer seeds from one bowl to another with a spoon;
- sweep or use a dustpan;
- fold small squares of fabric following large dotted lines sewn on them;
- pick up objects and put them back in their place on a shelf at their height.
Before embarking on the complete storage of the bedroom, it will be necessary to go through small simple and accessible steps which will help the child in his daily life. In Montessori, they are called practical life activities.
Use a buttonhole, pour water and dust from 3 or 4 years old
From the age of 3, the child has better and better control of his motor skills and will therefore be able to carry out more complex activities.
Here is an overview of the tasks that can be taught from 3 or 4 years old:
- pour water into a glass with a small carafe;
- open and close a buttonhole installed on a wooden frame or on a doll before doing it on yourself;
- wash and dry hands alone;
- dust with a dry cloth or feather duster;
- wash a table with a sponge then wipe it with a dry cloth;
- clean a small mirror.
Don’t be afraid ofuse real dishes and water with a 4 year old. If you take the time for it show by dissecting your gestures, without parasitic words and you stay to watch him perform them, he will learn. On the other hand, there can always be a little breakage or water on the ground, which is why you have to teach him beforehand how to use the brush and the sponge!
Don’t hesitate to buy accessories at garage sales or to collect from relatives to limit costs.
Learn to tie shoelaces, make a bed and take care of plants from 5 years old
From the age of 5, the child is able to accomplish many tasks provided that they have already trained with simpler activities beforehand.
Between 5 and 6 years old, we can show a child how to:
- dust the leaves of a plant and water it;
- tie knots to gradually learn how to tie your shoelaces;
- put his pillow and duvet back in place (be careful, we’re talking about a simple flattened duvet, not making a square bed or changing your sheets alone!);
- set the table for several people;
- fill the bowl with water and feed the pets;
- hand-vacuum a rug or small table.
If the directions given so far are followed, a child will be able to tidy up and clean their room alone around 6 years old.
Participate in almost all household chores from 8 years old
A child who has been invited from a very young age to carry out simple tasks will in principle already be quite independent from the age of 6 or 7. Around the age of about 8 years, a child can therefore very well perform many daily activities on his own. Moreover, when learning the gestures necessary for household chores is done from early childhoodthere is a greater chance of not systematically perceiving them as constraints, since they then become part of everyday life.
Finally, starting to make children independent and involving them at only 8 or 10 years old amounts to imposing on them a multitude of tasks to which they are not accustomed and which they have very little mastery of. No wonder the excitement isn’t there!
To conclude, don’t feel guilty putting a rag or sponge in the hands of your 3 or 4 year old, because you are sure to be doing them a favor for the future. And you will see that he will surely be very proud to succeed in doing like mom and dad!
What household chores for what age?
Above all, remember that household chores and practical activities should be presented according to each person’s stage of cognitive and motor development, and not just age.
For example, we will not ask a child to pour water into a glass if he is still concentrating so as not to spill his cereal next to the bowl. No matter the age, you have to adapt to the rhythm of the child and always bring one difficulty at a time. Conversely, it is also necessary to make it more complex when the child is able to do more.
Also consider adapt the accessories to the size of the child’s hands. For example, you can cut the rags and sponges in half and invite him to practice on low, easily accessible furniture if he is still small.
Finally, nothing prevents presenting an activity for the first time and trying to propose it again later if the child does not succeed or loses interest in it at the time.
The lists by age established in this article are of course not exhaustive and given for information only. It is to be adapted and tested with your child, so it’s up to you!