Children And Chores


Growing up, I was raised in a very traditional, fairly strict southern Baptist family. In my home, the roles of men and women were very defined, as were the roles of children. Children were not necessarily “to be seen, but not heard,” but instead, we were told to express ourselves as long as we did not interrupt adults to do it. I was taught my manners while I was in the cradle. It was never “yes” or “no.” It was always “yes ma’am,” or “No ma’am.” I was not permitted to call adults by their first name. A title was to always go in front of an adults first or last name, chosen by their own personal preference: Mrs, Miss, Mr, Aunt, Uncle, etc.

In the south, that old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is very much in practical use. My raising was not only done by my parents, but also my grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, teachers, religious figures, and even my older cousins. One of the most important things about this type of child rearing was the work ethic. Manners came first, certainly, but work ethic was a close second. I mentioned before that the roles of men, women, and children were well defined in my home, but as children, boys and girls both learned to cook and clean. The boys did not learn as much as the girls did, and some of their tasks were different then ours. But here is the way that it worked for my sister, myself, and our female cousins:

Around age 2, we were introduced to the idea of chores. It was done by having us pick up after ourselves.

By age 3, we were doing additional chores. Not only were we expected to pick up after ourselves, but we were also given small chores- not on a daily basis, but as our parents/grandparents/etc saw fit for us to do. We would wipe off tables with a wet washcloth, ‘fetch’ things for adults, and little things like that.

Age 4, we were taught how to clean the dishes, vacuum, and began our introduction to cooking.

Things keep continuing from there, with an introduction to baby-sitting around age seven or eight by helping the adults watch the babies. I used to watch two of my baby cousins between age eight and ten. By the time a girl in my family is about eight, they can do anything pertaining to cleaning, and in that aspect, they can run the place. By age ten, we can not only ‘run the house’ in reference to cleaning, but we can also tend to babies while we do it. Cooking is an art, so it takes longer to master, but depending on how quickly a girl picks it up, they can cook almost anything simple between age 12 and 15, with a few desserts and secret family recipes thrown in.

Many people think that’s a rough way to grow up, but honestly, I’m more than happy to have all of the very necessary skills this imparted to me. Throw in the fact that I spent my weekends, every other holiday, and a month out of the summer on a farm, and I have a whole slew of life skills that the dozens of people participating in my raising gave me.

So am I doing this with my own daughter? DEFINITELY! My daughter is four years old and there are a TON of things she can already help me with. While she doesn’t have the same chores day in and day out, besides picking up after herself, there are over a dozen small tasks she can help me with. When I have my big cleaning days once a week, she always helps and easily shaves half an hour to an hour off the amount of time it would normally take me. Here’s a list of things my daughter can do right now (no, I’m not just bragging, but trying to give you an idea of what preschoolers are able to do- haha):

  • wash simple dishes (such as small plates or plastic cups)
  • Vacuum
  • Dust low surfaces
  • wipe off the tables with a wet rag (I just go behind her with a paper towel, and voila! It’s done!)
  • Fetch me things (can you grab me a water? can you go grab me the duster? etc.)
  • Gather up laundry from her room or the bathroom
  • Fold her own cloth pants, or dish towels
  • Give her guinea pigs food (both pellet and hay)
  • feed her turtle
  • feed her fish
  • Help transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer
  • Add clothes into the washer
  • Hold the dust pan for me when I sweep
  • Add seasonings to foods (without my assistance, but with my close supervision)
  • Mix/Stir
  • Crack eggs and add them to batters
  • Put toast into the toaster, or add ingredients to the blender (with close supervision)
  • Fetch me ingredients out of the fridge or pantry & put them away again
  • Pour milk, water, etc. into the mixing bowls
  • Help me measure out ingredients

So, as you can see, a four year old is capable of quite a bit. It’s good for them to learn how to do these things early on. They pick it up quicker, for one. Plus, to be perfectly honest with you, they love doing it! Nothing makes a child happier than when they are able to help out around the house. Of course, every child is different. What each child is able to do and when will vary, but all children can help out in one way or another… you just have to spend a bit of time directing them. If it takes you an extra five to ten minutes a day for a week, so be it! Remember that in the long haul, it will be saving you time and teaching them a valuable life skill in the process!

If you liked this article, you can find more of my personal ramblings on children at one of the following links:
Childhood Friendships
Pyschotically Endearing Toddlers
Parenting Fears: Oh No! They Must Have…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Parenting: Releasing The Chokehold | Pen Possessed

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