Teaching children to work, Pt 4

doing-chores.jpgAs a mom of young children, I’m still very much in the stage of teaching my children how to do housework versus being able to lean on them to carry a fair share. For example, Bronwyn still needs me next to her as she puts the silverware away to make sure she’s getting everything where it actually belongs. However, I’m already learning that as I take time to teach my children to work, it isn’t long before they are completely independent of me in various tasks. It’s amazing how much young ones are capable of when we take the time to train them!

Of course, it’s important to pick jobs that our children can do; we don’t want to frustrate them. But we shouldn’t underestimate the abilities of our children either, and we must be careful that we’re not so nit-picky about things being “just so” that we can’t share with them the invaluable opportunity of learning to work around the house.

Here are some ideas of things your preschoolers can be learning to do:

  1. put pajamas away
  2. make bed
  3. undress self
  4. comb hair
  5. wash face & hands
  6. brush teeth
  7. tidy up bedroom
  8. pick up toys
  9. empty hamper, put clothes in wash area
  10. wipe up a spill
  11. pick up trash in yard
  12. dust furniture
  13. sweep floors (using a hand broom & dustpan)
  14. empty silverware from dishwasher or dish rack
  15. put away clean laundry
  16. set table
  17. clear table
  18. empty wastebaskets
  19. fold washcloths and dishtowels
  20. tidy shoes in mudroom/entry room

Now, you may look at this list and think there is no way your 3- or 4-year-old can accomplish most of these things. Begin by teaching the simple things first: care for themselves and their belongings– brushing teeth, putting pajamas away, tidying toys, making beds– is a great place to start. Once they get accustomed to that, additional chores and tasks comes more naturally.

And remember that though at first it might be easier to do the job yourself, as you are faithful to teach and train, you are not only working yourself out of certain tasks, you are setting the foundation for an understanding and application of hard work and diligence.


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  1. I find child training daunting and often fall under my own condemnation when I don’t see results when I want them. When I first started teaching my kids to fold clothes it was, to me, like nails on a chalk board.Between their comedy routine, and a job poorly done I would close up shop and revisit it the next month.I learned to set standards for them and reteach them to fold certain things. I gave them firm guidelines to work within that they could understand.(If you do it wrong I will make you refold it)This week my 6 year old and 8 year old did a nice job folding clothes at my kitchen table listening to stories on tape.Dare I say it was pleasent. I needed patience for the process, for them and for me.It is still nails on the chalkboard as far as washing dishes go but God will help me there too!

    Posted by Marianne Hardy | August 28, 2008, 2:22 pm
  2. This series has been very helpful, and encouraging. I was just thinking this week that, I didn’t know if I was teaching my son enough how to help out. I thought that he did a few things, and then I looked at this list and saw that he actually does and can do several things on it so…that was pretty encouraging. Thanks for sharing your tips and wisdom with a “clueless” mom (me). :) I appreciate your blog- it’s a real blessing.

    Posted by Gina Murawski | August 28, 2008, 6:31 pm
  3. About two years ago now I learned something important from Carina in the Sinclairs kitchen during a chat session (I was WAYYYYY over-staying my welcome after a moms meeting). What I learned was this- if you train your young children to do something (set the table, for example) you should expect to teach it many times over. For some crazy reason I was expecting it to take one day to teach my kids how to fold and put away laundry. HELLO! Carina said her mom would often take one whole week to teach something simple (like setting the table or folding/putting away laundry). If you’re a natural, you know, a gifted teacher, you might think this is “a given”. Obviously I needed to hear it from someone who had been on the receiving end of the training. This simple (and what should have been obvious) tip literally transformed my parenting. I went home and the very next morning started a week-long training session called “meal prep, meal clean-up”. The kids LOVED it and I was not discouraged when they didn’t “get-it” after one or two explainations. We practiced “meal-prep, meal clean-up” 3 x’s a day (B,L,& D) for that whole week and I found myself totally pushed out of any duties! Yeay! It’s true, the little ones can do (and love to do) so much more than we often think.
    Beautiful stuff, guys. Keep writing!

    Posted by LisaC. | August 29, 2008, 10:16 am
  4. This is a great post and I would wholeheartedly encourage other moms to bless their children, by allowing them to help out around the house. Yes, it is a blessing for them (and you!) My 2-year-old twins can do about 2/3 of this list and my 3 1/2-year-old son can do these tasks, as well. They LOVE being able to be big helpers and it teaches them to serve others and builds self-confidence.

    Chores can seem like a daunting prospect with little ones, especially because it does take time to teach them, just as it takes time to learn to sew, ride a bike, make a nice meal, etc. The time invested reaps so many rewards over and over and over, for all parties involved. :)

    Posted by Mary | September 15, 2008, 2:00 pm