When Nicholas is done eating he flings the rest of his food off his high chair with gusto. After 6 months of cleaning up chunks of carrots and pieces of buttered pasta, I got smart. I take him out of his high chair, give him a little bowl and tell him to pick up the pieces he’s thrown. He loves cleaning up and is so proud of himself when he runs over to me with a bowl full of flung food. Problem solved. My floor is clean, and my kid is helping clean up the mess he made in the process!
Both of my kids love to do chores. In their quest for independence, most little kids love to help out with tasks that, as adults, we find boring. And my kids are no different. They love helping and they love the praise when they’ve helped me in some way. As Gia gets older we give her more and more responsibility. She loves feeling like she contributes to our family. Here are the things she does on a regular basis.
5 Chores for 5 year olds
1. Clean up the playroom
One of the very first chores we can teach our kids is the clean up their spaces. Encourage them to help clean up when they’re done with their toys and books so that cleaning up becomes second nature–or at least something they’re used to doing! Even kids as young as Nicholas (he’s 17 months) can assist with putting blocks back in a container or putting toys back on shelves. By the time they’re 5, they can clean up the room without much assistance. you can make it fun by making it a game or a race. Set a timer for 2 or 3 minutes and leave them to clean up as much as they can in the allotted time. (Use the microwave or oven timer.)
2. Get Ready for School & Bed
Both of my kids are fiercely independent and if it’s possible for them to do something themselves, they definitely want to. Learning how to get themselves ready for school and for bedtime is a great way to get started with allowing them to have some independence. In the morning I set out 2 outfit choices for Gia and then I leave the room and let her get dressed by herself. We make it a game and Gia “surprises” me with her outfit choice. At bedtime I send her in her room to take off her school clothes, put them in the hamper and then get into her pajamas all by herself. I meet her in the bathroom a few minutes later so she can brush her teeth (and I can supervise 😉 ). We’ve been doing this for over a year and by now she’s great at it.
3. Set the dinner table
While you’re scrambling to get dinner on the table have your kids help you by setting the table. Start with things that aren’t breakable–like folding napkins and putting out forks and spoons. As your child gets better at it, he or she can set the entire table. And, don’t forget about clean up. Teach your child that he or she is responsible for clearing his or her spot after family mealtime is over. Start by having them bring their plates over to the sink and as they get older they can rinse the plates and put them in the dishwasher.
4. Dusting & Sweeping
Chores that I hate are super fun for my kids! We have a kid-size broom and a feather duster (we got them both at the dollar store) and I happily hand them over to the kids. I’m always amazed at how much fun they have with a duster or a broom, and they even get things clean while they’re at it. Sometimes we turn on some tunes and make it a dance party for extra fun!
5. Make the Bed
Around age 5 you can teach your child how to make the bed and encourage them to do it on their own. It may not be perfectly neat, but it’s the effort that counts. Be sure to praise them on a job well done and resist the urge to the straighten covers. As your child gets older he or she can make the bed before school every day.
Other Chores Your Kids Can Help With:
When your children are learning their colors they’re old enough to help you with the laundry! My kids love to throw clothes around the house and “help” me sort lights and darks. It’s also a good way to sneak in a lesson on shades and colors! They also love dumping the detergent in the washer and pushing the buttons on the washer or dryer.
Feeding the pets
In our house all we can manage is a cat. She’s pretty self sufficient thankfully, because some days it’s 10 am before I remember to feed her. Thankfully, Gia loves the cat and is always willing to help me. Gia is in charge of scooping her dry food and bringing me the empty bowls so I can fill them with wet food and water. Eventually she’ll be able to take care of all feeding needs!
Get the mail
Nicholas is like my little watchdog; the minute he sees the mail truck coming he runs around the house happily yelling. And then Gia gets in on the action because she loves going outside to collect the mail–because she loves to see if anything came for her! Our mailbox is at the end of our driveway so we go get the mail together. I let Gia carry the mail back to the house and, as she gets older I’ll trust her to go to the mailbox and bring the mail back to the house with just me watching from the door.
Help pack lunch
Whether you make your child’s lunch at night or in the morning, enlist the help of the child! I usually give Gia 2 choices when it comes to what she wants me to pack. She also helps me get the snacks from the cabinet or fridge. After you’ve made a sandwich, have your child put it in a baggie or wrap it up in plastic wrap or foil. And, remind them to pack themselves a drink and napkin!
Answer the phone
My little chatterbox loves to answer the phone. It’s a great way to teach social skills — and work in a lesson on how to call 911 in an emergency. Depending on the maturity of your child, he or she can start answering the phone around age 4 with a lot of coaching and help from you. Teach them to say “Hello” and then respond to whatever the caller is saying. If they are unsure what to do after that, teach them to say, “Hold on, please. I’ll go get my mom/dad”.
The bottom line is that kids are capable of a lot if we just let them try. And, don’t worry about perfection. Kids are learning and it’s the effort that counts. Focus on the fact that your child tried, not the end result!
Photo Credit: Plates by Jer Kunz
Child with dustpan by Jessica Lucia