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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Make your young children feel like capable, contributing members of the family by getting them to do household chores, says Anjali Kalani

If your children aren't working on chores because you think they are too young or that they are overscheduled with school and extracurricular activities, you may want to reconsider your decision—even if you have a bevy of maids to assist you. Over a hundred years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori Method, discovered that children greatly profited from working on everyday household tasks.

In fact, even today, authentic Montessori schools all over the world include Practical Life as one of the four main areas of their curriculum. Children as young as three learn to prepare a snack for their classmates, fold laundry, wash dishes, sweep the floor and clean up their own spills, amongst a host of other activities. Before dismissal, the guide and the children work together to prepare the classroom for the next day. The end result is a harmonious community where children view themselves as accomplished, valued members of the classroom.

Furthermore, the subject of the impact of chores on children has been widely studied. Researchers concluded that children who did chores were more helpful, responsible and better prepared as adults compared to their counterparts who were not involved in household activities.

You, too,  can make your young children feel like capable, contributing members of the family by having them do chores regularly. Here are some suggestions to get children involved.

Set children up for success

Teach children how to do tasks with slow exaggerated movements. Once you have shown them how to do the activity, walk away and watch from a distance. By choosing not to hover, you are giving your children the message that you think they are capable of working on the task. Step in only if your children feel overwhelmed. Pick a chore that is developmentally appropriate and simple. For instance, demonstrate how to fold small towels first rather than larger unwieldy clothes. Once children master a task, show them how to tackle more complex activities.

Work as a family and make it fun

Although young children naturally like to help, sometimes, motivating them can be difficult. Work as a family and make chore time fun.  In our home, we turn on the music while doing our chores. I also set a timer for 15 minutes and then we  race the timer and each other! It almost never fails.

Focus on the process

Young children stop working when they achieve their level of perfection. Their work may not pass your muster. If your three-year-old's dishwashing doesn't meet your standards, go back and wash the dishes only after your child is out of sight.

Praise the effort

After your children are done, say something positive about their efforts rather than praising them. For instance, "You worked efficiently and cleared up all your toys!" Watch their faces glow with pride.

Although you may not need your child's assistance in the house, it is essential to involve young children in the daily upkeep of a home. Through working on household tasks children gain self-confidence, concentration, independence and learn how to be part of a team. Neuropsychological educator Rebecca Jackson adds, "Children who are expected to perform regular household chores are happier than those who do not. Additionally, they have an increase in grit scores (persistence)."

Anjali Kalani is a mother of two independent, precocious children and an AMS and AMI certified Montessori guide who teaches children aged three to six in Houston, Texas.

Age-appropriate chores for three to eight-year-olds Each household has its own unique requirements. Choose what works for you.

Folding laundry and putting it away

Separating laundry and loading the washing machine

Helping with food preparation

Washing dishes

Sweeping and mopping the floor

Arranging shoes on the shoe rack

Watering the plants

Feeding pets

Setting and cleaning the dinner table

Cleaning counters with child-friendly cleaners.

Assisting with packing lunches

Picking up toys

Making beds


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