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Can Young Kids Have Chores?

“Can young kids have chores? How young is too young to be Mom’s big helper? I know parenting includes teaching kids to pick up after themselves. But should young kids have chores or is it wrong to ask kids to help me clean?”

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru says it’s okay for young kids to have chores. Show kids how to clean and teach kids to make their bed. Helping is a family affair. Teenagers and pre-teens clean their room because they’ve been doing it for years.

“I’m cleaning up my room do you want to help?” Kids look at you cleaning and tidying up and they learn from you.

Savvy Cleaner is a proud sponsor of the Ask a House Cleaner show. If you have a question ask away at https://AskaHouseCleaner.com

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by Angela Brown @SavvyCleaner

How early can you teach a kid to clean? That’s a great question, and it comes from a mother. She’s a young mother who has children, and she wants to know how early can you teach a kid to clean. Now, I love this question because I grew up in a big family, and my mother leaned on us kids to help out at an early age. We helped out in whatever ways we could. As we grew older our skills grew and we could do more. But even small kids can help out around the house.

And over the years from the people whose homes I’ve worked in, I’ve learned this to be true.

You can train a child when they’re in their little baby seat. You know the one with the little handle on it, and you’re carting the kid around the house? They can start learning then.

Can Young Kids Have Chores?

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Baby in CarseatAt that age a little baby, an infant in its car seat, or its little travel seat, it has nothing else to do. It doesn’t have any video games to distract it, it doesn’t have anything on its mind. Babies just sit there absorbing and learning everything. Babies observe things that are going around, and they pick up on that stuff.

So, it’s a perfect time to train a child. So even if the kid can’t physically help you. You can say, “Hey, do you want to come in and help mommy (or Daddy) with the dishes?” 

And then you bring the seat in, and you put the kid up on the counter so the kid can see what’s going on. The kid is little, they can’t move, they’re in their little seat. And they sit around and they’re like, “Well, what is mom doing, and why is mom doing it? And, “Mom thinks that helping, what am I supposed to be doing?”

Young Kids Have Chores Even If They Are Watching

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Mother Holding BabyAnd they start processing all these things. As the kid gets older, put them in a little bouncy seat.  Move the bouncy seat in the kitchen.  

Ask the child, “Hey, do you want to be mommy’s big helper, and you want to help me with the dishes?”

Now, they’re not helping with the dishes, but they’re in there, learning life skills, and you are entertaining them while you do the dishes. So, they’re watching you, and they’re picking up on what you’re doing, and they are learning from you.

Then the day comes, and they’re a toddler, and this is the age where they start getting into everything.

Instead of Punishing, Encourage Your Child to Help

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Mother and Little Girl Doing DishesInstead of putting locks on everything, and punishing them when they get into stuff, show them how to help. “Here’s where we put the garbage. And then we close the lid. Can you help me close the lid?” 

This is where we put the spoons. Can you help me put the spoons in this section of the drawer and then help me close the drawer?”

 You can pull up a chair, and you can show them how to do dishes. Now, in the beginning, they’re just going to be splashing their hands in the water, and they’re not actually going to be washing dishes. So, you say, “Here, let me show you how to do it.” 

Kids Have Chores but You Have to Show Them

And then it’s tough because it’s going to take twice as long to do dishes this way. But you wash the dishes, and then you put them in the dish drainer or the dishwasher, and you show the child how to do it.

And every day you can show them how to make their bed. There are little tasks that you do as a parent around your house that your kids can learn.

Then the day will come, and they’re four or five years old. And they will graduate from watching to doing. And this should be a graduation ceremony where you say, “Hey, guess what? Today is the day that you are grown up enough that you get to wash the dishes by yourself.”

Kids Have Chores – And Watching Becomes Doing

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Little Girl Doing DishesAnd then pull up the chair, and don’t help them. You’ve helped them many times before, you showed them how to do it. Let them stand there and wash the dishes. And give them little dishes, give them plastic dishes. Set them up for success. Give them dishes they’re not going to drop on the floor and break. And don’t give them heave pots, and pans, and stuff like that. But give them a few dishes to wash and put in the dish drainer.

And then you’ll clap, and you’ll celebrate the growth of them helping.

Kids Have Chores – And You May Have to Redo Them

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Child Loading DishwasherAnd you may have come by after them and rewash the dishes. But right now, they feel like the king of the world. They have done a service for you. And you want to reward that behavior.

The behavior you reward is the behavior they will repeat. Watch your child get excited like “Hey, I contributed something to the household.”

If Kids Have Chores – Should You Pay Them?

Now, there are a lot of parents that pay for allowance, and my suggestion is, pay for allowance for things that are extra.

Daily chores are not paid. Things like taking your dishes to the sink, and putting the dishes into the dishwasher. That’s what you do in exchange for living in the house.

Making your bed, cleaning up the bathroom vanity after yourself, these are things that everyone in the household does for no money.

Everybody that lives in the house has chores to do. It’s just part of living there.

Kids Have Chores – Parents Have Chores

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Child Making Her BedAnd you’re going to be teaching your children daily tasks anyway. Things like taking a shower and brushing their teeth, hanging up their clothes and putting their toys away. Everybody that lives in a house gets to help keep it clean.

The sooner you teach your children household tasks, the sooner they can help out. With practice, they will master small chores by age 8 or 9.

The good news is you won’t spend your life shouting at your kids to “go clean your room.”

It will be second nature because everybody in your house cleans their room.

When Kids Have Chores, They Take Ownership

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Small Girl Saying Don't Forget to Clean UpKids who help out around the house feel a sense of ownership and that leads to responsibility. And when their friends come over, they won’t let their friends make a mess. They’ll be saying stuff like;” Hey, you got to put that away. That doesn’t go there.”

And so, they will help you keep the house clean. But how early can you do it? You do it when the kid is an infant because that is the time when they are absorbing everything. And use the words like, “Mommy’s big helper.”

Everybody Wants Recognition and Appreciation

Can Young Kids Have Chores, Man Loading DishwasherNow, my husband, he’s not mommy’s big helper, but he’s Angela’s big helper, and he helps me all the time. I’m like, “Look, yay, you’re Angela’s big helper.” It’s a joke, and it’s funny, and he’s like, “I want to help.”

And so, I catch him helping me and I reward that behavior. And like magic, he repeats it. Hooray for me.

So, you can practice this on kids from a young age.

And if you do, you will never find yourself doing all the work.

It’s overwhelming for one person to have to do all the chores.

Everybody Has Stuff They Would Rather Be Doing

The goal here is to make light of the work by everyone pitching in. This way everybody can help with the work, and everybody gets time to play.

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Angela Brown
The House Cleaning Guru at Savvy Cleaner
Angela Brown is the founder of Savvy Cleaner Training and the author of the book "How to Start your Own House Cleaning Company."
She hosts a daily YouTube show and Podcast called "Ask a House Cleaner"
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