I don't want to comment on the 'should children do chores?' debate but I do think that my daughter should learn about how the household is run and how my husband and I share out the jobs between us. We both work and we all live together so it seems reasonable that we should all lend a hand to keep the house running smoothly. So, here are some of the things that I ask my daughter to help with:
- Putting her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. At the end of the day, when she is getting ready for her bath, I expect my daughter to take her clothes off and put them in the laundry basket. I've been asking her to do this for so long now that it has become a habit.
- Setting the table for dinner. My daughter can put knives and forks on the table and, if we're having pasta, the parmesan and cheese grater. It's not a big job but it's an easy task that she can do.
- Sorting laundry. I tend to do the laundry on my two 'non-work' days in the week. These are days when my daughter is home with me, so I have a choice: put her in another room with an activity to do by herself, or get her to help me with the laundry and play together whilst it's in the machine. So, she helps me to sort similarly coloured items into piles. I put the laundry in the machine and add detergent, she turns the dial to the right programme and presses 'start'. When it's done, she helps me to sort out what can/can't be tumbled and load the tumble drier. She can help me put non-tumblable items onto the drying rack. When everything is dry, she can help me sort the laundry into piles - who does each item belong to? We do it together and it sort of feels like a game.
- Cooking. Sometimes we bake for fun at the weekends and sometimes my daughter wants to help cook dinner. Obviously there are lots of things she can't do for safety reasons but there are some things she can help with. She can weigh out dried pasta into a bowl until the digital scales read the correct value. She can put chopped items into a baking tray or saucepan. She can mix things together. It's nice to spend time together in the kitchen and she is usually keen to eat the things that she has helped to make. Our favourite recipe to make together is minestrone (but I think this is because she gets to eat bits of chopped fresh veg before they are put in the pan!).
- Tidying up toys and books. I think this one is really important. The children are encouraged to help with tidying up at nursery and I reinforce this at home. At the end of the day, before bath time, my daughter is expected to help us tidy up her toys. We have a playroom and all toys must end up back in there before she goes upstairs for bath and bed.
- Sorting the recycling. My husband puts the bins out each week and puts the recycling out for collection at the same time. We keep a plastic bucket in the house to put recyclable items in as we go along and then transfer them to the Council bags/containers on a Sunday night. My daughter likes to help by putting items in the right containers. She needs help to differentiate between plastic and glass and, obviously we don't let her handle glass or tins without our careful supervision, but she can easily do the cardboard and paper.
I view helping around the house as a set of learning opportunities: helping with the laundry involves colour recognition and grouping (darks together, lights together, finding pairs of socks); setting the table is about routine (who sits where? where do the fork and knife go?); and tidying up toys is about taking responsibility for your own things. Helping mummy and daddy with these jobs reinforces sharing of responsibilities and equality within the home. I'm hoping it will set her up for adult life, so she knows how to manage household chores and how to ask for help from others.