A favorite Montessori blog, Trillium Montessori, recently posted a helpful list of ideas to encourage children to help around the home. Having your child do chores is an important expectation to have as a parent. Children who have basic chores that they are responsible for feel more connected to their family unit and to the home. They feel valued, empowered, and needed. Learning to do chores also teaches basic life skills, independence, and self-care. Even young toddlers can get in on the act! My own 2-year-old loves to help unpack groceries, unload the dishwasher, feed the cats, put away his clean socks, and collect kindling for our woodstoves. Below are 10 ideas from Trillium Montessori to encourage your child to help out:
1. Involve them as much as possible, as young as possible.
It might surprise you how young children are able to help. From 1.5-2 years old children already want to do everything you do. Give them the opportunity to copy you doing simple chores!
2. Allow for more time.
If a chore usually takes 15 minutes, plan for 30 minutes to reduce stress. Tackling a chore with a child will take longer. It’s the end goal of teaching independence that you need to focus on, so don’t start folding laundry with your child when you only have a few minutes. Choose a time that will allow you to properly teach him how to do it.
3. Get child sized tools or equipment for them to use.
Before going out and buying things, check around your house to see what you can already use. My vacuum cleaner shrinks down to child-size and I was able to DIY a low clothesline. The dollar store is usually my next stop for small kitchen tools, I have also found a short broom and small spray bottles.
4. Show them one step at a time, many steps will overwhelm them.
Don’t assume they know how to do things. Even if it’s something simple like cleaning a window with a spray bottle. Show them how to hold the bottle, how to spray, how to wipe, then step back and allow them to do it without criticizing.
5. Ask them nicely to help you, but allow them to refuse.
This has been a tough one for me. I didn’t grow up in a Montessori home and chores were assigned and expected to be done. I have found that allowing them to say ‘no thank you!’, makes it sincerer when they do help. It also creates an environment of teamwork. Also, implementing #6 and 7 have helped reduce the amount of times they refuse.
6. Consider their mood or if they are hungry or the time of the day.
If your child is in the middle of playing a game or doing something he really enjoys, it’s probably not a good time to ask him to sweep the floor. Consider waiting until he/she is done or say, ‘Once you’re done playing, I would really appreciate your help sweeping the floor.’
7. Give them options.
Giving your child options, or allowing them to plan out their tasks and chores for that day, makes him/her feel like they are in control. It feels less like you are bossing him/her around and more like teamwork. Have a list of things he/she can choose from, crossing them out as the week goes by to make sure that everything gets done and he/she don’t always choose the easiest ones! On the flipside, you can also have a list of fun things you can do together.
8. Always thank your child for his help in a sincere fashion.
Your child needs to feel appreciated. After completing a task, remember to thank him/her for his/her help and tell him/her why you appreciate their help. During a task, you can say a kind word about how hard he/she is working or how cheerful he/she is. Focus on his/her attitude and character traits, not just on the end result.
9. Do them together.
Your child wants to spend time with you. You have household duties. What more can I say?
Wait, there is one more thing. Don’t just do chores with your children. Do fun things too. Do the things that they want to do.
10. Explain the why.
Any person, at any age, is more likely to accomplish a task if they know why they are doing it. Take some time to explain to your child in a simple and interesting way why things need to get done. If he/she is old enough, guide him/her to talk about the why. Ask him/her: ‘What do you think would happen if we never washed the windows?’ or ‘I wonder if leaving these toys on the floor might trip someone at night?’
With a little effort, you and your child will be happily doing chores together before you know it!
For more information see Trillium Montessori’s blog at: https://www.trilliummontessori.org/