The answer is as soon as they can walk.
Now, don’t panic; that doesn’t mean your eighteen-month-old should be shoveling snow. However, as soon as your child is old enough to walk and talk, they are able to participate in some small personal chores that encourage independence, even at a young age.
Chores teach responsibility, provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and allow children to feel like they are contributing to the family. There are a few questions to consider, however: How do you encourage your children to do chores? What types of chores for toddlers or small children are appropriate?
Don’t expect perfection — have a relaxed approach.
For your 2 to 4-year-old toddlers, it’s all about turning everything into a game. Teach them to shoot small clothing into the hamper or see who can pick up their toys the fastest. This allows them to associate chores with fun rather than obligation.
Since they’re so young, they won’t do everything as perfectly as you would like. Try not to get frustrated; this is a learning process for them. By allowing them to learn simple tasks such as picking up after themselves, you’re building a foundation to allow them to take on bigger responsibilities.
Praise and encourage.
Don’t be afraid that you will praise your child too much during or after the chore. Emphasize the fact that he/she is your “helper,” especially when your child reaches age 5-7. Encouraging responsible behavior and then rewarding him/her with praise once the job is finished will build positive momentum towards repetition of these habits.
When you go grocery shopping, give your child their own list of small, easy to find items to keep him/her from getting restless.
At home, your child can help out with minor tasks such as watering plants, wiping up messes, making the bed, and setting the table.
Since they will be attending school at this age, teach them how to tie their own shoes, pick out their own outfits for school, and carry their school bags.
Once your child is 8 and older, consider creating chore lists or chore charts that they will be responsible for on a daily or weekly basis. Chore charts for kids make understanding their responsibilities easier and encourage them to learn time management.
Chores not only help children develop a sense of responsibility, they build a strong work ethic and an ability to be self-disciplined. It also encourages them to form problem-solving skills.
Once they have reached the age of 8 and above, they can handle more difficult tasks such as yard work, vacuuming, cleaning rooms, and taking out the trash. Around 11 or 12 they can begin doing their own laundry or even making small meals.
If you begin children’s chores early on in life you can continue these habits later when your child enters middle school and has a heavier study load. Your child will have gained a sense of time management that will help to handle a homework schedule while also contributing to the household.
These are skills that will follow them into their high school and college years as they move towards living more independently