So that raises the question, what chores and responsibilities should a three year old have?
C enjoys helping me with many of my every day tasks:
- When I wash the dishes, she wants to be there on a stool with her own scrub brush to scrub and splash.
- When I put away clean dishes, she is in charge of putting away the silverware. We moved the drawer down to her height to facilitate her ability to do this job on her own. Sometimes I have her put plastic containers away in their low cupboard as well.
- Ever since she could walk and talk, I've encourage her to pick up after herself and wipe up her own spills.
- When laundry has finished the wash cycle, I hand it piece by piece to C to load into the dryer, and sometimes she helps unload the dryer when it's finished.
- Sometimes when I cook or bake, I find things that C can help dump and stir.
- Once I scrubbed the floor by hand with a scrub brush. I made sure C had a brush or cloth of her own so she could work alongside me.
I've involved C in "tidying up" ever since she could follow instructions. I generally enforce a rule that before we move on to the next fun thing, the last fun thing must be cleaned up. Early on, her attention span may have limited her to picking up or dropping in only a few items while I did the rest. Often we make a game of it: can you find a yellow block? Or if it's toy food that's been dumped out, we'll pretend we are grocery shopping and see who is buying what at the store that day.
That paid off yesterday in a small way. I was tidying up in the living room, just general straightening that didn't necessarily involve C's possessions. She had been asking me to start a movie for her and I told her I would do it after I finished tidying up. Earlier, she had dumped out a box of blocks in her room, and I planned to go in and help her with that after finishing the living room, but hadn't mentioned that specifically to her.
Being pregnant, I had to take a bathroom break during the middle of my tidying efforts. While I was in there, I heard C go in her room, and heard blocks being dropped one by one back into their bin. After about 10 blocks, she stopped and wandered out of her room.
When I finished in the bathroom I found C and encouraged her. "I noticed you started picking up the blocks in your room without me even asking! That was very helpful!" Then we went back into her room and finished picking up the rest of the blocks together, me picking up and handing them to her so she could drop them in.
Later when DH got home, I encouraged C again by telling him in front of her how responsible she had been to start tidying up her blocks without me even asking.
Jane Nelsen emphasizes the need to take time for training. Until six years old, you should expect to work alongside and supervise your children as they do their tasks, slowly moving from doing most of the work when they are quite small to encouraging them and keeping them on task as they do most of the work as they approach the age of six.
What jobs do your children have? If you need some ideas, here are some links to age-appropriate chore lists: