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Remember a couple of months ago when I talked about setting lifetime goals for our children? The next step after making that list is to make a plan for your family. In this plan, you outline what you want your children to be able to do at different ages. You do this by looking at the lifetime goals and breaking those down into sub-goals.
Now, all children are different in interest and ability. When you make this list, you need to have it be dynamic–which means it will be ever-changing. You might even want a different list for each child.
Another thing to keep in mind with the list is it builds on itself. You are adding to and expanding on skills, not replacing them. Here is my list so far–written up to the ages of my children:
ONE YEAR OLD
For my one year old, I am focused mostly on providing good example. Children learn a lot through observation, so by doing chores around my one year old, she is watching and learning how to do it. This is harder to do than it sounds. It is a lot faster and easier to clean without children around, and when you have a child who naps, it is easiest to clean during nap time.
I also have the goal for the child to help clean up her toys when she is done playing. This means at the end of playtime, we sing a clean up song and put the toys where they go. I don’t expect a one year old to do much, but as she grows, she should help more and more, and by the end of her year as a one year old (approaching age two), she should be capable of cleaning up toys–though not on her own yet.
At first, you might be just cleaning up while your child watches. Once she has the ability to put things away, start handing her toys and holding the bin for her and tell her to put it away. When she does, tell her thank you for helping to clean up. This road is a long one, and it starts with baby steps.
- Start to be present for chores–learn by observation
- Learn to help clean up her toys
TWO YEARS OLD
Around age two, I start to allow my children to help out with chores. Some will be ready before age two, and that is fine. If they want to help, I let them. But note that I only allow them to use cleaners that are made out of things like vinegar and water. Sometimes I just give them a spray bottle with water. If they are helping with dishes, I don’t allow them to touch things like sharp knives.
You need to have a lot of patience when your child “helps” you. As you go through these sometimes painful processes, envision your child as a teenager. Do you want your teenagers helping around the house? Or do you want to clean everything by yourself for the rest of your life? Envision your child as a parent. Do you think he will learn cook and clean just because he has a child? Remember, it is your job to teach him skills he needs to know. Here are some things I have found two year olds can help with relative ease. For more on two year olds, see this post: 12 Chores Your Toddler Can Do.
- Help Dust
- Help put laundry away
- Help sort laundry
- Help unload silverware in dishwasher
- Help pick up floor for vacuuming
- Help clear table after meals
- Help clean up after self
- Help clean room
- Help pull weeds
THREE YEARS OLD
A three year old has more ability to do things on his own. During this year, he starts to really dress himself, buckle himself in, and can be trusted more to clean up after himself. Here are some ideas for three year olds. Some of these things were done by my children younger than three, and others closer to four.
- Dress self
- Potty trained
- Beginning to brush teeth
- Pick up toys
- Say prayers
- Help match socks for folding
FOUR YEARS OLD
Independence just keeps coming more and more. It is amazing to watch your child as a four year old. Here are my goals for age four:
- Brush teeth
- Make bed
- Set table for meals
- Make sandwiches
- Start to clean room
- Unload dishwasher (the things he can reach)
- Help clean bathrooms
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Flexibility: These goals are to guide you. When your child turns three, you can look at your list and think, okay, I have on here that I want my three year old to be able to dress herself. How is she doing? She can put on socks, panties, and pants, but not shirts. We will work on shirts now. So you allow her to try putting her shirt on by herself each morning. But maybe your child turns three and you see that he just isn’t ready to be dressing himself yet. So you hold off on that. You watch for signs of readiness, but if he isn’t ready until four, then you don’t need to go into stress mode. These things are not set in stone.
- A Year is Long: The title “Four Years Old” covers an entire year. That is a long time for your child to learn and be able to accomplish these skills. Is something hard at four? I bet by close to five, it will be much easier. This isn’t a race.
- A Birthday Doesn’t Teach: Just because your child wakes up one morning as a three year old doesn’t mean she will magically know how to do the things you have on your list. You are going to have to take the time to teach her and allow the time for her to practice. Allowing children to dress themselves can be painfully slow. Give yourselves enough time in the morning that you don’t need to rush the child. I lay out the clothes then walk in the next room or busy myself in that room so my children can breath and work it out without the impatient hover-monster over them.
- Compromise: For me, skills like brush teeth on own is a scary thing to hand over. Teeth are important! My compromise has been that while the child is learning how to do it well, I take one tooth-brushing session each day. I like to take night since there is a long time for it to work well. The child will never learn to brush his teeth well if you don’t let him practice. You have to let him try. Most kids probably won’t try too hard if you immediately brush after he is done. There are products you can use like a Tooth Brushing Timer.
- Clean After?: I think most things you read will say to not follow the child around and re-do the job after he is done. This makes sense. If you do it, you will tell him that it wasn’t good enough. You will also tell him he doesn’t need to to try to do it well. I have a friend, however, whose mom followed her around through the teenage years. This friend is a good cleaner and laughs about it, so she wasn’t scarred for life. Despite that, I don’t re-do the jobs of my kids unless I must. One way to avoid “re-do” is to take turns. I did this a lot with Brayden and vacuuming. I would start off vacuuming a room, then he would take a turn, then me, then him, etc. I was sure to start my turn off in the spots that needed the vacuuming the most. I then did my best to not go over a spot he had already done. By the time he turned four, he could vacuum a room by himself with no need for me to take turns.
- Adjust: Remember to adjust for individual child. Not only so far as abilities, but also preference and emotions. Maybe your two year old has no interest in helping with the silverware, but he loves to pull weeds. Take the weed pulling and run with it. Also, some children will have fears of things. Kaitlyn has always had a very real fear of the vacuum. Even as a young baby, she cried and cried when it was on. We eventually started taking her out of the house when we vacuumed. She has super-sonic hearing and I really think the sound hurts her ears. My compromise on this is to have her pick up the room before vacuuming. Her job is to pick up and Brayden’s job is to pick up and vacuum. Just before her third birthday, she started staying in a room with the vacuum on, so she is making progress.
These are just a few ideas in relation to the goals set out. There will be much more in the future on this topic. The idea for this list was taken from The Parenting Breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack.
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