It is never too early to start your little one working on helping with the chores. Many parents today believe that they should complete all of the housework without involving their children, but that tactic will raise adults who are not capable of looking after themselves. Instead you should start when your child is still a baby to teach that there are ways he or she can help out.
You can help your baby begin to understand chores when she or he is only a few months old. You cannot require any work of the tiny one, of course, but you can talk about your chores as you are doing them. "Daddy is changing the trash can in your diaper pail. Pee-Yew! Dirty diapers are smelly." Your baby eventually will understand you, and you are setting the stage now for explaining rather than just doing.
Seeing you complete your chores will be helpful, too. While it is tempting to wait until baby is asleep to zoom through the living room and pick up, your baby will begin to need to see you in action to understand. The living room does not magically get clean as many toddlers and older children think. You can teach your baby now that you must work on the house.
As soon as baby is old enough to play with her or his toys, you need to start teaching that we must all pick up after ourselves. There is a reason that children's shows are overrun with songs, and that is because they work! Children learn through music. There is a little clean-up diddy that goes, "Clean up. Clean up. Everybody everywhere. Clean up. Clean up. Everybody do your share." You can sing this little tune with baby while you are helping him put toys away. While you are putting all of the toys away at the beginning, by the time your baby reaches one, he or she will be working right along beside you, even if baby only gets one toy to the box by the time you pick up the others.
You also can allow your baby to "help" as soon as he or she can grasp objects. As you are cleaning up from one of baby's meals, hand him the baby food jar. "Hold this for Mommy. It's trash." Then walk over to the trash can and help him toss the jar into the trash.
She can help by sitting with you while you fold laundry, too. While she may unfold a few pieces along the way, it is important for her to feel involved and will help you reinforce the idea that everyone is involved in housework. When parents complain that their three-year-old or seven-year old refuses to help around the house, it is because of parents' poor discipline techniques that allow children to get out of facing any responsibility. By teaching your children early that no one like housework but it must be done - and everyone must help - you are giving them lifelong lessons about the responsibilities of life.
By Julia Mercer