Get your child to help out around the house

By Drum Digital
27 October 2014

If we teach our children from an early age to help with household chores they learn about more than just keeping things clean and tidy, says Hawa Tayob, director of the Cape Town’s ELF Montessori Teacher Training.

If we teach our children from an early age to help with household chores they learn about more than just keeping things clean and tidy, says Hawa Tayob, director of the Cape Town’s ELF Montessori Teacher Training.

Parents often underestimate kids’ ability to do things themselves and are surprised what they can do if given the chance. Doing chores from a young age is important for a number of reasons, Tayob says.

-        It helps kids’ physical development. Letting them put away their toys or lay the table from an early age develops their muscles and hand-eye coordination. “While adults perform tasks with a goal in mind, doing household chores teaches children to use their muscles and think logically. While an adult merely wants to ensure the table is laid before the meal, a child must consciously decide how to lift plates and where to put the knives and forks.”

-        It teaches independence. “They learn the value of doing things themselves and also learn to be responsible,” Tayob says. “If you teach a child to take his dirty plate and cutlery to the kitchen it makes him more considerate because he realises someone else will have to do it if he doesn’t.”

-        It’s a lesson in life orientation. Chores such as laying the table expand kids’ general knowledge and teaches them important life skills, Johannesburg educational psychologist Lana Kleingeld says.

-        It strengthens relationships. When parents and kids tackle household chores together it improves communication, Kleingeld says. It’s also helps them to bond.

How to motivate a child:

The biggest challenge is to get kids to start doing household chores. Overcoming that hurdle makes the rest easier. Parents should organise their homes so it’s physically easy for kids to undertake tasks, Tayob says.

-        Store toys on low shelves or in boxes on the floor so it’s easy to unpack and put away.

-        Keep portable steps on hand so they can easily reach counters and other surfaces.

-        Establish a routine, Kleingeld says. A child is more inclined to do something if it’s done at a specific time. This also teaches them time management. Divide chores among your children and make it clear for instance that the rubbish must be taken out on Mondays or the dog fed at 5 pm.

-        Invest in plastic cutlery so they can lay the table from an early age and eat on their own.

-        If your child is reluctant to do chores give them more time to complete them, Tayob says. “Tell your daughter for instance her room must be tidied by supper and show her on a watch how much time she has to do it.” This also teaches them to manage their time.

-        Hold back privileges until tasks have been completed, Tayob suggests. “Don’t let younger kids watch TV until their chores have been done and with older children hold back pocket money or cellphones.”

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