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Chores for kids: How important are they and when to start?

Children under the age of four are still very self-centred, so chores are a good way of showing that they are important as individuals, but also part of the family. Chores give your child responsibility and by starting at a young age, good habits can be formed.

Children at the age of three and four are curious and eager to help with all sorts of tasks. Take advantage of your child's willingness at this age and assign age-appropriate tasks. The emphasis at this stage is not on getting work done, or done right, but on the routine and habit of helping out around the house.

At the age of two, your child should be able to at least try the following activities as part of their chores: putting dirty clothing in the washing basket; disposing of a dirty diaper; picking up toys; sorting lights and darks for laundry; placing napkins at the table.

At the age of three, your child should be able to do the following tasks: sort socks by colour and maybe match pairs; water a plant; put out food for a pet; clean up their own liquid spills; prepare their own simple snack; clear their own dish from the dinner table; help wash a car.

At the age of four, your child can help with the following chores: setting a table for a meal; remove silverware from a dishwasher; help with making food; sweep with a small broom and use a duster; assist with making their bed; pour milk for cereal or drinking; fold clean towels and remove wet towels from the floor.

Keep the chores you assign to your child gender neutral. Mix up working outside and inside for either gender. Be specific about what you want done and assign one task at a time. Keep chores fun and introduce new things to combat the boredom of repetitive tasks. If your child does a job that is good enough, do not redo it perfectly. This will demoralise your child and make them think everything they do is superfluous.

Do not reward your child for chores with money payments. Keep pocket money and allowances separate from chores. Chores are there to teach your child about responsibility and sharing in tasks, while allowances teach your child about saving money and budgeting.

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