If your household is like most, there are many day-to-day duties that must be completed. While tasks like laundry and doing dishes may seem tedious for children, research conducted by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development shows that "involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life."
Without a doubt, chores foster a good attitude about working hard and being responsible and have many other important benefits. Here are several suggestions to help your child build valuable skills while contributing around the house.
Picking up clutter - Make time each day for your child to pick up his or her bedroom or around the house. Try setting a timer and challenging your child to see how much he or she can accomplish in five or 10 minutes. Learning to understand how long different tasks take will help your child become better at budgeting his or her time—for homework as well as timed tests and assignments at school.
Cooking - Helping in the kitchen is an excellent way to put math concepts into action, including fractions (using measuring cups and spoons, for example), addition (when counting ingredients, measuring and more), multiplication (when doubling a recipe), and telling time and temperature. Older children can learn about chemistry from the changes that foods undergo during the cooking process.
Preparing menus and grocery lists - Planning your family's weekly menu and making an accompanying grocery list requires many different skills. Children must think ahead about what they want to eat, other commitments each evening (such as soccer practice or club meetings), and what ingredients they will need to cook the meal. Planning and managing a project—dinner in this case—are skills they will use again and again.
Organizing - As any busy parent knows, there is much to keep track of in a household. Ask your older child to help organize the pantry, a closet or another area of the home, developing a reliable organizational system. You could also put your child in charge of collecting and sorting the mail every day, maintaining the family calendar or filing papers, bills and other important documents in the family filing cabinet. Organization chores emphasize the importance of having a designated place for everything. Students who are organized are more likely to avoid misplacing their homework and being tardy and later, will better understand how to manage multi-step assignments and projects.
Cleaning - Cleaning the kitchen or bathroom can be a science experiment waiting to happen. Use all-natural cleaning products, such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice and do some research with your child on how they work and how they differ from chemical cleaning products. Find recipes for homemade cleaners online.
Feeding pets - Caring for and feeding the family pet teaches your child about commitment, being relied upon and keeping to a schedule. It also reinforces the lesson that your child's actions have consequences. Have your child develop a chart to keep track of feedings, or take things further and bring him or her along to veterinary appointments so he or she can learn about your animal's health.
Age-appropriate chores teach responsibility, work ethic, organization and time management—and they even help children build self-esteem as they gain the satisfaction of seeing tasks through to completion. Chores can also reinforce school skills such as math, reading, critical thinking and more. With all of these benefits, assigning chores takes on new meaning. Not only will you gain extra hands around the house, your child will be learning and growing as a person and student.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.