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My wife and I both work full time, this means when we are at home we are both quite busy with housework. This could be in the yard or inside.

As my son is an only child and he wants to spend more time with us he frequently offers to help with whatever task we are doing. Even if this is something he is clearly not capable of he still wants to participate.

What are some household chores that a child can safely do or assist with that your children have happily done? If necessary also provide the age that you think this is appropriate for.

Some examples for myself are:

  • Feeding our chickens
  • Washing tomatoes
  • Taking beans / peas out of their pods
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That's admirable of him! How old is he? --> will affect usefulness of the answers given. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 20 '11 at 12:21
    
@torbengb - He is 4. I'm sure it will wear off once he gets a bit older and decides computer games are more fun than following me round the house. –  xiaohouzi79 Apr 20 '11 at 22:23
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is one of those things that if you get creative about, you can almost always find a way for them to help. For example, my 3yo wanted to help move a heavy couch a few weeks back. Of course, having him actually stand near the couch itself was dangerous, so I told him that he could stand behind me, put his hand on my back, and help push me as I walked forward. I then told him to, "push harder" and made grunting sounds, which made him emulate and think that he was really helping.

Kids are just eager to be a part of something, so don't think about it from an adult perspective. They don't have to perform the actual task, but rather, they are often content doing some related or seemingly related portion of the work. For young kids in particular, it's usually more about the sense of importance and collaboration than actually performing the task at hand. Be creative.

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+1 for not thinking in an adult context. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 20 '11 at 12:22
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I think this is also one of those things that depends on the child. My son LOVES to help out whenever we do things, cooking, shoveling snow, raking the yard and so on. Some cooking tasks he is great with, such as mixing and measuring, but I wouldn't have him do certain other things. I'll let him try something that I think he is ready for, such as raking and shoveling snow, but often he will either get bored or find out its "work" and stop or play around. So first off I would say see what your child is capable of doing and let him do it.

Secondly, I'd suggest making it fun. Keep your child engaged, if not they may figure out its "work" and stop or just not enjoy it. Sometimes I make things a game, and that keeps things interesting for my son, or I make it a contest - he has a bit of a competitive streak so we can see who can finish or do something first. That keeps him engaged. I also try and talk about what we are doing, since I inevitably get questions, so he understands not just what the task is but why it needs to be done.

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  • Chopping vegetables for dinner. My 8 and 9 year olds can do this. My 4 year old helps out with this for softer vegetables. She can use a butter knife, so there's no danger of her getting cut. It doesn't look as nice as when I do it, but still tastes fine.

  • Just about any part of cooking they can do, with supervision depending on age and maturity. Added benefit of this is they are much less likely to whine about the food if they helped make it.

  • Taking out the trash.

  • Washing the dishes.

  • Putting away the clean dishes.

  • Moving wet clothes from washer to dryer.

  • Folding clothes.

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My son wants to participate in most of the household things

  • watering plants
  • Cleaning some mess
  • taking out cups and dropping in sink
  • Brings any small objects when we ask for like remote, paper, Books, phone etc.
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This list assumes you are using child friendly and organic cleansers.

Depending on the type of vacuum you have, he might be able to help with that. If you have an upright it will be too much but cannister vacs mean the part the child is moving around a lot are lighter weight so he can do that.

You can also spray a mirror and have him wipe the bottom while you do the top - same with windows and glass doors.

matching socks, sorting clothes into piles of mommy's clothes, daddy's clothes, his clothes and so on. Folding easy fold items.

If you do gardening, watering plants was already mentioned, but Alice was helping with weeding by the time she was four. I started by having her point out plants she thought were weeds and then I would pull them (scavenger hunts are so much fun). THEN when she got a pair of gardening gloves and a weeding tool one spring in her Easter basket she was super excited to use them and now sometimes if she is out in the backyard playing I'll peak out and see her weeding even without me.

Taking care of feeding pets (reminders will be needed).

helping to set the table.

measuring and stirring ingredients in the kitchen.

picking up general "stuff" around the house.

taking out the compost and stirring it in (with help).

wiping sinks and faucets.

Cleaning the bath-tub with you.

Washing dishes that are relatively light weight and not sharp with you. (You wash, child dries).

Emptying a dishwasher of all the dishes that belong in cabinets the child can reach. Instruct your child to let you handle knives and particularly fragile items.

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You will see many of these tasks specify completing the task together. As Javid says (who I am voting for here), the child really just wants to feel involved. It gives him a sense of worth and value in the family to be involved AND he learns from the experience at the same time. You may have to re-do some of his work. That is okay, just do it together. –  balanced mama Nov 19 '12 at 5:17
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