As parents, it is important to us to raise responsible children. This begins at a young age. I've been given some strange looks when I mention that our six year old empties the dishwasher. What would they think if they knew her younger siblings can do it too? Here are some ideas on raising helpful children.
By age one, which our youngest is now, baby's are able to copy Mama and follow simple directions to place a toy in a bin after playtime. Our Baby also mimics her older siblings emptying the dishwasher by taking out the forks and spoons. She hasn't figured out what to do with them yet, other than suck on them or throw them to the dog, but it is a start.
Our two year old son is able to pick up his cars when he's done playing with them and put them in the vintage toolbox we keep them in.
From the time he could reach into the silverware drawer, he's helped the older two put away the forks and spoons. He likes to "help" me by sweeping. A swiffer is great for this age. They can race around the house with it all they want!
At age two, begin teaching how to make a bed. Don't correct any crooked sheets in front of your children, praise them for their hard efforts and fix it when they've finished and gone to play. Technique will improve over time. Encouragement in having a helpful attitude these early years is so important.
A three year old can help you count out forks for the dinner table, hand you the plastic cups out of the dishwasher, and learn how to fold kitchen towels and put them in the drawer. They can match and line up shoes by the door or in closets. Given them a spray bottle of healthy kid friendly cleaner and a rag and let them have at your cabinets!
Four year olds are invaluable. They want to be BIG and this is great motivation in teaching them to work. One of our sons just passed from four to five and after helping me sort through some boxes in the garage and carry items to different rooms of the house, he said, "Aren't I workin' like men?" He as very proud of himself. At four, a child can be supervised and taught how to feed the family pet and pour a cupful of water into their dog dish. A four year can be expected to tidy up their room before breakfast (rooms get tidied before breakfast in our home).
Now that our biggest boy is five, he helps our family by folding the boy clothes when they come out of the laundry. His clothes go in one pile, the littlest kiddos in another. He feeds the dog, lets the chickens out and waters and feeds them.
Our oldest is six and I think simply because she is the oldest, she is very responsible. She'll happily entertain Baby while I carry laundry outside to hang, picks out recipes and measures and mixes them up (supervised), sets a beautiful dinner table, folds the girl clothes and puts them away in the drawers, and loves to make her siblings PB&J for lunch (no supervision required here).
This is in no way a comprehensive list, but hopefully is useful for ideas in training your children. On a side note, our children are not paid an allowance for helping around the house. I'd LOVE to know who came up with the idea of paying children to contribute to cleaning up after themselves. If our kids want money for something special, they'll ask and we'll given them a specific chore that is more time and labor intensive. Our son has earned money clearing sticks up after a windstorm swept through our yard. In a yard with about 30 trees, it takes a while. Our oldest daughter has hulled strawberries to earn 50 cents a quart bag and all the children receive a dollar for each scripture they memorize.
I think the best tip when it comes to teaching your children is to allow them to work alongside you, not minding that they slow you down. Also keep a good attitude when working. If your children see you grumbling about the four loads of laundry that need to be folded and put away, then they'll pick up that too.