I'm not aiming to enter into the debate on whether or not a 3 year old should have chores; that's one for each parent to decide upon dependant upon the rules that they want to use within their own household. However, as part of our household, I do believe that chores play a part in teaching a child about responsibilities and also about contributing to family life. More than that, I've found that if you start at an early age, kids seem to take it as a given that they have a role to play helping the family out and that chores can even be fun. Probably not so much as you get older.
Washing a car, perhaps more fun than hard work
The chores I give to my 3 year old certainly don't take long, and are ones that he finds enjoyable and he is praised for the contribution that he makes.
Here's a simple list of the chores we've found age appropriate:
- Putting his dirty clothes into the laundry basket
- Tidying his toys away
- Helping me dust - we'll do this side by side and make a fun job of it
- Putting his used plate/bowl/cup into the sink when it's finished with
-Sorting out the colours in the laundry
- Putting clothes into the washing machine after sorting
- Passing a parent clothes to hang out on the washing line
- Making his bed (not always well made, but the effort and thought is there)
- Setting the table
- Helping wash the car (more water play than actual washing)
When giving out chores, I've found that simple instructions work best, with absolutely clarity. Where the instructions aren't clear then the results almost certainly won't be either. For three year olds it's almost guaranteed that they'll be mishaps, that the chores won't get done properly every time, but it's the effort and the contribution that should be rewarded. Our three year old puts the cutlery on the table every night, and probably once a week the knife and fork are about a metre apart. All I would then do, is thank him for doing his chore and just show him where a better position for the cutlery might be.
In some families, reward charts for chores work well, and for older kids, chores can be a way to earn your pocket money.