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A Guide to Improving Independence

Little jobs You Can Give Your children (From Age 2 to 7)


“Encouraging little jobs at a young age will foster independence, a sense of responsibility, empathy, self-reliance and makes your little one feel part of the family. The skills they learn will also be carried into adult life. Even tots 2 to 3 years old can start doing simple tasks at home”


Elizabeth Pantley, parenting expert and author of several parenting books including the No-Cry series says that “You’ll find that your child is already equipped with the skills needed to complete a simple task, provided it’s age-appropriate. If you want to begin your child’s acceptance of and training for, little jobs, here are some things to keep in mind”


Define “jobs to do” loosely.
Telling a toddler to clean his room won’t lead to anything but a blank stare from your child. So, keep your definition loose and light. Helping you pick up toys, placing a bowl, spoon and cup on the table, picking up clothes or helping you with folding the washing, simple, straightforward jobs are what you’re looking for!


2. Demonstrate.
Children like being just like mum and dad, so being a role model for tasks will encourage your child to do theirs.  If you want your child to wipe the table, show them how to do it first. If you want them to tidy their room, break the tasks into one or two small steps first while giving instructions in words your child will understand.


3. Let go of perfection.
Once you’ve told your child what to do, stand back and let them do it. There’s no need to micromanage. Jumping in to help out or correct, sends your child the message that they’re not capable of the job you gave them. Sure, the sock drawer may not be arranged as well as you would like it to be but that’s okay. The important thing is that your child was able to take part and carry out the chore!


4. Give lots of praise.
While your child’s is accomplishing the task, praise their effort and hard work. At this age, your child benefits from lots of encouragement and it will help them have a positive attitude towards jobs and responsibility as they grow older. Avoid belittling your child’s efforts or telling your child that he’s doing it wrong.


5. Avoid nagging but be consistent.
One of the things your child can learn from doing little jobs is a sense of initiative. Give them time to respond even if it is not done immediately. Nagging your child to complete a task is not going to help. Instead, Pantley recommends the “when/then” technique. “When you’ve put your toys away, then we can read a bedtime story.” And as much as possible, be consistent with your expectations…..simple jobs requested and tackled frequently will allow a child to develop a sense of achievement.


6. Have fun.
Make it so that your toddler doesn’t think of jobs as boring or dull. It’s okay if you make necessary task fun! Set a timer, challenge your child to a “race” Can you put your toys away nicely before I have folded the washing? Use a sticker chart to help your child see their jobs for the week and each time they are completed put up a sticker, at the end of the week perhaps a little treat would be in order ( time in the park  a favourite teatime meal or an extra story at bedtime….it doesn’t have to cost anything)


Here’s a list of jobs to consider for your 2- to 3-year-old:

  • Put toys away (provide a catch-all container)
  • Wipe up spills (have a rag or paper towel roll within your child's reach)
  • Put clothes in the laundry bin
  • Place their bowl, spoon or cup on the table at mealtimes
  • Carry their bowl and spoon to the sink after eating
  • Do simple hygiene tasks like handwashing and combing their hair
  • Water the plants (have a small spray bottle ready)


Once your child grows older, add in these chores that are age-appropriate for 4- to 5-year olds:

  • Any of the above
  • Make their bed
  • Clear the table
  • Use a hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Fix bowl of cereal
  • Fill a pet's water and food bowls
  • Clean floors with a dry mop
  • Help carry in lighter groceries


Here are some to for ages 6 to 7:

  • Any of the above
  • Sort their laundry and put it out ready
  • Sweep floors and certainly clean up their own spills
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Keep bedroom tidy

 

Michele S. Alignay, a psychologist and registered guidance counsellor says, “Independence should be set early on, as children will grow up encountering more difficult life tasks — and parents won’t always be there to do it for them!”

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