Children are capable of acquiring extensive and diverse skills and information even before they start school. Along with cognitive school readiness skills, such as color recognition, counting, and language and literacy skills, it is also very important that pre-school age children develop social-emotional skills in order to be successful in school. These include interacting appropriately with other children and adults, self control, sharing, taking turns, and responding appropriately in a range of social situations. The early years are, therefore, an ideal time for parents and caregivers to begin teaching children personal responsibility in age-appropriate ways.
Small tasks such as clearing a table that was set with unbreakable dishes and plastic cups, cleaning up after play, helping to care for pets, helping to sort and carry laundry, and recycling and throwing away trash are wonderful ways to introduce responsibility. Personal hygiene activities can also become “responsibilities” children learn to do themselves, so that children begin to understand that they are responsible for helping to keep their home, school, and selves clean. Any responsibilities should be introduced gradually and carefully depending on the child’s maturity level and temperament.
Incentives are one of the most effective ways to teach children responsibility because they allow children to associate such tasks with a concrete reward. A healthy treat or stickers are affordable and easy rewards. A chore chart can be used to help children see
their accomplishments. Songs and games are also useful tools because they make chores fun and facilitate memory retention.
Girls and Boys Town offers the following tips for teaching children responsibility: (www.parenting.org)
- Be aware – Know whether your child is developmentally ready to do the task.
- Show and tell – Talk to your child, and show him or her how to do what is expected.
- Be consistent but flexible –Remember: it is your child’s job, not yours, even when you help.
- Show encouragement – Praise your child for attempts, improvements and completion of tasks.
- Break tasks into manageable pieces – Separate a large task into smaller parts based on your child’s ability.
- Be patient – You may have to redo parts of the job until your child gets better at it. However, do not let your child see you redo something he/she has already done!
How to Make Your Own Chore Chart:
- Draw a large grid with 8 columns and approximately 10 rows on poster-sized paper or cardboard.
- Use bright colors and designs to make the chart attractive.
- Label the first column ‘chores’, and the remaining columns according to the days of the week.
- In the first column, paste cutout pictures or stickers that represent different chores (i.e. a goldfish for feeding fish or a toothbrush for brushing teeth).
- Together with your child, place a sticker in the appropriate square each time s/he completes a chore.
- Be sure to congratulate your child enthusiastically and celebrate when placing the stickers on the chart.
The Parent-Child Home Program Recommends:
Let’s Clean Up! by Peggy Perry Anderson — This colorful book uses rhyming to tell the story of Joe, a mischievous young frog who has a lot of trouble keeping his room clean. Children can relate to Joe’s temptation to mess his room up as soon as it is cleaned. The book reminds them that they are not the only ones who have to clean up their rooms.
Kid’s Job Chart or Child’s Job Chart and Job Chart Stickers
by Creative Changes
— This colorful chart allows children and parents to track children’s accomplishments and helps children develop a sense of pride in completing a job. (This item is available through our website: www.parent-child.org
How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms by Jane Yolen —
How do dinosaurs clean up their rooms? With trash cans and dusters and brooms, of course! This playful book is perfect for preschoolers, showing how fun and easy cleaning up can be. The hilarious reptilians shove teddy bears under the bed, sneak pajamas behind bathroom doors, and toss dirty clothes in the hamper. This is a super-silly read good for before-bed giggles or to help children gear up for cleaning their own rooms.
Recommended books and toys are available on our website by clicking on the Amazon.com link: www.parent-child.org
© 2007 The Parent-Child Home Program, Inc.
The Parent-Child Home Program
1415 Kellum Place, Suite 101
Garden City, New York 11530
Reprinted with the permission of the Parent-Child Home Program, Inc.