I loved the response I got from some of you when briefly mentioning this age that Hailey is at (three years and four months). I wanted to write a post this morning about the challenges of a strong-willed preschooler, but alas, as these sneaky little ones have a tendency to do, yesterday she was as sweet as tea in the south. For example, I asked what made her happy and her response? YOU make me so happy mama. That was followed by book reading and snuggles. While there was an instance or two of seriously, stop sitting on your sister, I feel to do justice to the perils of mothering a threenager, I need to be a bit more fired up than I am at the moment. So instead, let’s talk about the responsibilities of my three year old.
…spoiler alert, there aren’t too many!
Oh to be three.
I can’t remember the exact moment we started giving Hailey responsibilities. I imagine it started early on with having her help clean up toys. However, maybe it was just after she turned two that David and I realized she could actually do things. Like bring us things we needed (a blanket, the remote, a beer…I kid I kid) so our lazy bums could stay parked in our chairs. SWEET.
Ok, so giving children chores/responsibilities has more behind it than a self-serving desire to have someone else do things for us. There’s the need to teach responsibility and the idea of pitching in without an expected reward because that is just what families do and blah blah blah. And for every ache my heart experiences about my girls getting older and bigger (I’m feeling rather mushy about it all today), I feel great pride in watching Hailey slowly take on more ownership in pitching in around the house.
All that being said, there is only so much that a three-year-old can do. Here are Hailey’s current responsibilities:
1. Cleans up her mess/toys. I’ll be the first to admit our playroom stays pretty crazy. It has the advantage of a magical thing called a door that I can close and pretend I don’t know about the disaster that remains behind it. Our living area though, I see that everyday and it irks me to no end to see it in shambles. We keep limited toys downstairs- a kitchen, a grocery cart, kitchen food/accessories and a few books/baby toys. Still, it’s amazing how quickly those can be dispersed around the whole downstairs. For the most part I let it go while she plays all day, but in the evening Hailey is in charge of cleaning up her mess.
Occasionally she’ll pull the the threenager classic of going limp and sulking that she caaaaannnn’t clean up to which I’ll respond with ‘oh ok, if you aren’t big enough to clean up than you aren’t big enough to (enter something she loves here- read books/watch Dora/eat pears/wear slippers). That usually gets things moving, but honestly, she usually does pretty well with cleaning up, even singing a little tune to keep her focused. Clean up clean up e’rybody e’rywhere, clean up clean up er’body do your share!
She’ll give it a go, then I come to ‘check’ and point out anything she missed.
2. Clears her Dishes. We still use kid plates and cups. I can see us continuing this into the teenage years because plastic is fantastic at, well, not breaking. That’s important since Hailey is in charge of taking her dishes/silverware/cups to the sink when she is finished eating. For the most part, she likes this one. I can feel the pride radiate from her when she focuses hard of balancing her fork and spoon on her plate as she carries it with two hands to dump in the sink. She throws her napkins and yogurt cups in the trashcan too. Occasionally she’ll try to hold it out for me to take and in those situations I get to pull out those old favorite sayings of motherhood like ‘I am not your maid.’
…oh you don’t think you’ll ever say that? That’s nice. I give you a year until you’re spitting that saying out right after Because I said so! and Don’t make me turn this car around.
3. Puts up her Clean Laundry. Understandably some things I still have to do, like hang up shirts, but anything that goes is a drawer is her territory. I have fond memories of my mom piling our clean clothes on the stairs and you sure as heck better not step over it on your way up. I hope to instill the same fear, ahem, sense of ownership in my girls. Hailey sometimes helps separate the clean clothes, then I hand her stacks to take up to her room.
4. Puts Koda In and Out of her Crate. When we come home, we have a routine to implement before we do anything else. I love that Hailey has it down pat. Doors, shoes, koda, hands. Simple enough- close your car door, take off your shoes, let Koda out and wash your hands. It’s nice that she knows what to do on her own and it gives me a few minutes to get Kaitlyn out of the car and settled inside.
5. Puts Clothes in the Hamper. At bath time, she is responsible for taking off what she can on her own and throwing it in the hamper, then circling back around to do the same for Kaitlyn’s clothes. Again, simple, but a small thing she knows is up to her and she takes it seriously. By that I mean, if you value your life, do not try to help out and toss the baby’s clothes in the hamper. That’s her thing and trying to take that away from her will result in a meltdown of epic proportions.
Bonus: Anything else we need done. Sometimes it’s grabbing me some wipes or throwing away a dirty diaper. She often helps David pick up Koda’s business from the yard using the scooper (gross, but she enjoys this). She will help empty the dishwasher, wipe up Koda prints, sop up her spilled milk and bring clothes to the laundry room and toss them in the washer. I love asking for her help because as much as I’m trying to push ‘yes ma’am’ as an appropriate response, she usually goes with a peppy ‘uh, sure, yup!’ that makes me giggle.
It’s fortunate at this age she enjoys helping out (most of the time). I hope to take full advantage of that to create habits that will stick long term as things she just does on a regular basis. When she gets a little bit older, I’d love to implement a system like this in which there are tasks she can choose to take on to earn money:
but the basic chores (cleaning up, making bed, putting away clothes and helping out) I hope to always keep as a base line- something we all do because we are all apart of the family.
What responsibilities did you have growing up?
How do you handle chores for your kids?
At what age do you think children should start pitching in?
I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your blog. My babe is only three months but I can relate to this post with my three year old niece. Hilarious! My chores included cleaning up my toys, cleaning up my dishes and washing dishes when I got a bit older.
Great post! My daughter is 18 months and loves when we make her feel like she is contributing. Little things, like closing the trash can lid after I open it to throw something away, throwing the junk mail piece by piece into the trash, closing the pantry door after snack time is over, putting clothes into her hamper, etc. I can tell she feels a sense of pride when she “helps” and we praise her or say thank you. I think it’s so important for them to feel important! I think it helps to prevent attention-seeking tantrums as well!
Side note, where did you get that fantastic kitchen stool that Hailey is standing on?? Did your husband make that? I have been searching for something like that online and everything I find seems inappropriately expensive!
Brittany Dixon says
I know what you mean- that sweet smile they get when you say thank you is heartwarming! <3
David built Hailey's kitchen helper stool after I showed him the learning towers available for purchase. We too felt that they were unnecessarily expensive. One of these days I'm going to get him to build another one so I can post about it because we LOVE it and use it every single day.
John J. Stathas says
May your girls grow up to be the adorable and responsible adults that you have become as they wind their way along their own unique inspired paths! 🙂
My daughter will be four in April and she has been doing many of the same chores for some time. She recently started to help match up socks and fold wash clothes when we fold laundry. Several months ago we started an “allowance” system with her so she now does all her basic chores but then if she wants to get paid she has to feed our cat and wipe the kitchen table clean (she does not do a great job of getting it clean but she tries and that is what matters to me). She gets a quarter a day when she does these things. We usually pay her once a month and she gets to decide how much money she will keep, how much she will give to God, and what she will do with the money she keeps. It has been so fun to watch her learn to make good choices!
The problem we have run into lately is that her two year old brother always wants to help too. Which of course is not OK with her…so we need to find a system that works for him, though that is a little challenging since we did not start as early with my daughter and I am not sure what a two year can handle!
Brittany Dixon says
Let me know if you come up with anything good for the littlest one to ‘help” because I’m sure we will run into that too! Maybe having a certain basket with stuff to dump out and they just focus on that one thing during clean up? Who knows! Good luck 🙂
Marjorie @APinchOfHealthy says
My son has started helping clean up his toys when it is time to go to bed. I also ask him to carry things for me when my hands are full. Sometimes he will whine or resist, but most of the time he enjoys being helpful. Sweet buddy!
Our almost 3 year old definitely needs more responsibility. Right now we just ask him to do things here and there, and we definitely need to work on him putting his own toys away in the evening on a regular basis rather than sporadically. I know when we were younger I have fond memories of making beds with my mom and then as we got a little older we were washing dishes in the sink (I remember using a stepladder because I couldn’t reach the sink). 😉
Liz @ I Heart Vegetables says
No kids yet here, but I like reading about how it’s going 🙂 That’s awesome that she’s able to take on some little tasks like that! (And I’m sure every bit helps out!)
Amy @ Elephant Eats says
I don’t think I actually had many chores growing up…I do recall having to put my clothes in the hamper but pretty sure that started later on. This could be why I’m not the best at chores now! I’m definitely going to try to start young with my son. Love these ideas 🙂
Love all of the chores she does to help out around the house! Our five year old has moved on to cleaning the table after dinner, wiping her bathroom counter, as well as unloading the dishwasher (with supervision). You might like the book Dave Ramsey and his daughter wrote, called Smart Money Smart Kids. I just read it and it was great!
Brittany Dixon says
Thank you for the book suggestion! I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan so I will definitely look into it. 🙂
Katie Harding says
What a great post! I need to get my three year old on board with chores, it’s such a great way to get them involved and sets a great foundation for when they are older and able to help with more stuff!
We have Olivia do all these things, as well. Olivia helps me fold towels, too, and I practice not refilling them :). One thing I’m thinking of adding is a picture chart of all the things to do before we leave the house, especially on preschool days. That way she can look to see and get her clothes, socks, shoes, backpack, etc so I don’t have to remind. She’s usually so excited to get to school I think she will totally be on board.
Ha, I see “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” on your steps! I think I could recite that in my sleep at this point.
I love that you have chores for Hailey. I already am trying to figure out when my daughter will be ready for them (uh, not for a while, obviously, since she’s 8 months old), but I already try to kind of model the behavior and tell her what I’m doing when I put her toys away.
I did not have nearly enough chores when I was a kid and my room was a mess! I will probably be stricter on my daughter than that, as the hubs and I like to keep the house pretty neat. I’ll try not to be crazy about it, but if her room ever looks like mine did as a teen…yikes.
Anna N says
I loved this post! My two year old daughter loves to help and gets so much out of her ‘responsibilities’. So far she helps clear the table, pick up toys, make her bed, and feed our two dogs. She is also in charge of handing out vitamins, followed by some amazing muscle poses. So cute. She’ll even sing during some of her chores (“You can be a big helper, in your family!”… thanks Danial Tiger, that gets stuck in my head once a week). My point to this rambling is that I really think she benefits from the consistency of these routines and the positive reinforcement that comes from it. I loved seeing how your family and the families of other commenters benefited from this too. I hope this ‘helping’ attitude stays around when her baby sibling arrives in the next few weeks! Thanks again for sharing 🙂
Laura @FitMamaLove says
I like the idea of having them put away their clean laundry! My kids currently share a dresser, so things are pretty squished in there, but once they each have their own, I think I’ll have them do that too. We started out pretty good with chores when my oldest was 18 months. Things like feeding the dog and letting him use our little Shark vacuum to his heart’s content. We got pretty off track when my second was born when he was 2.5, so we’re now trying to be more consistent with what he’s responsible for.
Lauren Brennan says
I love this! Great ways to teach responsibility from early on.
We are trying to get Jackson to clean up his messes, but the “going limp” scenario is all too familiar at this point. I should definitely start singing the Barney clean up song and make it more fun. J is really good about happily fetching things for us or throwing away trash/wiping spills/etc.
I can’t remember having set chores in the house when I was little, other than cleaning my room and helping Dad wash the cars!
Madeline @ FoodFitandFam says
Emmie has super similar chores …. she also feeds the dogs which she loves!
I was laughing when I read “stop sitting on your sister”, because my 3.5 year old son hears that one a lot, too. Can’t turn my back for one second, haha.
My son’s chores are usually picking up his toys, putting dirty laundry in the hamper, throwing away his baby brothers diapers – his favorite – (or getting me a clean one, if I’m in another room), help empty the dishwasher (plastic containers into a bottom drawer, mostly), and help put groceries away (as long as it isn’t breakable – beer or wine, that is… 😉 ). Occasionally he will want to “help” me Swiffer the floors.
Lilith Sofia says
My kids are responsible for picking up after themselves, empty the dishwasher on weekends, take out the trash when needed and help with all kinds of things. They are 8 and 10 and has always had chores appropriate for their age.