Works For Me – Training Preschoolers

One of the things I decided to do after reading the book The Mommy Manual was to give more responsibility to my 4-1/2 year old daughter. She has been eager to help set the table at mealtimes. But the vision of her on a stepstool pulling breakable dishes out of an upper cupboard didn’t work for me.

I decided to clear a space in a lower cupboard just big enough for our plastic plates and cups. Now she can get into the cupboard safely, and can easily reach all the supplies needed to set the dinner table all by herself. It takes her longer than it does the older kids, but that’s OK. The pride on her face is worth it.

Works for me!

Now I need to decide on a new job or two for my eight and nine year olds…maybe laundry?

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  1. My toddler loves to help with the laundry. He carries it to/from the laundry room with me, helps carry various items to my husband down the hall to put away in the closet, and loads/unloads the dryer (all with help, of course). I’m pretty glad about his enthusiasm. And for 20 months old, I can’t complain about a little help around the house. 😉
    Way to go with the table setting idea. It’s a great one.

  2. Great idea. I know my kids would love to help more and it would definitely boost their self-esteem.

  3. My 10 year old now does her own laundry. I showed her how to do it and then watched her the first few times, now she is an old pro. I have been a slacker in the teaching department so she is just now learning how to clean the bathroom.

    My 6 year old loves to vacuum the living room and will even fold the throw blankets up and put them away just so he can vacuum. He also takes the garbage out when asked.

    Thanks for the reminder, I have been slacking!

  4. We did the same thing with our unbreakable plates, which are what we use for everyday. Our 5- and 7-year-old unload the dishwasher, and even the 3-year-old can get the plates and silverware at mealtimes.

    And my two older girls definitely help with laundry, especially their own. They are able to complete almost every step except starting the washer, from sorting to putting away. They even do Mommy and Daddy’s sometimes, to earn extra TV time!

  5. I’d get the boys started on the towels/sheets, it’s hard to do them wrong & then perhaps sweeping or vacuuming.

  6. I’ve been thinking of moving the plates and cups to low cupboards so my 4 year old daughter can help unload the dishwasher. Now that I’ve read your post I’ll really have to do it… so she can help set the table too! Thanks!

  7. what a great idea!

  8. Great idea! Having youngsters do laundry for ya sounds good too 😉 Thanks for sharing, have a great Wednesday! =)

  9. Liz in Australia says:

    My two year old considers that putting out the cutlery is her special job. With her baby sister showing the way, it’s easy to rope in the 9yo to put out plates and glasses.

  10. Great tip!

  11. Isn’t it wonderful when they start becoming useful?! 🙂

  12. Okay, that’s it! Terrific idea! I’m buying the Mommy Manual! I’ve heard too many good things about it! Would it be at Barnes & Nobles (I have a gift cert there that’s aching to be spent!)?

  13. I’ve never heard of the Mommy Manual. Gonna have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!!

  14. Oh yeah, my son loves helping out around the house (though, he is certainly no neatnik) – and it’s cute. Everything takes a little longer, because he drops shirts, or mixes up what clothes goes where. But I keep telling myself to enjoy his helpful attitude now, because about a decade from now, he’s going to have zero interest whatsoever in helping with the dishwasher or the laundry…

  15. Answering my own question from above ….

    It is at Barnes and Noble! And I just ordered it! YAY!

  16. If you’re looking jobs for your kids… you can send them over here to help me! lol

    That’s a great idea. The Boy is only two, but we are trying to get him to help clear his plate when he’s done eating. And he LOVES to throw things in the garbage, so I’m considering making him the official COO-COO Land garbage man 🙂

  17. my 4 year old loves to help sort laundry. we have a mobile laundry cart with dividers for sorting. whites, darks, towels. he calls it “the sorting game” and never fails to be enthusiastic to play. 🙂

  18. Mary, I really love this topic and have learned so much about my own kids and their responsibility-abilty in the past few months. They’ve been managing their own bedroom and personal hygiene responsiblities for sometime, but we upped the ante recently.

    Weekly, my 8 year old cleans the toilets, mops the floors and vaccuums the carpets in his and his sister’s rooms.

    My 10-year-old asked for more responsibilities (and more pay;)) and so weekly she uses Clorox wipes on the kitchen and bath surfaces, vacuums the wood floors (dustbuster, usually), empties the dishwasher daily and empties the trash cans.

    I hope this helps. The more I research for my book, the more it drives home to me the incredible importance of responsibility. Best wishes!

  19. Oh, and I almost forgot — both kids fold their own laundry and bring their own dirty clothes up to the washer.

  20. how funny – I just wrote about teaching my girls life skills. Which is my code word for “they do the work while I sit around and blog”. 🙂 But really, we’re raising competent people who can deal with the world!

  21. When I was a kid, my parents read some article about a little girl who had starved to death because her father (single parent) had a heart attack and she couldn’t reach any of the food. So my parents ended up putting most dishes and TONS of food in the lower cabinets.

    What was even funnier was how us kids all moved out of the house and the dishes and food stayed in the bottom cabinets…=)

    I’ll bet your 4.5 year old really enjoys the opportunity to help out!

  22. That sounds SO smart. I’ve wanted that book for ages, and that just makes me want it more!

  23. Just a few thoughts – our MAIN dishes (bowls, plates, cups) are in low cupboards. However, they are not plastic. Children can be taught to be careful with fragile items. 🙂
    My 8yo daughter does a load of laundry herself every day – that means taking a load out of the dryer, folding it, putting it all away, and putting the wet clothes into the dryer and re-starting it and also feeds the cats in the barn.
    My 6yo son empties the dishwasher every morning, including pulling up a chair to put away the high things, and feeds and waters the chickens – which in the winter means hauling water from the bathtub.
    My 4yo son empties the trash cans and replaces the bags every morning, and straightens the chore boots/shoes/hats/gloves/scarves area of the laundry room, and fills the dog’s water.
    My 2yo son puts away the silverware, fills the dog’s food, takes stray books back to our library shelves, and makes sure the throw pillows are on the couches and very carefully puts the eggs into cartons after they are brought in the house. Yep, I wrote that right – he’s 2 (and 1/2). 🙂
    They all make their own beds. The three oldest take turns setting the table and all 3 are fully capable of folding their own laundry and putting it away.
    Children rise to expectations and enjoy feeling like they are a vital part of family functionality.
    Maybe I’ll have to write a post about this soon over at my place. You’ve inspired me!

  24. Way to go! That is the same thing I have been trying to accomplish here. I posted about it last week. I have really been feeling convicted to give them more responsibilities!

  25. Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s just where we live, but my son comes home tired from school and then has so much homework every weeknight, most chores get left for the weekend! Namely, room-cleaning, usually!

    And, unless it’s something like vinegar, or baking soda, or plain old soap and water, I’m pretty leery of having young children handle cleaning chemicals. I don’t even like using them myself and aim for safer alternatives, generally.