Giving children simple chores can help them learn responsibility and independence from an early age and ease the transition to adulthood, said a developmental pediatrician from Baylor College of Medicine.
"We have some evidence that shows that when children are given simple chores at an early age, it teaches them independent living skills that will help them adapt to adulthood," said Dr. Adiaha Franklin, assistant professor of pediatrics - developmental at BCM and a physician in the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital. "Having these skills is incredibly important for young adults who are expected to live on their own."
Parents may feel the need to do everything for their child, but that could hinder a child’s ability to live independently later in life, she said. To help, parents can start by giving simple chores or tasks early in life:
Picking up toys
"By the time a child is 18 months to 2 years old they can start helping to clean up their own mess," said Franklin. "For example, put toys away in their right place after they play."
Young children can also help sort laundry; just ask them to separate items by color. "This can help them to group together certain items that are alike." By 2, a child can do this.
As they get older, they can take on more responsibility with the laundry.
"A third grader should be able to help gather the laundry and even help fold with some guidance," said Franklin.
"At preschool age, children should be learning how to dress themselves," said Franklin.
In pre-school, it is probably easier to just give children choices rather than letting them pick out their clothes, she said. For older children, picking out their own clothes is ok, as long as the clothes are weather appropriate and comply with school uniform policies, she said.
Meal and bath time
A child should be able to use a spoon by 18 months, a fork by 2 years old and be able to cut food by 3, she said.
"At 4 years old, he or she should be able to make a simple meal, such as cereal or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," said Franklin.
By first or second grade, the child can start helping make lunch for school, she said.
"You can involve him or her in the process - ‘would you like a PBJ, turkey or ham sandwich?’"
Also, young children should bathe themselves with some help. "Children may not do a bang up job cleaning themselves, but they can at least help soap up the wash cloth and complete the task with some help."
The older a child gets, the harder it will be to teach them these skills, Franklin said.
"When kids are young, they want to be helpers," said Franklin. "You can instill this responsibility in them young and it will not only help them learn independent living skills but also make them feel like they have an important role in helping the family run successfully."