One of the toughest choices for parents in this day and age is deciding when their children are ready to tackle new challenges. Parents tend to over-estimate what their children are capable of, while at the same time trying to keep them safe. As such, some basic guidelines should be considered.
For preschoolers, doing even minor chores can be a problem. Not only is their phenomenal lack of patience an issue, but so is their size and lack of fine manipulation. This limits them to basic pick up and carry types of chores (picking up toys and carrying tougher objects). They can also help with some cooking chores, such as kneading and rolling. They will also try to imitate you when it comes to tasks so allow this. Imitation is a form of learning after all. If you can make it fun, then anything can be attempted. Just keep in mind that the preschool child has limitations.
For children between 5 and 11, the parent needs to be very aware of the child’s limitations. Different children can do different tasks at different ages. This means that some children are capable of handling different tasks at different ages. Also, the child is very eager please, and is able to do so with some intelligence. Size is usually not as big of an issue. Cooking should be introduced slowly, as well as general household chores. Try to keep the chores short, and with definite signs of when the chore is done (sweeping and wiping, for example, where you can see the effects of cleaning). Also, bear in mind that chores that involve learning, such as gardening, can also be great for children at this age. Basic babysitting chores, such as feeding or changing, can also be assigned. The child requires some supervision, but the idea is to ensure that the child can complete the task. Patience is required, but brings with it huge dividends.
At the other end of the spectrum, older children (twelve and up) have very few limitations when it comes to doing chores. However, at this age emotional issues become more paramount, as well as spending time with friends. Physical labor becomes more possible, and can be a great way for boys to work out their issues. Also, they can handle very complex tasks, and are able to make decisions for themselves.
At this stage, the child is capable of supervisory positions, such as guiding younger children in their chores. Also, basic cooking becomes a possibility, and they can run a house for short periods, allowing baby-sitting to enter the picture. The biggest problem will be under-estimating them and it’s better to over-estimate them at this stage. Also, don’t be afraid to let your emotion show. Don’t yell or glare necessarily, but the child will appreciate the honesty.
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Each child develops at different rates. This means that each child develops different skills at different rates, and that even twins may develop at different speeds. This should not be a cause for concern. Just keep your doctor tuned in, and you should be okay.