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Girl Washing Hands

Our three-year-old daughter loves reading, playing outside, doing crafts, and using a Dust Buster to clean cracker crumbs off of the couch. In fact, her "chore" is one in which she takes massive pride and brags about to anyone who will listen.

The days of producing a bevy of kids in order to have a few extra farmhands are pretty much over, but that doesn't mean kids should lounge around the house while mom and dad slave away at housework. Giving your kids a few small chores will benefit Junior as well as you. Not only will they be helping out, they'll be learning responsibility. Depending on their age, chores can teach kids how to care for a home, care for an animal, respect their belongings and personal space, and be self-sufficient. Plus, by assigning small chores at a young age, kids won’t be surprised when you suddenly ask them to start taking out the trash in a few years.

They might not be shoveling out your car after the next blizzard, but even young kids as young as three can do token household chores that go beyond simply putting their toys away. Here are a few chores that your littlest helpers can handle:

Matching socks: Dump the laundry on the bed and ask your toddler to help you match all the socks. It’ll get their brains working on colors, shapes, and patterns, and also help them develop their fine motor skills as they attempt to "fold" them for you.

Feeding an animal: Kids aged five or older will love making sure that Fluffy never goes hungry. Keep a little scoop near your pet's dry food and let your little one fill the pet food bowl. When they're done, be sure to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, since pet food can sometimes contain germs, says the CDC.

Manning the Dust Buster: Kids love playing with pretend vacuums, so why not let them wield a real one? Next time they leave a cookie crumb trail, given them a handheld vacuum and watch them marvel as their crumbs disappear.

Clearing their own dishes: After meals, kids can bring their own plates to the sink. Chloe loves to do this, and even begs to rinse her plate and load it into the dishwasher herself. (I'm super nice, so I let her).

Wiping their own spills: When Chloe spills a little milk or water on the floor, I hand her a cloth and ask her to please wipe it up. She does it without complaint; in fact, she often relishes the chance to duck under the kitchen table during meals!

What chores do you give to your kids? 

Photo: lizbyday

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Alex is a freelance lifestyle writer and sometimes-blogger. She loves spending time with her husband and five-year-old daughter, who are always willing to sample her kitchen successes (homemade taco seasoning) and failures (homemade mozzarella). She also loves to write, travel, cook, eat, and laugh loudly with friends.