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Opinion - The many benefits of household chores for children | Montessori Hampstead | Nursery Hampstead


Why do children need chores?
According to research done by Marty Rossmann, Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, “Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.” As Montessorians, this is the kind of research we like to read about!

Although we do not classify them as ‘chores’, a huge emphasis is placed on enabling the children to learn how to be independent and help themselves and each other. When a child first arrives at the Children’s House we spend a lot of time demonstrating ‘practical life’ activities, such as cleaning the table, washing up after snack time or polishing a friend’s shoes, which help children to participate in doing things for themselves and the benefit of the community as a whole.   

Professor Rossman states in his research that the extent to which children have been encouraged to actively help out at home has a direct influence on their ability to become well adjusted adults. "Through participating in household tasks, parents are teaching children responsibility, how to contribute to family life, a sense of empathy and how to take care of themselves," he goes on to say. Again, these are all values that are heavily promoted in the Montessori environment.

The younger the better
Interestingly he says that the ideal age for children to start helping out is 3 or 4, nursery age. Leave it too late
 and they lose the sense of wanting to help out for the greater good and become too self centered.  Montessori believed that between the ages of 3 and 6 the child enters the social embryonic stage of development, when they start to internalise all the social conventions they are exposed to and start to use them in everyday life. This is when they start to really to aim to please, so it is the perfect time to start getting them busy with tasks.

Independence and confidence
Wall Street Journal contributor Jennifer Wallace also shares the same point of view and expands on the fact that chores help build self-reliance, confidence and a positive work ethic. She too, talks about the social aspect of helping out and how children should be encouraged at home to do tasks that benefit the family as a whole. Indeed, when we are telling children about the need to replace their work on the shelves, the key motivator is so that the material will be ready for their friends to use.  So at home, instead of repeating what we may have heard as children “Make your bed” or “Tidy away your toys,” a good way of introducing chores would be to make them more inclusive; “Let’s all do our chores.” Children can be given little jobs that benefit the entire family such as sorting the laundry, setting the table, sweeping or vacuuming.


Incentives and pocket money are not the way forward
It was interesting to read that Professor Rossmann doesn’t believe that pocket money or incentives should be given for completion of chores - they should be seen as part of everyday life and not linked to rewards. This corresponds to the Montessori view of reward.

A lot of parents can feel a resistance to getting their 3 year old to help out around the house and yes, they probably won’t do a great job and it would be easier to do it themselves. But remember to keep modelling how it is done. Slow down your movements and be precise when demonstrating - with practise they will get better. The long term benefits will outweigh a few badly stacked dishwashers and mismatched socks!

For more information on these studies, have a look at the CBS News  and Parenthood articles.

Would you like to know more about introducing Montessori techniques to your home life with your child? Talk to the team at Casa dei Bambini Montessori School. We’re here to help.

Casa dei Bambini Montessori School.