I think a lot of people underestimate the abilities of children. From a very early age they are capable of taking on certain responsibilities in the home. Personally, I don’t think asking and requiring them to help out takes away from their childhood. Chores and responsibilities serve a specific purpose- from helping them to feel pride in their accomplishments to giving them certain life skills that they will need in their adult lives. But I often get asked what exactly kids can do, so here are just a few ideas:
And more specifically, kids can help…
Kids can mow using a push mower as soon as they are tall enough and strong enough to move it. When my boys were turning 4,6,and 8 they asked for a reel mower as a joint gift. And they used it. They mowed our whole front yard, taking turns and helping each other push. Last year we got them an inexpensive gas powered push mower, and at ages 9 and 11, my oldest sons enjoyed mowing sections of our acreage. This year, my oldest son saved up his money to buy his own self-propelled push mower. He enlisted his 8 year old brother’s help pay for the one he wanted. And at 12 years old, he took on mowing 2 sections of our yard for payment and often went above and beyond that for nothing in return. With my husband working long hours it was a huge help to us that he was able and willing to do that.
Anyone with a garden will know that keeping on top of the weeding is one of the most important garden jobs. We weed as a family. We each take a row and get to work. Often the kids will make it a competition to see who can weed the “best”. And even my 2 year old daughter is out there pulling what she can.
3. Putting up Fencing:
If you own a farm or homestead, fencing is one of those jobs that is never done. It seems that there is always another fence to go up or a fence in need of mending. All of our kids played an important job in all of our fence building. The older ones helped to pound t-posts into the ground, younger ones placed insulators on posts for electric wire. They helped measure and carried piles of heavy metal posts or wooden locust posts so that they were in place when their dad came to do the heavy parts. They helped to dig holes and to tamp in posts. It can be hard work, but it is something that they can take pride in when they look around our homestead and see what they helped make.
I think building is one area most parents tend to underestimate their children. Kids are very capable; they can use a hammer and a drill. They can carry ladders and pick out tools. Yes, you will have to have more patience and take the time to train them in skills and safety, but think of it as investing in the future. I am sure you could do it better and faster, but allowing them to help and teaching them along the way will pay off.
5. Animal Care
Animals are a big responsibility and my children take a major role in their care around our homestead. They can help from a very early age- toddlers love to collect eggs and scatter chicken food. In our home our kids are part of almost all aspects of animal care such as: scrubbing and filling water buckets, hauling hot water jugs in the winter, giving out hay, feeding, putting out and bringing in the goats, locking up the chickens at night. They are right by my side when we have a sick animal, helping to administer medications and providing comfort to the animal. Our animals have taught our children so much- about love and loss- and I know these lessons will help build amazing adults.
Just as in weeding, we do the planting together too. My kids are very involved in the garden, from picking out varieties in the seed catalog to planting seeds and transplants. They are also very helpful when it comes to planting larger bushes and trees. They can dig holes, fill holes and water just as well as any adult can!
7. Bringing in the Harvest
This is a job a kid of any age can do, and probably one they will thoroughly enjoy! There is something thrilling about pulling up radishes, digging potatoes or picking baskets and baskets of produce. Picking peaches or apples off of a tree or blueberries off a bush- and eating a few while you do it- is a very rewarding job! It is not uncommon to see us, as a family, in the summer with produce baskets on our arms and our shirts pulled to form a hammock to hold the overflow!
8. Animal Husbandry
Yes, this can fall under the animal care category, but I wanted to mention that children can play an important role in the birthing of animals as well. I think parents tend to want to shelter their kids from experiences likes these, but they are wonderful learning experiences and help to give children a knowledge about the circle of life. This year one of our does had a long and somewhat difficult kidding. Her labor stalled and when it started up again both kids tried to come at the same time. My 9 year old son was right by my side in the barn, in 30 degree weather, handing me towels, talking to his dad (who was in the house googling whatever questions I might have…) on the phone. He helped to dry off and warm the first kid when the mom had to focus on birthing the second. I am sure the experience changed him- from strengthening his stomach to helping him learn how and what to do in an emergency.
Weeding, planting, harvesting….and mulching. This can be a heavy job- especially if you have a lot of areas that need mulching. Our kids help pull loads of spent hay and straw from the barns to the compost or garden. They take loads of grass clippings to mulch the blueberry bushes. They take shovel after shovel full of wood chips to cover the garden. It’s hard work. It’s tiring work. It’s virtue-building work.
There are many, many other jobs my kids do, or can do, but this was just a few, to give you a ideas on what kids are capable of doing. And I didn’t even mention the indoor jobs! Giving them responsibility is a good thing that gives them a sense of pride in themselves and their abilities. These jobs help them to understand that they are part of a family and we need all hands on deck to make the household run smoothly.
How do your kids help around the home or in the yard?
© 2013, Sarah Toney. All rights reserved.