That Montessori chart on age appropriate chores that burns up the Facebooks every few years is back. It’s the one that suggests your 2-year-old should be setting the table; your 4-year-old should be vacuuming; your 6-year-old should be weeding the garden; your 8-year-old should be baking cookies; your 10-year-old should be mowing the lawn; and your 12-year-old should be doing the grocery shopping. If it popped up in your feed this week, you’ll know because of the sinking feeling of failure you suddenly get.
The idea that your kids love to learn how to help isn’t new — Maria Montessori founded her first school in Tarrytown, NY in 1911, based on the premise that kids learn from doing more than listening and that they innately want to feel needed and helpful. As an educational philosophy, it extends beyond the school, and suggests that household chores are perfect for the sort of goal setting and task mastering that raises self esteem while simultaneously teaching important life skills. Also not new: parents who feel inadequate in the face of the more-than-slightly idealized version of kids that Montessori sometimes seems based on.
For what it’s worth, research is on Montessori’s side when it comes to the whole chores thing. So, even if you don’t plan on having your kid hem your pants or deep clean the kitchen, it’s not the worst idea to get them on a regular schedule of contributing to the homefront. Here are a few tips that, while not classic Montessori, should be enough to let you weigh in on that Facebook thread with a smug, “Bobby’s learned to fetch his own diapers, wipes, and a cold beer every time he craps himself!” Mission accomplished.