The Montessori Chore Chart (0-6)
The thing I most appreciate about Montessori education is that it doesn't ground itself in answers (a list of things you have to do in order to support the child's development or to be doing "Montessori"). Instead, Montessori grounds itself in both an understanding of the development the child is trying to do and in our observations of the child in front of us so that we are empowered to generate our own strategies and tools that meet our child's needs. Montessori was gracious enough to do a lot of this leg work for us (thanks, Maria!) and her thoughts and materials are supremely insightful and effective in doing this! But when these tools, strategies and resources are presented without the developmental context of what they are there to support, we get dangerously close to seeing the child's development as a series of check boxes (which it isn't). But when we continuously ground ourselves in why any of these make sense for a child at a given age, we will always know how to adapt our tools to best meet the needs of the child in front of us.
"Chore charts" remind me of this because they don't give the developmental framework for why any of those would be recommended at any age. This makes it difficult to "pivot" when your child doesn't quite have the skills needed to do the task that is being suggested. They also leave out the kinds of skills the child has been developing in infancy and how that might inform the child's ability to do something as a 2, 3, or 4 year old. Because of these gaps, I offer a different one! But before we take a look, let's consider why we should care about chores in the first place. After all, adults are a lot more efficient at doing pretty much everything the child is trying to do (because we have had years and years of practice!).
Chores: Are they Worth It?
Absolutely! For one, the child builds basic skills that will allow them to successfully "adult" later on (their future partner or roommate will thank you!). But there is also plenty of evidence that shows positive outcomes for children who do chores - and it makes good sense! Chores help the child take responsibility for themselves in addition to being able to contribute to their community. It also helps the child see all the people and work it takes for our day to day living. With increased awareness, children are better positioned to be grateful, empathetic, and community-minded - all of which supports strong friendships, a significant component to being happy!
The Developmental Montessori chore chart
So here it is. A developmental Montessori Chore chart! Here are some tips to use it!
- Start with your child's age and get a better idea of the developmental focuses right now. These are things the child is wired to be interested in and will greatly help you in finding chores within those (because then you are asking them to do things they already want to do!)
- Really look at the "Adults help me by..." column and see if there are things you can do (before you ask the child to do anything!).
- Get Creative! This is by no means exhaustive so if there is something you do daily in your household that your child can participate in, adjust as necessary.
- Look Backward: Skills are built from previous skills so one way to figure out how to help a child who is struggling to do something is to look at the previous period and see if there are foundational skills he needs to shore up before being successful.
- Look Around: The child does not develop one area at a time - they develop everything all at once. Sometimes the reason the child is having a difficult time with folding clothes (for example) is not the motor capacity, but rather the sequencing (you have to do A first and then B to be successful). By helping him develop his sequencing with things other than chores, he may be able to circle back to folding clothes and be a lot more successful!
- Look Forward: Kids grow faster than we expect. It's helpful to have an understanding of where they are going to inform what you do now.
With a developmental approach to chore charts (I would argue this more accurately is a Montessori Chore Chart), we can see that children of all skills and abilities can participate! Let's consider an example so you can see how to put this chart into practice:
In my household, dog walking is a daily family chore (a must-do task every day). The infant's role in this task is to simply be on the dog walk so instead of leaving them home, they are strolled or carried on the walk. This allows the young infant to see what the daily task is and what it's supposed to look like (very helpful when they try to do it themselves). Once the child is a toddler, their role can be to walk on the dog walk (instead of being carried). After all, a foundational skill for dog walking is... walking and walking on a dog walk is a different skill than walking in a forest. Walking on a dog walk is a time to stay mostly on task and respond to the communicated needs of the dog (not to stop to look at bugs and wander around). And by the time they are a preschooler, they will have the foundational skills necessary to actually learn how to walk a dog and can take on this "chore" (and they will be excited to because they finally can!).
So there you have it. Happy chore-ing :)