Your 3 1/2-year-old: Starting chores

Your 3 1/2-year-old: Starting chores

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Your 3-year-old now

Three-year-olds are eager helpers. Everything — even household chores — looks like fun, especially if you're doing it. While you may not want your preschooler to help you chop vegetables, she's more than ready to start doing simple tasks around the house. So take advantage of her enthusiasm before she stops offering.

Sure, it'll take time and effort to teach your child how to make her bed, sweep, and water the plants, and you'll probably have to lower your standards for a while. But you'll have huge payoffs down the road. Children who do chores learn responsibility, get satisfaction from a job well done, and contribute to the household, which makes them feel like they're part of the team. Plus, they learn valuable skills along the way. If the job isn't being done to your standards, let it go if it doesn't really matter (wrinkled bedcovers, for example). Or say, "Let's do it together!" and give your child the lead, following up as needed.

Start with simple tasks: Setting the table, picking up toys, gathering the wastebaskets. Think about what would make these jobs more manageable: If you label toy bins with pictures of what goes inside, your child knows exactly where everything belongs. Plus, as Mary Poppins, Snow White, and Barney knew, music can make the job more fun. (If you can't whistle while you work, you can hum a few bars of "The Clean Up Song.") Since your child's attention span is short, set the timer for five or ten minutes and clean together in short bursts.

Your life now

Your cell phone might be your lifeline to the office, your partner, or your pals, but it's wise to keep tabs on just how much you use it in your preschooler's presence. Don't let constant chatter disrupt all the free time you might spend reading or playing together.

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