Just How Much Should Little Kids Clean?

Just How Much Should Little Kids Clean?

Alison Gerber
Sep 8, 2014
(Image credit: Rebecca Bond)

Of all the things I didn't expect to happen online last week, one of them had to be that a post singing the praises for the long-gone LEGO vacuum cleaner would've turned into a heated debate over whether or not little ones pick up after themselves. If a kid can play with it, should they also have to be able to clean it up?

Our four year old son Ralph loves to play with LEGO. For the longest time we kept him on the bigger blocks (DUPLO) until his pre-school teacher told me how interested he was in building intricate models, and we let him upgrade to the real thing. He can spend hours building, but when we get to clean up time it seems cleaning takes him hours too — he is painfully slow. And sometimes he simply misses pieces that are hidden in the rug, or rolled under a piece of furniture in his room.

So what does that mean? Should he be banned from LEGO until he's older, and able to scoop up pieces in two hands, and see every tiny block? I think, last week, commenter Virginia Grayson said it best:

I wouldn't expect a child to read Dickens, but I do expect them to read.

Ralph isn't great at cleaning. He's slow and misses things here and there. To be honest, he's not a perfect LEGO builder either. Sometimes he finds it hard to get pieces unstuck, sometimes he finds it hard to follow the instructions, sometimes he finds it hard to find the missing piece. And so, just in the same way I will stop what I'm doing, and get down on the floor and help him build, when he genuinely needs my help cleaning, I'll help him there too.

One day, however, Ralph won't be four. He'll be old enough to read Dickens... and clean his room alone. But we'll get there step-by-step, he'll do a little more this year than he did last, and a little more next year than he's doing now. He has always had to clean up, he now even does the majority of the work himself, but for right now I'm okay with the fact he needs me.

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