Preschool is not too early to teach kids to be responsible. Of course, their level of responsibility will be considerably lower than an older child, but it's important to begin early. An important part of teaching responsibility at this age it to make it fun. Even adults are more willing to do something if there is some element of fun involved! Plan ahead how you will go about teaching this important lesson; be a responsible parent.
Read about Responsibility
Visit your library or book store and pick up books about being responsible. It's a fun and simple way to introduce and talk about what responsibility is and how your preschooler needs to begin being responsible. A few titles might include "Busy Beaver" by Nicholas Oldland, "Beatrice Doesn't Want To" by Laura Numeroff (author of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie") and "Trashy Town" by A. Zimmerman, a book about a garbage collector who cleans up the whole town.
Make it a Game (Like Mary Poppins!)
Everyone has seen Mary Poppins, with that wonderful scene where she and the children clean up the nursery by snapping their fingers. Unfortunately, while we can't just snap our fingers and have everything straightened, we can help our little ones have fun while doing their chores. Put a basketball hoop above the laundry basket, color-code the toy bins, or set the timer to see how much they can pick up in five minutes. Keep it short and sweet, and they won't even complain about doing it (hopefully!)
Charts or Rewards
Praise and thanks is nice to receive, but it can be very nebulous to a toddler. Sticker charts are great for this age, when everything is so visual. Create a daily or weekly chart and put it where your toddler can see. For each chore or item on the chart they do, let them put on a sticker. Don't leave the stickers where they can do it themselves, or you may end up with stickers everywhere except the chart! You could also offer a reward; at the end of the week, if the entire chart is filled up, they get a small treat or favorite activity.
Be sure when assigning chores to give out ones that are age appropriate. Your 4-year- old is not going to be able to do his own laundry, although he is able to make certain that his dirty clothes make it into the hamper. Don't expect him to unload the dishwasher, but he can help set the dinner table each night. Kids this age should be able to, with your help, brush their teeth and hair, and make their beds. It may not be the neat job your would do, but praise them for the effort. Practice makes perfect, even when doing chores.