We have several psychologists working on a white paper addressing this very issue right now: What age are kids DEVELOPMENTALLY ready to, say, walk to the store, or to school, or to the neighbor down the block to borrow a rake?
Brain, body and consciousness-wise, kids are ready to understand rules and act responsibly by age five, or maybe even four. (Let Grow co-founder Peter Gray concurs.)
But brain development alone does not mean kids are ready for the “real world,” because they need instruction and experience as well. So, if you want your child to learn how to cross the street, you can’t just say, “You’re five. Goodbye!” You have to teach them to look out for cars and pay attention to the “Walk” signs, and make themselves seen in the crosswalk – all that stuff. So it’s a combination of age PLUS instruction and experience.
And the instructor doesn’t have to be you. It can be a family friend, an older child, a babysitter… Just someone who knows how to conduct themselves safely on an errand.
Proof of concept: Here is a 6-year-old testifying in favor of the Reasonable Childhood Independence Law in South Carolina earlier this year. (Scroll down to watch her in action. The law didn’t pass, but we are hoping it will this coming year. You can help get these laws passed in YOUR state. Click here.)
And if you’d like to learn more about child development and errand-readiness, here you go, including an anthropological explanation of what can happen if you DON’T let kids start helping out at a young age.
So let ’em help!