We all want our kids to do chores, but getting it to actually happen can be quite a chore in itself. Kids so often find chores mundane, difficult or miserable and refuse to do their part in taking care of the family home.
If you’re struggling to get your kids to complete chores, maybe it’s time to reassess your chore strategy (if you have one at all).
Kids benefit from chores.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology (AACAP) lists many benefits for children who do household chores. They have been found to have higher self-esteem, a strong sense of responsibility, good frustration control and self-control skills.
Additionally, children who do chores may experience other benefits, such as:
- Time management skills
- Work/play balance skills
- Teamwork skills
- Organizational development
- Gross and fine motor skills development
- Strong work ethic
Chores by age group.
You want your child to feel successful, not defeated when they do chores, so designating age-appropriate tasks is crucial. Here are just a few ideas for chores you can assign to your kids based on their age.
Yes, even the smallest ones can get started helping around the house. At this age, little ones are curious and want to model themselves after the behavior of others. It’s a perfect time for them to start learning chores. Here are some ideas to get your little one started:
- Wiping up messes with a towel.
- Putting toys and books away in bins and on shelves.
- Helping feed and care for pets.
- Light dusting using a feather duster or similar item.
Children at this age are still hungry to learn about the world surrounding them, but in more detail than before. As they grow into “big kids,” they also love learning how more “big people” things are done. Kids at this age can:
- Help an adult prepare and cook dinner.
- Assist in washing and drying dishes.
- Help carry groceries in the house from the car.
- Put laundry away in the dressers where it belongs.
Children at six to eight are increasingly independent. This is a good time to start assigning chores they can do independently. However, this is also the age where some kids become more reluctant to complete chores. You may have to be creative in the jobs you give or consider using a reward system, like allowance. At ages six to eight, chore ideas include:
- Collect laundry, wash it and move it to the dryer.
- Vacuum a single room if the vacuum is light enough.
- Empty trash cans around the house.
- Make their bed without assistance.
In their pre-teen or “tween” years, kids will continue growing more independent from their family and developing an increased attention span. At this point, chores are a good way to keep family a central part of their life. Offer chores that can be completed independently to give them space. Pre-teens can also handle more detailed and longer lasting jobs than they could previously. Here are some examples:
- Fold and put away one or two loads of laundry.
- Clean the bathroom from top to bottom.
- Wash and dry dishes independently.
- Clean mirrors around the house.
As children become adolescents, they more than ever want to separate themselves as individuals. They also want to be treated like the adults they’re growing into. Teenagers can do lots of more “adult” chores, like:
- Mowing the lawn.
- Babysitting younger siblings.
- Give car rides to family members.
- Prepare and cook simple meals.
- Clean household appliances, such as the refrigerator and microwave.
Teaching your child how to do a chore.
Before you leave your child hanging with a brand new chore they have no idea how to complete, walk them through the process. Walk your child through their first attempt, as this will make it easier for them to learn. It’s easy to overestimate your child’s ability to complete a task that you’ve done yourself a thousand times. If your kid needs help, remind yourself that it’s completely new to them and they might need a little extra guidance before getting the hang of it.
Organizing chores in a kid-friendly way.
It can be hard getting organized. With lots of kids in the family, how does everyone know who will be doing which chores, and how do you track everyone’s progress? Many families use tools like chore charts or chore cards to avoid the confusion. Plus, they’re your secret weapon to make chores more fun for kids. Chore charts and chore cards are customizable to your family’s needs, and there are loads of templates and printables to be found online.
Chore charts are generally better for younger children who enjoy earning stickers and prefer visually tracking their progress. They usually list chores to be completed, people to complete them and offer spaces for earned stickers or check marks when tasks have been completed. Some chore charts are simply used as points of reference for who performs chores and when. The downside to chore charts is that as kids grow older, they tend to lose interest in stickers and “boring” charts. This is a good time to transition to chore cards.
Chore cards are a versatile way to help you organize chores. Basically, each chore is listed with instructions and details on an individual card. They can be turned into a game where everyone draws chore cards from the pile, organized in a three-ring binder by day of the week or assigned to a child daily for variety. Breaking down chores into visual tidbits on cards can make them seem like less of a drag.
How often should kids complete their chores?
What’s expected will vary by family. Make sure your chore requirements encourage a balanced life of activity for your children. Consider other types of work they perform on a daily basis (school or training), and make sure their “work side” of life is healthily balanced with the “play side.” Even though every family has different expectations for time spent on chores, it’s always important and healthy for kids to have balance.
Awarding an allowance for chores.
Awarding allowance is practiced by many families, but it’s not a requirement for chores. Some families believe children should be expected to perform chores out of responsibility, not for a reward. In this case, the reward is thought to be a sense of responsibility and fulfillment. Kids are a part of the family, so they’re expected to pitch in. Praise and positive reinforcement go a long way in these families.
But it’s also very common for parents to offer allowance money as a reward for completing chores. Some families give a weekly allowance based on the stipulation that all chores are complete. Not performing some chores could result in a docking of pay. If you award allowance to your kids, help them learn to manage their money responsibly by encouraging them to get a bank account, explaining savings and monitoring their spending.