Are you tired of running around the house morning, noon, and night like a headless chicken? Do you spend all your time at home stumbling around behind your army of mini-me’s as they spread anarchy and chaos? If you have children, they can be the most significant hurdle to keeping some semblance of order in your home, but they can also be part of the solution.
Should Children Have Household Chores?
Some people balk at the thought of their children do chores around the house. They think that having their little one push a broom across the kitchen floor is tantamount to child abuse or child slavery. Nothing could be further from the truth. Age appropriate chores completed to an age-appropriate standard are an excellent way to teach your children responsibility, a strong work ethic and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Household “chores” can be performed by children as young as two years old. Yes, I said 2 years old. In our household, if you are old enough to tip up your box of toys, you are old enough to help put them away again. Moreover, child psychologists suggest that assigning tasks to our children from an early age supports their emotional and psychological development and makes it easier for them to take on responsibility when they grow older.
So for all of you parents who might feel guilty about getting your kids to help around the house, you can stop beating yourself up about it. These little assignments you give to your children will help them understand the concept of doing their share and being responsible.
If you are still not convinced, consider this. Even children in Kindergarten are made to put their bags or backpacks in the cubby, manage their indoor/outdoor shoes, and put their jackets/scarves/gloves in the right place. If your children can do what the teacher asks them to do, why do you think they would not be able to follow your instructions?
Before we delve into the specific chores by age, you might want to delegate to your kids, let us see what are the dos and don’ts that the whole chore-assignment process involves.
Expectations – Do’s and Don’ts for a Daily Chore List
Don’t expect perfection from the start
Before you start telling your child that whatever he or she has done is not right take a step back and remember everyone has to learn and the littles are not going to get it right first time. Not only that but complementing what has gone well will instead of pointing out what hasn’t will help build their self-confidence.
Don’t wait any longer to start
If you are one of those parents who think their children are too young to begin sharing chores with you, you’re wrong. Experts agree, even a two-year-old can lend a hand. According to Roger W. McIntyre, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, children are more capable than they may seem from a very early age.
For example, taking the dishes to the kitchen and putting them in the sink after dinner is an easy task even a 3-year-old can do. “We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse,” McIntyre says. In short, learning by doing is the name of the game. Give them a chance to prove themselves, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Don’t hesitate to praise
Did your kids get the job done right? Praise them straight away. Children need reassurance, so they have the motivation to continue to do their chores. If it’s something they’re doing for the first time, they might even need praise and encouragement while the task is in progress.
Above all, you want to bond with your children while getting things done. As adults, we value feedback. Whether it’s from our parents, our spouse, or our employers. Children are no different and positive feedback can improve their behavior all around.
Elizabeth Pantley, parent educator and author of the international best-seller The No-Cry Sleep Solution, says that if kids are not usually expected to follow their chores though there’s a great likelihood they will start postponing their duties in the hope that someone else will eventually do them in their stead. This is one mistake you should avoid. You want your child to understand they are expected to follow through and they need to be consistent when performing these chores.
Parenting expert Jim Fay says that creating a list of every job that keeps the household and the family going helps not only keep track of who does what but, above all, gets the kids involved.
Give specific instructions
Detail is key when assigning tasks to your kids. For instance, “Clean your room” is vague, but, “Clear the floor, put your toys in their boxes, books on the shelf, and your clothes in the closet” is a detailed and clear requirement that is more likely to be followed through.
Understand that your children are still young, and they need specific guidelines. Once they become tuned in to how things work at home, your instruction-giving task should become easier.
Break it down
If you are getting your child to tidy their room and there are several small jobs try giving your kiddos one task at a time. A list that goes on forever is intimidating and demotivating but “put your books on the shelf” followed by “pile your stuffies on the bed” and “put the toys back in the toy box” given one at a time works better for younger kids.
Take it slow
There are some parents who find it difficult to make their children do things and, there are some parents who expect their children to do everything in record time and in perfect rhythm. Neither of these styles is relaxing and productive for you and your kids.
If your long-term goal is to make your children learn and to inculcate in them the concept of responsibility, you need to take things slow. First and foremost, you need to tell them what specific chore you want them to do. Then, show your children how the chore is done. Go step by step.
Next, let your little ones do it under your supervision. Finally, when they master it, they’re good to work on their own. Follow this simple procedure, and both you and your children will benefit in the long run.
The above point does not mean you become over-obsessive and too interfering. The idea is that your kids do their chores without you micromanaging them. It is true that initially you may be required to be more actively involved, but with time, you should take a step back and let them do it on their own.
You could utilize the ‘when/then’ technique in this scenario. Try something like, “When you’ve taken out the garbage today, then you can eat your favorite cake.” I know I should write “you can have a piece of fruit” but I am trying to stay realistic here. Our youngest son would jump through hoops for a bunch of grapes, but our youngest daughter would avoid a chore, so she didn’t have to eat something healthy.
Chores By Age: The Complete Breakdown
According to Elizabeth Pantley, preschoolers are able to handle simple, one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can tackle more. It is important to keep the age factor in mind when you are in the process of determining which chore to assign to which child.
Here are a few ideas, broken down into chores by age group:
Chores for Toddlers
- Put toys in the toy box. This is very basic but essential.
- Fill pet’s food and water dishes. This chore for toddlers is generally one that is most loved and adored.
- Put dirty laundry in the hamper. Your child’s future spouse will thank you later for this particular training. Many parents complain about their children leaving clothes all over their room. The dirty ones often get mixed up with clean clothes. Teach your child early and make sure they understand that dirty clothes go in the hamper.
- Wipe up spills. Again, this is something that every parent has to live with when they have young ones in the house. Instead of telling your child for spilling the milk or dropping paint all over the floor, teach them to wipe up the spills.
- Dust. Again, 2 to 3-year-olds can make this particular chore quite creative.
- Help lay and clear the dinner table. This is another one that is more fun than chore.
Chores for 4 to 5-year-olds
At the age of 4-5, a child can handle more complicated chores. This is especially true if you’ve already been assigning them chores when they were younger. It will then be an easy transition for them.
- Make their bed. Develop this habit in your children from an early age, and I am told a time will come when they will never leave their room with a messed-up bed. My 11 and nine-year-olds haven’t reached this stage yet, but I am still hopeful.
- Take out the garbage. This is another important task they need to tackle on as soon as they can. If you think they can’t start off with household garbage, you can start them off with recycling.
- Check the mailbox and bring in any correspondence. This is easy and necessary. One more thing off your list of things to do.
- Clear the dinner table. If they have been doing part of this when they were 2 or 3, this would be a natural transition.
- Do some easy gardening like pulling the weeds or watering the flowers. Again, this is something that children enjoy doing, and you should make the most of that.
- Pick up crumbs with the hand-held vacuum. This will not only teach them to be more careful where they eat, but it will also get them ready for future vacuuming chores.
- Fix their own bowl of cereal. You might have a few milk spills here and there, but it’s worth the time and takes a load off during the busy morning rush.
Chores for 6 to 7-Year-Olds
If your child is 6 or 7, you can raise the stakes and add any of the following chores to the ones above to complete your list:
- Sweep and mop floors. This might not be an appropriate chore for a 4-year-old. When your children are 6 or 7, they can easily manage to sweep and mop floors.
- Sort laundry and get it in the washing machine. This should be a natural transition.
- Set and clear the dinner table. Again, this is something you’ve started them on very young, and they can continue to progress in this regard.
- Help with making and packing lunch. This would be an interesting addition at this stage. A 6 or 7-year old is more vocal about what they would like to have for lunch, what they don’t want to eat on a particular day, and what they don’t want to eat EVER. Capitalize on their enthusiasm with respect as to what they want for lunch and ask them to help you make and pack their lunch.
- Pull out weeds and rake leaves, if you have a garden. This should be an easy one to do as most children prefer outdoor tasks to indoor ones.
Chores for 8 to 9-Year-Olds
Chores become more sophisticated as your kids grow older. Prepare to be amazed, as from the age of 8 you can expand your children’s chore list. Here are some ideas for chores for 8-year-olds and chores for 9-year-olds:
- Wash dishes or load the dishwasher.You put the food on the table. Ask your kids to clear it all up. It’s a fair trade.
- Put away the groceries. Again, this is a fair trade. You make an effort to go and do the grocery shopping. The least your children can do is help put them away.
- Help with carrying shopping. The same concept applies. Whatever you shop for your family is to be used by your family. They are equally responsible for the things you buy
- Vacuum. You can now transition to a full-scale vacuum. If you have more than one child, you can assign them rooms or days, whichever you think would work best.
- Help cook dinner. This is also generally a happy transition. Involve them when choosing what to make and then slowly teach them to help you cook.
- Make their own snacks. This will make it easy for them to eat when they are hungry and to also learn how to make their lunch when needed.
Chores for 10-Year-Olds and Older
Now you can really say you have a helping hand around the house. By now, your child should be able to, within reason, as long as it is safe:
- Unload the dishwasher
- Fold laundry
- Clean the bathroom
- Wash windows
- Cook simple meals with supervision
- Do laundry
- Care for younger siblings, with you or another adult in the home
- Clean the kitchen
- Change their own bed sheets
- Share basic pet care