Are you often overwhelmed by your endless to-do lists? If you are a parent like me, you know the myriad of tasks it takes to keep your household running smoothly. While it may be tempting to tackle household tasks alone, involving your children in age- appropriate household chores is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn integral skills needed for adulthood, like preparing meals, cleaning and organizing. Completing chores helps children learn how to care for themselves, their home and their family. Research shows that chores give children a sense of responsibility, provide children with opportunities for success and increase their self-esteem. Completing chores not only helps your child individually, it also is extremely beneficial for the whole family. Working together towards a common goal helps to tighten family bonds and reduce overall family stress. When children help with household tasks, chores get done sooner and there is more time for fun!
Before you begin assigning chores to your child, it is important that a given task match their age and abilities. As your child grows and develops their chores should grow in complexity, duration and skills required. Here are some age-appropriate guidelines to get you started:
Toddler Chores (ages 2 and 3)
Many parents mistakenly believe their toddler is too young to help. On the contrary, toddlers are the perfect helpers! At this age, chores feel like play. Remember, a child who gets in the habit of helping at such a young age will be more willing to help as they get older.
- Pick up and put away toys
- Help unload plastic items from the dishwasher (Tupperware, plastic dishes & cups)
- Dust with a rag or feather duster
- Hold a dustpan when a parent sweeps the floor
- Put dirty clothes in the hamper
- Help move clothes from washer to dryer
- Help put clothes away in low drawers
- Help make the bed and place pillows
Preschool Chores (ages 4-5)
Preschool children still love to help. Successfully completing chores gives them a sense of mastery over their environment and makes them so proud. Reward your preschool aged child with a sticker chart. They will delight in seeing their stickers add up! Remember, each child is different and will hit developmental milestones in their own time. Some preschoolers will have enough gross motor control to vacuum at age 5, others will not. It is important to consider your individual child when creating their chore list.
- Any chores above
- Help load the dishwasher
- Help set the table
- Clear the table
- Wash dishes (with supervision)
- Clean windows
- Match socks
- Fold dish towels and washcloths
- Pull weeds from the garden
Early Elementary (ages 6-8)
Your children may need more motivation to complete their chores at this age. Squash chore resistance by taking away television and electronics until chores are completed. You will be amazed how quickly the chores will be crossed off their list!!
- Any chores above
- Help with meal prep (wash produce, find ingredients, simple cutting)
- Wipe counters
- Sweep and vacuum floors
- Empty trash bins
- Help fold laundry
- Rake leaves in the yard
If you haven’t yet implemented chores up until this point, you will likely be met with some opposition. Not to worry, kids are resilient and can handle more responsibility than we often give them. Just remember, as the parent, you’re in charge. It will take time, consistency, and possibly multiple changes to the Wi-Fi password, but eventually chores will just be a part of your pre-teen’s daily routine. If weeknights are too busy with extracurricular activities, weekend chores are perfectly appropriate.
- Any previous chores
- Make simple meals (mac n’ cheese)
- Bring garbage/recycling to the curb
- Do laundry, including washing, drying and folding clothes
- Clean the bathroom
- Mop floors
- Vacuum out cars
Whatever their age, your children can help around the house. Assigning chores may take time and a lot of patience, but the payout will be worth it. Chores will not only keep your home running smoothly and reduce family stress, but they will also help your child learn lifelong skills that will make them healthy independent adults.