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How to Get Your Kids to Help with Chores at Home

How to Get Your Kids to Help with Chores at Home

The importance of chores almost cannot be overstated. Not only for the help and relief it provides the parents, but the importance it lends our children.


Families have been home for 8 uninterrupted weeks. Our ovens, dishwashers, laundry machines, vacuums, and other appliances are being used like never before. And yet, the list of households tasks seems endless. So how can parents stay on top of everything while having kids home nonstop? Enlist the children! If you don’t already have your little ones help with all the work at home, now is definitely the time to start. We chatted with three experts to get their advice on how to get started and some ideas for chores for kids by age.

“When we engage our kids in chores, we are telling them that they are valuable members of the household—they help keep it clean or help keep family members fed,” says Cara Natterson, M.D., board certified pediatrician and founder of Worry Proof Consulting and author of Decoding Boys.

In fact, household chores can be considered part of homeschooling.

“From cooking to organizing, kids use numerous skills such as estimating, measuring, sorting, and prioritizing when they help with chores,” says Lauren Tingley, an elementary school teacher and founder of Simply-Well-Balanced.com.

Make chores fun!

Part of assigning chores is simple logistics (Who is big enough to take out the big garbage can?) and part of it is going with whatever your children seem most interested in doing. You may have one child who loves to sweep and vacuum just like a grown-up, and another who is more inclined to sit and sort laundry with you. The key is to communicate calmly and matter-of-factly, and to wrap everything in a positive package without pleading or threats of punishment.

“If you describe chores as the things kids do to be part of the family team, you’ll likely get more eager participation,” Natterson says. And be sure to point out how their cooperation is helping the family and household run smoothly. 

Whether you assemble a chore chart or use chore cards or just have a verbal agreement via family meeting is up to you. Just be sure to present and streamline the process in a way that indicates fun and not work for your family. For younger children, Tingley recommends using chores as part of a familiar game, like filling a BINGO board with daily to-dos. For older children, she likes tracking apps such as BusyKid. And don’t forget to include yourselves as parents on any charts outlining responsibilities, Natterson says.

Make responsibilities clear and consistent.

Oxana Ivanchenko, co-founder of the Sweepy app, which helps turn cleaning into a game, stresses the importance of tidying up and taking care of the house as a regular part of the family routine. Try to make it as everyday an occurrence as eating breakfast or taking a shower. Find where it all fits in your schedules. Then give specific instructions like, “Please pick up the toys and put them in the cabinet,” not just “Clean up the family room!”



Another important consideration is that kids will learn by doing. You may not want your toddler trying to carry porcelain plates to the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until a child is fully capable of doing something to give them the responsibility. Give your little one plastic or melamine plates with food on them to get in some good, safe practice. And give praise often and early, especially regarding the effort because they may not do it perfectly at first

Ready to get started taking some stuff of your own plate? Here’s what our panel of experts recommends children start doing around the house at various ages.

Chores for kids ages 2-3

  • Tidy the bedroom
  • Pick up toys
  • Wipe spills
  • Put away clothes
  • Dust

Chores for kids ages 4-6

all of the above, plus...

  • Get dressed
  • Make their bed
  • Set and clear table
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Sort and fold clothes
  • Sweep floors
  • Feed pets and animals
  • Water plants
  • Collect mail or newspaper
  • Wash hands

Chores for kids ages 7-10

all of the above, plus...

  • Do laundry
  • Mop
  • Vacuum
  • Wash dishes
  • Write a shopping list
  • Put away groceries
  • Rake leaves
  • Make snacks
  • Simple meal preparation
  • Take pet for walk

Chores for kids ages 10+ 

all of the above, plus...

  • Clean the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Wash the car
  • Wash windows
  • Babysit siblings at home
  • Change bedsheets

If your kids don’t pick up on the routine right away or resist the responsibilities, stick with it and remember both the short- and long-term benefits of adopting these new habits. “These chores will help them to develop life skills and feelings of self-sufficiency that will help them to be successful adults,” Tingley says.

Then, when the literal dust has settled, spend time as a family every day or every week appreciating your hard work. Have a dance party in your newly cleaned kitchen or cuddle up to a movie night with a family-favorite dessert. Just be sure to sweep up the crumbs!

 

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Whitney C. Harris

Author: Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer and NYMetroParents' Manhattan and Westchester calendar editor. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, NY, with her husband, a toddler, and a dog. See More

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