By Dawna Matthews:
Home is more than just a building or place where you live. It cannot be described in one word and it means many things to different people; but it is a space we create and, in return, we are gifted with a place of comfort, pleasure, and restoration. There are so many things that go into ensuring the home is all of these things — even chores. When they think about what makes their home a cozy inviting place, chores are not usually at the top of people’s minds, but they play a great role in creating this atmosphere and are a vital teaching tool for our children to learn from.
When do you begin giving kids chores at home? Keep in mind that children mature at different paces and chores can be adjusted based on skill level. But in general, they can begin at the toddler stage of 2-3 years old. Here is a list of ages with some ideas for age appropriate chore assignments.
This is a great age to start with simple chore assignments because oftentimes they find it fun. Some easy things children at this age can do are put away their toys or shoes, fill a pet’s water or food bowl with an adult’s help, and light cleaning such as dusting. Once they have completed one task, such as putting away their toys, then you can move on to another chore such as placing dirty clothes into the laundry room.
Children at this age do very well with timers and learning natural consequences. As you set the the timer, let the child know what needs to happen and even a consequence, if appropriate. For example, you could say this: I need you to pick up your dolls and their clothes in the next 10 minutes. If the timer goes off and you have done what I’ve asked, you may play with them tomorrow.
Pre-Schoolers (3-5 years old):
At this age, children’s responsibilities can be increased, whether for self care, or other chores such as helping pick up around the house, bringing their things from car to house, sorting laundry, and helping older kids or parents with putting away clothes, light housework, and setting the table. Keep in mind, though, that they may still need your supervision as well as guidance. Self care such as brushing teeth or buttoning a coat may not seem like a chore, but these tasks give the child a sense of accomplishment as well as help streamline time when trying to leave the house. With my guidance, my 4-year-old child even helps me with cooking preparation such as stirring, washing vegetables, or adding ingredients. She also likes to help us bring her dishes to the kitchen after eating.
Children in this age group can help do so much around the house. They are really good at helping with laundry, dusting, vacuuming, drying dishes, sorting recyclables, and setting the table. Other tasks they can perform with an older sibling or adult include helping in the yard with raking or gardening. On a personal level, they should be able to make their bed every day, brush their teeth, and choose their clothes and get dressed.
Elementary School Age (8-11):
Children in this age group can be very involved in the family chore list. They are good at helping wash dishes, cleaning the bathroom with supervision, learning to use the washer and dryer, taking the trash and recycling outside, and more. They should be able to take care of personal hygiene, be responsible for their belongings and homework, and keep their room clean.
Pre-teens, Tweens, and Teenagers (12-18)
This age group can contribute heaps to the household. They can take care of personal hygiene, belongings, homework, as well as change the sheets and keep their room clean. They also can maintain their own personal items by doing such things as recharging batteries in phones and computers. Older kids (15 and up) can mow the lawn, help other kids with homework, do laundry, walk and care for pets, prepare dinner, clean bathrooms, do dishes, and in most cases can babysit if needed. Keep in mind their maturity level, and engage with them on what they feel is or is not working for them.
How To Designate Chores:
Each individual in the house should maintain some responsibilities and chores, such as helping clear the table and keeping rooms picked up. Other chores, like loading the dishwasher or putting away the dishes, can be switched. One of the easiest ways to see what should be done is to make a list of chores needed to keep the household functioning. The kitchen is a central place for the chores to be listed. As a routine is established, the child can add chores or shift to a new chore. I like a rotating chore list so everyone has a turn at something and doesn’t feel their chore is worse than someone else’s. There are some great ideas for chore charts online.
Rewarding for Chores:
Rewards and monetary allowances for chores are discretionary and must be made based on what you as a parent want to do. Some households offer money as part of chore completion and others do not. Some offer other privileges such as having friends over or use of the car. Keep in mind this is something that can be revisited and changed as the needs of the family changes. One idea for a younger child’s reward is to earn stickers for each task completed. When a certain number of stickers is earned, the child can receive a privilege or treat. Remember, there is no right or wrong — it’s all up to you and your family.
Set Limits and Consequences:
It’s important to set boundaries and limits. Don’t overburden your child with chores in addition to their homework and then get upset if something is not completed for school, or vice-versa. If you assign too much to them and it doesn’t get done, children can feel resentful, even suffer other emotional issues. It’s a good idea to try to instill a time limit of 30 minutes a day for chores during the week and longer for the weekend. Be sure to balance positive and negative consequences. We all do better with a kind word when we routinely and consistently follow through with things such as chores. Give children a hug, positive words, or an occasional small reward.
Leading by Example:
Children look to adults for guidance and mentoring. We are our child’s greatest teacher and they mirror us from a young age. If we approach chores with patience and light-heartedness, they will be more apt to have the same view on the task. Conversely, if we routinely put off the chore or say how much we are dreading it, then they will not want to engage any more than we do. Most likely, children will not thank you for assigning them chores; however, what you are teaching them is not about the chore itself, but about learning life skills and a sense of responsibility that will take them into their adulthood and toward creating a home of their own.
Sometimes it’s easier to do something ourself instead of ask our children to do it, but this can eventually create frustration in us and irresponsibility in our children. In the big picture, assigning chores empowers our children to feel they have a greater role in the family, and it enables us all to share responsibility in creating a healthy and happy home. When we all share in chores, we experience less frustration and more relaxation, serenity, and comfort.
Do you have ideas for chores that work for you and your family?? We would love to see or hear about them!