Age-appropriate chores and responsibilities are an important part of a child's development. Here are some reasons why helping out at home is good for kids, along with age-based tips and useful strategies for your family.
Have kids start pitching in early
Young children are naturally eager helpers. Take advantage of this and develop a culture of teamwork in your home. Most preschool age kids can start pitching in with some simple household tasks. This teaches them life skills and how to cooperate with a group (in this case, your family).
Helping to keep the home running smoothly boosts a child's self-esteem. Just don't expect perfection; this is a learning process, and children will develop their skills over time. Praise your child's effort in each task, not the outcome. Small accomplishments lead to bigger ones. Kids can take on more responsibilities as they move through their school years and adolescence.
Some age-appropriate chores for kids:
- 5–7 years: old Make their own beds, set and clear the table for mealtimes, weed and rake leaves, make and pack school lunches, dust, put toys away, neaten bookshelves, put dirty clothes in a hamper, fill pet's food dish, empty wastebaskets, sweep floors, sort laundry, bring in mail/newspaper, water flowers, and wash plastic dishes in the sink.
- 8–10 years old: All of the above, plus vacuum, help make dinner, make their own snacks, take a pet for walk, put away their own laundry and put away groceries.
- 11–12 years old: All of the above, as well as clean the kitchen, change bedsheets, unload the dishwasher, do and fold laundry, scrub toilets and clean the bathroom, wash the car, cook a simple meal with supervision, and watch younger sibling(s) with an adult present at home.
Remember that chores remain important in the teenage years, too. (See "Household Chores for Teens.")
Making chores part of the family routine
To help establish chores as the norm, rather than the exception, be consistent. A specific chore chart or checklist can help. It acts as a visual reminder to keep all members of the family on task. It also provides each child with a sense of accomplishment with each completed task.
Tips to encourage your child & avoid battles over chores
As your own child takes on more responsibilities, they will likely have periods when they procrastinate or need reminders. Most kids do. During these times, encouragement and gentle guidance and positive praise will point them in the right direction.
If your child continues to shrug their chores and responsibilities, or need frequent reminders, here are some simple management techniques that can help:
Carefully spell out the tasks your child must perform. Make sure they understand what is expected of them on a daily and a weekly basis. Star charts or chore lists posted in your child's room or on the refrigerator should clearly show what your expectations are. With a school-age child, particularly one who has not taken on responsibilities before, introduce one new task at a time; a long list can be overwhelming.
Give honest praise. This can be the most effective way of motivating your child and guaranteeing their success. As your child completes a regular task, praise them and the effort they made. Initiating tasks on their own without a reminder, completing a special task or doing an unusually good job mights praise. You may also want to consider tangible rewards like allowances and stickers tied to completed chores.
Build structure and routines into your family life. This can give your child a greater chance of remembering their chores. Encourage them to do their chores at the same time each day. Routines of other activities—including meals, homework, play and bedtime—also can teach organization and help them develop responsibility.
Schedule regular family meetings to review your child's progress. Ask for their ideas about chores and other responsibilities. Create new or modified "contracts" for the chores that are expected of them. Most importantly, supervise and support your child. This is the best way to ensure that they are being responsible.
When your child makes a choice not to complete their chores and other responsibilities, consider consequences. For example, you might decide to revoke certain privileges or special activities. Badgering or scolding a child is not an effective method to get them to accept more responsibility; rewarding successes and providing encouragement is always much more effective. Remember that electronic devices and screen time are privileges, not rights.
Keep realistic expectations
Sometimes parents may demand too much of their children or criticize the outcome of the chore. Or, they may assign too many responsibilities. Kids may feel overwhelmed and resist taking on any responsibilities at all. Try to avoid overloading, while still making sure your children assume an appropriate level of responsibility.
Children, of course, differ in the personal traits and temperament they bring to tasks. Some may tend to drift away in the middle of chores. Others have difficulty getting organized, or have trouble shifting from one activity to another. Factor your child's style in your expectations.
Too busy for chores?
Families whose kids are overscheduled, in too many sports and extracurriculars, may feel the child is too busy for chores and might not instill this basic life skill; this is a mistake. Children need to have obligations and duties within the family, so they learn to accept responsibility. Ensure that kids develop skills to contribute to the household, with increased expectations as they mature.
Different families, different responsibilities
At times, kids may point out different levels of responsibility their friends are assigned in their homes. Use this is a chance to discuss what own your family's rules and culture are.
Your pediatrician can help
If you are concerned that your child is not taking on their household responsibilities despite various efforts, share these concerns with your pediatrician. They may reassure you that your child is behaving in an age-appropriate manner. The pediatrician may be concerned if your child consistently fails to complete everyday home responsibilities in addition to having similar issues at school.