46 Ways Kids Can Help Around the House

Note from Mark Timm, Ziglar Family CEO: Today’s post is from Ziglar Family team member Jenifer Truitt. Jen is part of our copywriting and content creating team, and she's also a Ziglar Legacy Certified Trainer.  Most importantly, though, are the roles she cherishes as wife, mom, daughter, sister, niece, and cousin.  She can (and does!) quote Zig Ziglar whenever the situation calls for it, but she also loves these words from Michael J. Fox:  "Family isn't an important thing.  It's Everything."  

“Are you doing your own laundry yet?”

I was taken completely aback by the pediatrician’s question to my 10-year-old first-born daughter at her yearly well-check. She and I exchanged looks, not quite sure we heard the doctor’s question correctly.

“Should she be?” I asked.

“Absolutely. She’s perfectly capable of doing her own laundry at this age, and she should be doing a lot more around the house, too.”

Those words brought about an entirely new system of household management in our home, much to my delight — though not so much hers or her sister’s!

Chores are a hot topic in parenting circles today. Most of us grew up doing chores of some sort around the house, but in today’s families that is happening less and less.

There are some reasonable explanations that parents give for not sharing the household duties, including the fact that kids seem to have so much more to do with school, homework, and countless other extracurricular activities, that we feel guilty for giving them more.

Then there’s the reality that many kids are not going to readily and cheerfully take care of their assigned chores the first time they’re asked to do so, meaning parents will have the responsibility of making sure everything gets done correctly — and it’s likely that will involve some amount of reminding (ok, let’s be real: nagging!) and imposing consequences.

The truth is, though, that it’s one of those ‘dirty jobs’ that someone (YOU, the parent) has to do, if we want our kids to launch into the world at age 18 and be able to reasonably maintain a living space.

The Benefits of Doing Chores

As parents, we do all we can to ensure our babies have a leg-up in the world. We start reading to them in infancy, teach them their ABCs as toddlers, research preschools for the best fit, and countless other little things to try to make sure they have all the tools they need for success.

About 20 years ago, I was teaching sixth-grade at a fairly prestigious private school. Students had to go through a rigorous admissions process to attend, so presumably they were some of the best and brightest. You can imagine how amused — and a little shocked — I was when I asked one of my students to run the vacuum cleaner at the end of the day and he had absolutely no clue how to operate it! (He was determinedly trying to push it with the handle in the upright locked position!)

Lesson highlighted that day: don’t assume that your kids are going to learn household responsibilities by osmosis!

Marty Rossmann of the University of Mississippi shared results of her research using data collected over 25 years, starting in 1967, to determine whether asking children to help with household chores starting at age 3 or 4 was instrumental in predicting the children’s success by their mid-20s.

Chores, she determined, instilled in children the importance of contributing to their families and gave them a sense of empathy as adults. Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well-adjusted, have better relationships with friends and family and be more successful in their careers. [1]

It’s pretty clear that helping our kids learn to do age-appropriate chores around the house should be near the top of our parenting to-do list.

What Are Age Appropriate Chores?

Obviously what works for me and my family situation won’t necessarily work for you and yours, but there are some general age-appropriate guidelines[2] that you can look at as a framework when considering what chores to assign your children.

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet's food dish
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Put away own laundry
  • Sew buttons
  • Make own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meal with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change their bed sheets

I don’t know about you, but when I review that list, I recognize that I am giving my kiddos a LOT of leeway in the chore department, so I need to step it up! (Get ready, kids!)

As with many aspects of raising children, it can be challenging to implement and consistently follow through with plans that we know are the best for them.  But then again, as the quote goes, “It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it.”

What chores do your children do, and at what age?  Have you seen the benefits?  Please comment below to share what you’ve learned!

 

[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/12/study-finds-having-kids-do-chores-is-a-good-thing/
[2] http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/chores-for-children#2
2017-04-29T10:42:00+00:00 April 29th, 2017|35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. David Bigelow April 29, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    My wife recently implemented having a child per month in the kitchen helping her. By the end of the month, they are cooking supper. Maybe not so aggressive for the younger ones. 6 kids, 4 - 15 years old.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      What a great idea! I love to cook, so am a little 'territorial' about my kitchen. I should really take a look at changing that. I love how your wife is approaching it!

  2. KC April 29, 2017 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    This is a good article. I have started chores in earnest n 2017, connected to an allowance. I certainly don't want my son to feel like he should get paid for helping around the house, but I'm also teaching him how to be responsible (age-appropriately) with money and that he has to pay for things himself. He also has a "side gig," if you will, where he gets money by himself.

    Thanks for the list of chores for each age level. They seem reasonable.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks, KC - glad you found some useful ideas! I used to also give my kids allowance, but now that they babysit and pet sit (and the older one had a 'real' summer job last year), I don't do that any more. They have to do their chores just as part of being a member of the household. (I also remind them that I do pay for their smartphone monthly bill, and I'd be glad to trade them -- allowance for them taking over that bill!)

      • Stacy May 5, 2017 at 6:17 am - Reply

        Our 15 yr old daughter has grown up doing chores and we give an allowance but they aren't completely tied together. There are several chores that she must do simply by being a member of this family: put belongings away (includes folding laundry), keep general living areas clean, clean room and bathroom. We explained that we all have to do things to keep our home a clean and relaxing place to live and just as her father and I do not get paid for doing that neither does she. Then she has chores that she can earn money by doing. She can choose which she wants to do each week but she has to choose at least one. They are listed on our pantry door along with the corresponding amount that chore earns. To help us keep track of what she's owed we keep a running total on the pantry door as well. We act as the bank and she can cash it in at anytime.

        Laundry has always been the sticking point with me. She's an only child and between the three of us we don't generate enough laundry that one of us should be doing separate loads. So I always did the laundry. i realized one day that she needs to be a part of this process.So I started by having her fold her own laundry. Now I've shown her how to do the laundry so I am slowly letting her do all the laundry. We trade off weeks.

        I did chores as a child and I know I have a better work ethic because of it. I am a school librarian and I deal with children all day who are used to having everything done for them.I watch these kids and it makes me sad because I know what a rude awakening they are in for.

  3. Jane April 29, 2017 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    My 18 mo old will put toys away. Start young, teach by example and guidance. Make it fun!

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Yes! I love it! Little by little and they'll grow up learning well!

  4. Olivia Hamilton April 29, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    We homeschool our 3 boys, ages 7-12, and they are responsible for their own laundry every week, each boy also has assigned daily chores including trash duty, dog feeding & pickup, etc; My husband & I have seen too many families, homeschooled & others, falling into a place where the kids don't learn to take care of themselves or appreciate all the work involved in a typical day!

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Sounds like you've definitely got them on the right track! 🙂

  5. Lydia April 30, 2017 at 12:39 am - Reply

    We've always tried to instill a healthy work ethic with our children from around age 3 yrs old. We use flip cards that we re-create at the beginning of each new school year. We introduced chores to our children originally one family night by washing their feet and talking about how Jesus came to serve not to be served. We decided to call our chores "Acts of Service" and we discussed stewardship fo God's blessings. There's a card for each day of the week. There are also direction cards included for certain chores they may not have down quite yet. Their cards are the size of small index cards. I use colorful paper. One color for the days of the week and a different color for the direction cards and another for the consequence cards should they fail to do their chores each day/week. If they're not done by dinner each day, they eat dinner in their room. If they miss dinner more than 3 times in one week they skip family night dessert on Fridays. Chores have been amazing and they have changed our children's lives. Our 22 year old started his own graphic design company at age 21, our 20 year old started her own photography business when she was on 16 and bought her camera with money she had saved dog sitting and doing chores. Now our 9 yr old has started his own dog sitting business. We believe that children who are taught a healthy work ethic at an early age have more entrepreneurial ideas as adults. Check out our other parenting and marriage ideas at my blog at http://www.livinginnobility.com

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      I simply LOVE your post! First, I love the stewardship approach you've taken with chores! Just fantastic! And then your description of the cards... just wow! Huge high-five to you, Momma!

  6. Cynthia April 30, 2017 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. And yes, we're glad to say that we let our kids (10 and 12) to do household chores. One of those is washing the dishes during weekends or when they don't have school.

    Since my daughter' room is carpeted, I let her vacuum her own room, and since my son's room is not carpeted, but we have a big area rug in the living room, I let him vacuum that one.

    My husband and I usually share in doing the laundry. He sorts the clean clothes and puts them in our children's respective rooms for them to put away. After reading your email, I told them that starting immediately, they will not just be folding and putting away their clothes. They will also be doing their own laundry, and change their own bed sheets. The last 2 will be easy, because if they don't do their own laundry, they don't have any uniform to wear for school. If they don't change their bedsheets, they will end up sleeping in stinky beds (and they are not used to sleeping in unclean bedsheets).

    Surprisingly, there was no complaint when I told them about these additional chores. All they said is, "But we don't know how to do it." So I told them, "it's easy and I'm gonna teach you how."

    Once they get used to these additional chores, we plan to add some more. Thank you again for this valuable input. God bless you more!

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      I'd love to hear how it goes with doing the laundry! (You can email me at jen@ziglarfamily.com) It's funny, because I taught my kids 'how' to do it, too, but today -- 7 years later -- they definitely don't do it the way I taught! They don't separate anything but just throw it all in together. I'm waiting for the day a red 'something' gets washed with white 'somethings'! 🙂

  7. Beverley suddick April 30, 2017 at 4:26 am - Reply

    My grandkids who live with me do chores just like my kids used to do washing up drying cleaning kitchen age 10 and 12. Also clearing the table and washing down the table. Thinkin of instilling some more after reading your lists thank you .Makes them more responsible and capable of helping keep the house clean .

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      It sounds like you're on the right track with them for sure! 🙂

  8. Saatchirad April 30, 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

    We have our Daughter do specific chores on a weekly basis. When the dishwasher needs unloading, I have her empty the silverware container. When we do laundry on Saturday, I have her collect and bring all the dirty clothes from the hampers to the laundry room. When we do yard work, we'll have her pick up sticks or hold the bag open. Her jobs don't have to be large as Long as she participates.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      It sounds like maybe you have a young daughter, and I love how you're having her be a part of it in a small way! Then, as she gets older, she can do more and more! Great idea!

  9. Morar Sheldrick Jackson April 30, 2017 at 9:19 am - Reply

    From reading this my kids need to step up the game, or I do in encouraging them to. As a youngster I was doing all of these chores when I was young as I was one of eleven children. Oh well, time for growth. Thanks for this.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      Don't worry, Morar! By writing it I realized my kids need to step up the game, too! (And we are starting today!)

  10. Stephanie April 30, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

    We tried a lot of different schedules but the one that stuck was cleaning one room everyday for a week then they switch after a week. Before they switch the really clean that room, windows, tub, complete cleaning of the toilet wash the floor of the room they have). They also get a little money each week and when they ask for something that is outside of what I am doing for the rest of the family then they buy it. One son likes to buy his own pizza. (He also mows the neighbors lawn for extra money).

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      I like that idea, Stephanie!

  11. SuzieHomemaker April 30, 2017 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    that list is to easy even. kids 100yrs ago did far more. my 4 almost 5 has done most of the ones for the next 2 age groups up. some of them at 2 and 3yrs like mop sweep. but sliver wear away. fold laundry. she learned halves and quarters that way. and basic sorting.. my friends kids to. I cant believe you would even bother with a dr telling you such. that's out of place.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Interesting, Suzie! Thanks for sharing!

  12. A L Moseley April 30, 2017 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    We did this...now our college girls hate housework. They rarely clean up after themselves and complain we worked them too much growing up. However, they do know how to do much more than I did when I left home. My boys hate housework though I told them they'll be better able to get a job and their future wives will love me! My oldest at 14 says, "I'm basically a housewife." He is referring to his jobs which are dishes, laundry, and helping cook meals during the week. Also babysits when I need to go somewhere. And on weekends vacuums. I told him how grateful I was to have his help and that without him I couldn't get much else done (we had foster kids and churvh responsibilities). Noticing his anger rising, I have cut his responsibilities back and upped his allowance. He is doing better with attitude. My youngest now wants to learn to cook thankfully! I have a lot of health issues so I am grateful they can manage without me doing much. However, I don't like their resentment of this due to so many friends doing not much and the fact that they don't really need me for much amymore. Just driving it seems. They have a lot of free time I remind them, even with chores, and are better of than most kids in the world. It doesn't change their minds. Is there anyway to prevemt these outcomes?? Thanks.

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      I don't think that there is much we can do to change how our kids feel about doing what we ask of them; when my kids get upset with me I always stay the course by doing what I know is best for them, even if they don't like it. (It's like taking their medicine from a doctor; they hate it, but they have to take it). I realize that when my oldest leaves for college next year that her dorm will most likely look like a clothing explosion when Mom isn't there to 'nag' her to pick up after herself, so it will be interesting to see whether her roommate will tolerate it or not. My personal feeling is that I will do the very best I can with them while I have them, and then after that they will just exercise their God-given gift of free will. I just pray that even if they go away from what they've been taught, maybe one day down the road they'll return to it.

  13. Joy May 1, 2017 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for this article my kids are 6, 4 and 3 i let them do some chores like making their bed, clearing after meals and tidying especially the 6 year old but now i will definitely include the 3and 4 year old more. will also add more especially for the weekends

    • Jen May 1, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, Joy! Starting them young is a great idea! 🙂

  14. Dr G May 1, 2017 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    All my children do chores if they live and eat in my house the clean it.
    My wife sets specific days for doing dishes for each child. It prevents all the argument and convenient forgetfulness.
    Saturday is our big clean vaccum and wash day. Kids are assigned task and it us to be done before the end of the day.
    This all works best when you start chores when kids are little like 2 or 3. You give them simple stuff like folding clothes or putting clothes into the draw.
    Because the younger see the older ones working the just expect to be doing chores as long as they are home.

    • Jen May 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Sounds like your family is definitely doing it right with the chores! Congrats!

  15. Kim May 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Reading this list actually makes me feel good! My kids may not do everything in their respective columns, but they do a lot! (And some do some from the future lists!) Thank you for helping me feel like I am doing something right! It also puts into perspective the things I may get frustrated that they don't do well when I see they are on a list for an older child. Referring back to this will help me keep my expectations reasonable.

    • Jen May 2, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Yay! I love that you are encouraged! 🙂

  16. Tina May 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Boys ages 8 and 13 - take out the trash and recycling when needed and pull it to the curb once a week. Set and clear the table every evening before and after dinner. Everyone is responsible for loading their own dishes into the dishwasher. 30 minutes to1 hr of yard work every Saturday morning. Clean their rooms 1x/week. Make their beds every morning. Cook a meal 1-2x/week during the summer months. Clean their own bathroom 1x/week. Make their own breakfast on the weekends. Pick up the game room every Sunday evening. They work together as a team and decide who's responsible for what. We make sure the duties are divided fairly. This summer my 13 year old will be learning how to do his own laundry. Both will be putting their own laundry away.

    • Jen May 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      I am planning to have my girls make meals during the summer months, too! We'll see how that goes...

  17. Wendy May 12, 2017 at 2:26 am - Reply

    We have 3 teens. They are great kids but doing regular chores and keeping rooms and laundry in order just does not happen. There was a time In Middle school when they were almost obsessive with keeping rooms straight and doing chores. We moved to a smaller house and frankly, we all struggled to do our part because the reward was so temporary. The smallest thing out of place made the whole house seem cluttered. It was impossible to keep it all straight.

    Well, we moved again So everyone has their own room and it's a bigger space. But, now we are surrounded by boxes, our new chaos. My husband and I are determined to bring a new order and accountability as we unpack. Here is the problem:
    1'. We can't afford to purchase dressers and organizers sufficient to store their things. We have a donation box in each room hoping to purge much. 2-we struggle to offer consequences for not keeping rooms clean or picking up after oneself due to point 1. Our kids have grown - up responsibilities like work and theater where they cannot miss. Phones are not retractable because we need to be in touch for all the carpooling that goes on. 3- we are missionaries raising support which keeps us very busy and unable to hold everyone accountable.

    Our 3 kids do desire to do better but we are not finding g a way to make it happen. I think we try to make it simple as when they were 3-5 year olds, but high school is different and much more busy. What is most important? We just can't expect the same as when they were elementary age, but now they do nothing and do not remember our expectations to make beds, clean rooms, or whatever. We here.."oh, sorry." A lot! We don't have time to baby them again.

    I think they wish we would be more strict, but we are running kids places and meeting with partners. We just don't see how to do it, and frankly feel they should be able to see what is needed and just do it since they have done it before and are more than capable.

    • Jen May 12, 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Hi Wendy, I also have two teenagers in the high school theatre program, so I understand the busy commitments. They are also inclined to let their rooms become a mess way too easily. I got tired of nagging and threatening, so here's what I found that is a fabulous solution. I installed an app on my phone called "Our Pact". It's free. What it does is allows me to block all apps from their phone, so all they can use it for is to call and text. This is tantamount to taking their phones away since they are app crazy! So what I do is I walk in their rooms after they leave for school in the morning. If it's a mess, I simply hit the 'block' button for each of them. You can also use the app to schedule set times for the apps to be off, such as from 9:30 pm to 5:30 am in my house. It's really easy to connect the Our Pact to their phones, and the instructions are clear. I hope you find this solution as helpful as I did! If you want to ask me anything more about it, just email me directly at jen@ziglarfamily.com

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