The best chores for kids + how to teach responsibility and get help around the house.
should kids have chores?
Kids are messy. There is just no way around it. And I am totally ok with them having fun and making memories, but I think raising kids to be responsible and to clean up after themselves is a must.
I believe this “training” can start almost from the very beginning of life. In fact, the sooner, the better. Because the longer you wait to implement a routine, the harder it is going to be to adopt and master it.
Even the youngest of toddlers can help around the house, and a lot of times at that age they think helping is fun! When my kids were just barely learning to walk, I’d hand them a toy to put back into the toy basket – and if my reaction was positive and I excitedly cheered for them, they were more and more eager to continue. Teenagers… not so much! 🙂 But by the time they get to the eye-rolling stage, the expectation has already been set and burned into their minds!
Chores for Kids
I don’t claim to be a “Clean Parenting Expert” (is there such a thing?) and my house is certainly not in perfect condition at all times of the day, but I am a mom of 5 and I happen to take pride in an orderly home. And so I have made it a priority not to let the mess get out of control… ever!
I’ll admit, sometimes it is just easier to clean up the mess myself. But teaching kids to help out around the house is an essential part of growing up. You need to set expectations, and you need to set consequences, but you also need to be reasonable set them up for success.
Age-Appropriate Kids Chores
There is a ten-year age gap between my oldest and youngest, so obviously there is a difference in abilities and expectations between my teenager and my 4 year old. But they all have their own age- appropriate chores for all areas in our home.
- They are all old enough to keep their rooms tidy, but the older they are, the higher the standard they are held to.
- All of my kids are told to make their beds each morning. I am excited when my 4 year old gets her blankets on straight, but my 11 year old can certainly do better than that!
- All of my kids are in charge of doing their own laundry. This is the basic requirement, but it looks different for my 4 and 6 year olds than it does for my 10, 12, and 15 year olds. They each have a day where they bring their dirty clothes down to the laundry room. They load the washer, I change it to the dryer while they are at school, and then they fold their clothes and put them away when they get home that afternoon. While the older kids can generally do the entire process themselves, the younger ones help load the washer, they love putting in the soap, and then I fold everything and they put it away. The big picture shows our entire family of 7 helping with the laundry because we all do our part.
- Dinner clean up is also a joint effort. The older kids do some slightly heavier lifting, but the younger kids aren’t off the hook. I usually ask an older kid to unload the dishwasher if there are big pots and glass dishes, but my 4 year old can do all the silverware and plastic cups like a pro!
Consequences vs. Rewards
I mentioned earlier that we do have consequences for chores that go undone and for messy rooms and bad attitudes. Electronic restrictions help a lot, time away from friends or early bedtimes seem to work well too. But I will be honest, I think rewards for good behavior are suuuuuper efficient. Maybe even more so than punishments. My kids know what we expect of them, and they know the consequences of their actions. But I want them to feel success, not failure, and so I encourage positivity as much as I can.
I have found several ideas that help quite a bit – chore charts, fun cleaning routines, and incentives. Take a look at some of my favorites –
How to Make Clean Up Time FUN!
I remember my mom using a fun challenge when I was little. (Most kids LOVE a good, friendly competition! Here is a 4-step process to make clean up time fun for kids.
Come up with a few prizes.
You are going to reward them for a job well-done. I avoid giving out more toys, ’cause heaven knows the excess of toys is how we got into this mess in the first place! I like to reward them with a special privilege, like staying up 5 minutes past bedtime or something.
Make a pile.
I bring all the kids into the same messy room. I tell them that whoever can make the biggest pile of “stuff” will get a prize. We (yes, I work right along next to them) hurry around the room and form our own separate piles with everything in the room that is not in it’s proper place. This only takes a minute, and the person with the biggest pile wins the first prize.
Start the Countdown.
With the piles “stuff” sitting on the floor, I tell the kids that whoever can have all the toys in their piles put away before I count to 30 will get another prize. The race is on, and you can usually put everything away in a minute or less! If your room is especially messy and your piles aren’t done before the time ends, start it again and keep going! The goal is to get it done fast, before burnout sets in! Here are a few helpful tips –
- Don’t set the timer for more than just a few minutes. Too much time won’t seem urgent enough.
- Make sure they see you cleaning too! If you’re sitting on the couch, it will take them longer to clean up and they’ll get discouraged!
Finally, grab a baby wipe.
Once the room is tidy, I give each of the kids a baby wipe and tell them there will be a prize for whoever comes back to me with the dirtiest wipe! The kids go crazy dusting the blinds, wiping the tile in the entry way, getting the fingerprints off the banister… and they usually end up laughing while they do it!
- FYI- Keep the garage off limits. My sneaky child decided he’d try to win this challenge by wiping down my tires! His wipe was very dirty, but this wasn’t what I was looking for! 🙂
At the end of the challenge, you should have happy kids, a clean house and one very happy momma!
Chore Ideas for Kids – Links from the Video:
- Printable Kids Chore Charts (Ones that actually work!)
- Summer Chore Chart for kids (a fun variation on the one above)
- Cleaning Kit for Kids
- Cleaning Checklist Cards
- 10 Creative Chore Charts for Kids
- Bedtime Chores Checklist Printable
- Goal Tracker and Reward Chart
- Magnetic Chore Chart