Ideas for Chores for Kids of Every Age – The Bossy House

Ideas for Chores for Kids of Every Age

Child helping parents paint

So you’ve decided it’s time for chores for kids and you’re here for ideas. Maybe you’re exhausted. (If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’re exhausted.) Or maybe you’re nervous that your children aren’t picking up on your values about work and home. Either way, I hope you had a chance to check out this post 3 Reasons Why Kids Need Chores and have thought about your values. That will inform the kinds of chores you assign your children.

Download Chore Ideas for Every AgeThis post is about the actual nitty-gritty: which chores are appropriate for my child depending on their age. At the bottom of this post, you can download this awesome chart that outlines the three categories of chores and gives you LOTS of age-appropriate ideas for routines, opportunities to help, and special jobs to give your kids.

I always think about new chores for my child in the moment: mostly in the moment she is making a big mess or un-doing one of MY chores that took me all morning. Those are the moments when I think “this four year old really should take more responsibility.”

Child reaching for strawberriesYou’re giving that a big ole “HAHAHAHA” I know. Parenting is an ever-shifting balance between your house being clean and the amount of work you feel like doing.

It’s a great idea to give your child more responsibility around the house! The way you go about it is up to you, but being deliberate and slow is the best way to institute new things for you and your family. Springing new chores on kids right after you’re furious at a mess they made is not the best way to first communicate these new responsibilities. (Trust me, I have definitely done this and it is not a good idea.) Make yourself a plan and go about it with all the joy you can muster.

By the way, I’m not making any moral judgements about doing chores as your duty as an adult person. You are free to pay someone else to do chores or delegate them to your partner. I am guessing, however, that even with semi-full time help you’d still have to wash a dish or sort the laundry, so these tips are designed for everyone, even those of us who do very few chores.

It’s a good idea to think about sustainability first before you launch into chore assignment. Prioritize the do-able things first, the chores you really think you could achieve easily with your children. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your child, and think about this as a work in progress for the next decade (or more!)

Before you assign any chores for kids at all, download this home and values worksheet to begin thinking about your values and how it connects to the chores you’d like to assign your child.

Three Categories of Chores for Kids

There are three different types of chores for kids you could choose from, and each will require a different level of commitment from you and an increasing level of independence from your children.

1. Routines

Dad Son Toothbrush Morning Lifestyle

These are everyday systems that help keep the house cleaned up and everything in its right place. Since being a parent is 50% putting their stuff away, why not pick a few routines you can establish that help you with the mountains of stuff they generate and then move around your house?

Establishing a routine can feel a lot like nagging since you’ll have to remind, remind, remind your child to keep it up. But after a few weeks, the routine will feel like second nature. You may need to remind occasionally, but much less than in the first weeks. And, your child will come to delight in always knowing where their jacket is!

Messages for Routines:

“Thanks for hanging up your jacket by the door. You’ll be able to find it so easily tomorrow morning when we leave.”

“I’m going to take my shoes off and put them in my basket. Do you want to take your shoes off too?”

“I noticed that you stacked those library books up in our special spot. We won’t have to hunt around the house looking for them next week.”

“I’ll bet I can free throw my clothes into the hamper. How about you?”

“Here’s your washcloth for tonight. Remember to wash your face, hands, and feet then hang it back up on the hook.”

2. Role to Play as Helper

Mom and girl vacuum togetherThere are chores that I do pretty regularly and I like to develop habits around The Girl helping me. These are the chores that happen every week in your house like laundry, cleaning up, dishes, caring for pets, and putting the groceries away.

It’s a great idea to involve your child in the chores in the house as a way to encourage awareness about the work that goes into keeping a house. Kids tend to believe that things happen around them magically. Why not pull back the curtain and involve her in sorting the laundry into colors? In a few years, maybe she’ll take on a bigger role and do her own laundry, or doing the family’s laundry will be part of her weekly chores. For now, welcome your child’s help and teach her all the little things that are the work of daily life.

The lucky thing about toddlers is that they LOVE to “help.” You may have to accept that their help is not that helpful, but soon you’ll be in the habit of looking out for ways they can help that are age-appropriate.

Examples of Age-appropriate Helping for Under 5 years old

While you’re cooking dinner or folding clothes, these are things she can help you do in her own small way. You’ll see a lot of these involve sorting into similar piles and putting things in their proper location: that’s because these skills of sorting and discriminating are the exact skills toddlers and pre-schoolers are working on! Not only does she get to feel like an integral part of the family, but she’s building her math skills too.

• sorting coins into piles
• unloading the dishwasher utensil caddy and sorting into the utensil drawer
• putting groceries away
• sorting laundry into colors
• putting folded clothes in the right drawer
• matching socks
• washing vegetables and fruit

Turning Helping into a Job: Start with Low Expectations

It’s one thing for her to help you, but what about a chore she does on her own? This isn’t that. That’s the next section below. This is when her helping morphs into a “chore” that you have low expectations about and help her complete. These chores aren’t going to be done perfectly, but often with your help she can develop the skills to do these on her own at a later time. Think of these chores as activities for the two of you to do together that will take twice as long as if you just did them yourself. (Just sayin’.) Someday, these could turn into her actual chores that she takes full responsibility for, but for now she’s contributing to the household and having fun helping you.

• washing the car
• watering plants
• sweeping the floor
• washing windows
• putting the sheets on the bed
• gathering up the trash in the house
• picking up toys

Messages for Helping Chores

“We always put our toys back into the basket with all the same kind of toys. Let’s put these back before we move on to another activity.”

“Can you help me fold the laundry by matching all these socks together?”

“I’m going to unload the dishwasher. Do you want to do your special part today with the silverwear?”

“I love having plants in the house. Thanks for helping those plants get the water they need and showing caring for living things.”

3. Chores for Kids: Special Job

Girl watering plants

Is your child ready for a special job? This is a job that is their daily or weekly responsibility and, for the most part, only they are responsible for? This is for older children or those ready for more responsibility. I like to think of these jobs as dependent on your child, as in no one’s doing them if they opt out. That means they need to be pretty low-stakes jobs that can be done moderately well. Think of a job that, if no one did it for a few days, the house wouldn’t fall down.

Why is it important that kids have one of these kind of chores? Because the other kinds, routines and helping, are supported and initiated by you, and they are “owned” by you. If your child doesn’t feel like sorting socks, you’re going to do it. If your child drops their jacket in the middle of the floor, you’ll eventually pick it up. But this job represents a jump in responsibility and needs to be completely owned by your child.

Owning a job means that your child builds an even more significant impression of herself as the person “in charge.” It increases her sense of responsibility and pride.

At our house, The Girl is responsible for collecting the chickens’ eggs. Some mornings she forgets to go down to the coop and get them, or we have better things to do. Good thing about chickens: they can kind of survive without much attention. The Girl helps me fill up their water and food, but she’s not big enough to carry the heavy food bags and waterer. She can grab her basket, lift the lid to the nesting boxes, and collect the eggs for the day. She can even scoot a broody chicken out of the nesting box (all the while saying “get out, Hillary. Get out!”) so that she can retrieve the eggs. It’s a perfect job for my little farmer, and a huge source of pride when those eggs turn into our breakfast and lunch.

Some of the best kinds of chores for kids have built-in consequences for not completing them. Try to think of something that, if not done, becomes evident (so you notice) and also becomes slightly annoying to your child. As in “mom where’s my soccer shirt!?” and then you say, “Oh, honey. Did you bring the laundry down to the washer?”

Examples of Special Jobs for your Child:

• taking their laundry down to the washer
• packing their lunch for school
• emptying the dishwasher
• sweeping the deck
• refilling the bird feeder
• feeding the cat
• walking the dog
• getting snack ready for the soccer team

Messages for Special Jobs:

Boy walking dog“We have 10 minutes before we have to leave for school. Has the dog been out to pee?”

“I noticed all the birds coming to the backyard. Thank you for filling the feeder. It’s so fun to watch them!”

“Maybe you want to pack all your lunches for the week on Sunday night while I’m cooking? That way, you’ll be ready for the whole week.”

“We always do our chores right when we get home. I’ll vacuum the floor while you empty the dishwasher. Then we can start dinner.”

How Many Chores Should they Do?

The important thing here isn’t to download the Chore Ideas for Every Age below and expect your child to do EVERY activity on the list for their age. This is about picking a few new items for them to take on, and sticking to those few things for a while before selecting a new item. When your child is ready for more responsibility, you can add a new item on the list from either of the three categories.

Use the Blank Chore Idea Worksheet to select the chores you’d like your child to do at their age (and maybe plan to turn some of the “Role to Play” items into real “Special Job” chores in the future. Maybe now at age 3 she helps you sort the recycling, but at 4 that’s going to be her special job to do in the family.

The message to your child, at that time, is that they have earned your trust and are ready for more responsibility. Who doesn’t love hearing from their boss “I trust you to complete this because you’ve proven that you can be responsible.” We love that!

The other message that works here is “I know this chore is a big responsibility and important to our family. Would you like to take it on? It would mean a lot to us if you’d be responsible for the hamster’s cage from now on. I think you’re ready for it!” These messages mirror the messages of the workplace, but they also build your child’s confidence and ownership over the family chores.

Can Chores Be Fun?

Family washing their car

A note about having fun. Chores are work. They’re repetitive, sometimes they’re gross, and they’re necessary to keep things livable. However, we are used to doing chores by ourselves and quickly. Then you have a baby and you realize that you have a lovely little shadow who keeps you from doing anything quickly. Chores are even MORE of a pain because they take so long.

So we might as well let our little ones teach us a thing or two about urgency and time by letting them make our chores fun. Have a sock fight, splash the kitchen up, and make sweeping the porch a competition. There is no pressure to enforce serious chore-doing in order to communicate that there is drudgery in the world. Just like many things, our children will teach us how to make things more fun, more active, and more enjoyable.

And remember, it’s more important to communicate your values about work and family than have a clean house.

Happy sweeping!

 

These are my favorite resources out there for chores for kids:

Organizational Toast writes about How to Get Your Kids to Do Chores

Bright Light Mama writes about Defusing Chore Battles with Your Kids

EmpoweringParents.org writes about 6 Ways to Get Kids to Do Chores Now

Kidspot highlights 10 Fun Chores Kids Love

The Montessori Notebook Charts Age-Appropriate Chores for Children

 

  • Fun to see how you include chores in your home. Yes! Toddler love to help :). Glad that the chart is a useful resource for you. All the best, Simone (www.themontessorinotebook.com)

  • […] Chores!  Throughout the summer pitching in around the house will be happening more often.  The children are old enough to pitch in beyond cleaning their rooms and putting their clothes away.  Need some ideas for chores?  Check out this great post from The Bossy House about ideas for chores at every age – – > Ideas for Chores at Every Age […]

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