Family Chores: Why They’re More Important than You Think and How to Get Started
Every day it’s the same thing.
You pick up toys, empty the dishwasher, wipe down counters, walk the dog — and move through a host of other chores to keep your house humming along.
Night falls, morning comes, and it starts all over again. Taking care of your home is a full-time job — with the bulk of the workload shouldered by you alone.
Maybe you’ve thought —
If I want something done around here — it’s easier just to do it myself.
My folks were tough of me — I just want my kid to be a kid.
My child is too young for chores. I’ll teach her to help around the house when she’s older.
With academics, sports, and other activities, my child is too busy to do chores.
Whatever your hesitation, chores are important — even more important than you think.
The little (or not so little) people in your home, are not only capable of sharing the workload but, according to a study from Harvard, you may just be investing in your child’s future the next time you ask them to take out the trash.
“One of the many highlights of the researcher’s findings is that subjects who were given chores as kids grew up to be adults who were more independent, better able to work in collaborative groups, and better equipped to understand that even though doing chores or hard work may feel unpleasant, it means being a valuable part of a community.”
So if you’ve never involved your child in chores or if you’ve been a little slack enforcing them, be of good cheer — you’re not alone!
With just a little bit of time and patience, you can hit the reset button on family chores and pave the way to a well-run home while raising independent, hardworking children.
Here are two tips to get you started.
Choose Age-Appropriate Chores
You know your child best so start with ones you know they can do. (And if chores are entirely new, pick one chore to begin with — just one).
Preschoolers (ages 3 – 4)
Preschool is the perfect age to begin chores. Starting now makes routine tasks an expected part of family life.
By ages 3 – 4, your child may be able to:
Set the dinner table.
Make a bed – Your preschooler can easily make a bed especially if you forego the top sheet and only use a fitted sheet.
Pick up and sort toys – Label bins with photos of toys for pre-readers.
Wipe counters and tables with a cleaning wipe.
Replenish napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper.
Fold dish towels, wash clothes, and other small cloth items.
Early Elementary (ages 5 – 8)
Your 5- to 8-year-old may be able to do all the chores listed above plus:
Clean the bathroom counter and toilet – Store cleaning wipes in the bathroom for convenience.
Clean out of the family vehicle – Keep a small wastebasket in the passenger area of your car.
Clear the table after meals.
Fix drinks for dinner – Consider moving non-glass cups to lower cabinets for your child to access easily.
Empty the dishwasher.
Fold, hang, and put away laundry
Upper Elementary (ages 9 – 11)
It’s in the upper elementary years your training pays off. By now your child is ready and willing to tackle all the chores listed above as well as heartier chores they may even be excited about.
At ages 9 – 11, your child may be able to:
Mow the lawn (especially a push mower – maybe a riding mower, too).
Fully care for pets.
Vacuum and mop.
Blow leaves, shovel snow, and other yard work.
Cook basic meals from start to finish.
Wash, dry, fold, and put away laundry.
Teach the New Chores
Now that you’ve chosen chores, it’s time to teach your child exactly what you expect. For each task, follow these three steps.
If you want the task done correctly, first model the chore yourself. Show every step of the chore including where to find necessary supplies.
Make supplies accessible while exercising caution with those that may contain harsh ingredients. After several days modeling the chore, move to the next step.
Now it’s time for your child to complete the chore with you observing nearby. Have them walk you through each step as you gently correct any missed steps.
Observe for a minimum of 4-5 days. By day 5, your child should be able to complete the task with little assistance and verbal instruction from you.
If at the end of the 4-5 days, your child still needs your help, the chore itself may be too difficult. Modify the chore or chose a different task they’ll more easily grasp.
It’s this step that causes many families to fall off the chore bandwagon.
If you want family chores to last, you’ll have to spend a few minutes once or twice a week inspecting to make sure they’re getting done.
Hit the Reset Button
While school is out over the holiday break, hit the reset button on your family’s chores.
Teaching your child to work and push through little jobs now is sure to pay off — at home, in the classroom, and, according to Harvard, throughout adulthood.