With school out and we are all home with our kids for an undetermined period of time, let’s talk about chores and kids. Why do kids need to have chores to do around the house? There is good evidence that doing chores helps build self-confidence and is associated with decreased anxiety, depression and stress symptoms in children. Chores are work, and kids need to know how to work hard and how to persist at hard work. Working hard at something; chores, learning an instrument, school work, develops grit. Participating in chores also sends a clear message to kids that they need to contribute and they are a valued member of the family. If the parent is the only one doing the household work, kids may think of their parent as their servant and we definitely do not want that!
“Chores are work, and kids need to know how to work hard and how to persist at hard work.”Dr. Janet Casey
The complexity and difficulty of chores should be based on the age of the child. For example, a child as young as 4 can help clear their plate and cup from the table after eating. A 5-year-old can wipe down the kitchen counters and table after a meal or sort laundry into colors (a great learning game as well). An 8-year-old can sweep the floor, make their bed or vacuum their room. With any new chore, it is important to show your child how to do the task and be available if there are questions or problems. Assistance in understanding how to do the chore is ok but you don’t want to get suckered into doing the work for your child. You also must resist the temptation to redo the work your child has done.
There are no specific guidelines for how many chores or how long a child should spend doing daily chores; however, a good rule of thumb is to expect a child 10 and under to spend 10-20 minutes a day and 20-30 minutes a day for teenagers. Longer tasks such as lawn mowing would be expected to be done on the weekends. Having rules such as chores before TV, video games or play time is a very good idea. As always, when there is a rule, stick to it as you are the boss.
Should you pay your child for doing chores? Payment for more difficult tasks or tasks that are not usual chores is a great way to help your child learn how to manage money.
Here is a list of tasks broken down by age:
Kids age 3-4 can:
- Pick up toys
- Set the table (not heavy or sharp objects)
- Pick up the play room
- Put clothes in the hamper
- Pick up toys
Kids age 4-6 can:
- Make their bed
- Clear their dishes from the table
- Empty trash cans
- Clean their room
- Sort laundry by colors
Kids age 7-9 can:
- Vacuum or sweep the floor
- Wipe down kitchen counters or tables
- Load and start the washing machine and dryer
- Load the dishwasher
- Help with some cooking
- Pack their lunch
Kids age 10-12 can:
- Do simple yard work
- Prepare a simple meal
- Clean bathrooms
- Wash windows
- Fold laundry
Teenagers are capable of doing nearly anything around the house. Remember teens, and pre-teens for that matter, are capable of navigating the internet, video games or anything electronic without any difficulty so they can do some fairly complex chores around the house!
Brainstorm with your kids to develop a list of chores and post it in a visible location. Hold your kids accountable for their work and thank them for their contribution to the smooth running of the family.
Remember, when your kids are grown up, they will thank you for this; I promise!