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Instructing Chores and Cleansing Up Abilities

May 6, 2023
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Many kids can benefit from participating in daily or weekly chores. It helps you out, it helps care for the home, and some studies even link early childhood chores to later success in adulthood, pointing to strengthened adult relationships and successful careers. The key is knowing what chores are appropriate for your child’s age group, skill level, and maturity.

If you’d like your young child to start doing chores, sit with them and talk about what chores look like, what chores are, and how to do each one. Be specific.

You can talk with your child about how everyone in the family contributes to all of your lives running smoothly. Young children want, more than anything, to be like a grown up. By giving your child the opportunity to contribute, they can feel proud of themselves. As their sense of self grows, they feel like an important part of the family. They are growing in confidence and skills.

In addition:

      • Discuss why helping is important: “It takes all of us working together to make our house and family run smoothly.”

        • Make a list of chores that need to be done: feeding the dog, putting away laundry, and taking out the recycling.

        • Make a list of the chores your children would like to do first or learn how to do.

       • Create a final jobs list and categorize by family member, and whether the chore is daily, weekly, or monthly.

You can let your child know that you will also be doing your chores just like they will be doing theirs. After talking about chores and what they look like, come up with some chores that you both think would be beneficial for the household.

Here are some ideas:

Ages 4-5:

• Clear and set the table

• Dust items that are not fragile

• Help carry and put away groceries

• Put away toys

• Make their bed

• Water plants

Ages 6-8:

• Feed the pets

• Clean the floors

• Take out the trash

• Put away laundry

• Help wash dishes

Young children can help around the house in many ways. Children at different ages and stages of child development can handle different levels or complexities of chores. An older child might be able to load the dishwasher but a younger child can still pick up their toys after playing with them.

When talking to your younger children about chores, keep it simple. You can tell your child that “If we work together as a family to get chores done, then there is more time for fun.”

As a family, make a list of chores that need to be done. Then, talk about it as a family. Allow your child to add to the list and see if they can think of things they might want to help with. Figure out tasks your child can do on their own without needing much help.

As your child matures, give them age-appropriate tasks from the list. For example, you might start with picking up toys and putting them in a bucket when they are toddlers. Then, moving to clearing the dinner table when they are a bit older. Some children might need to see the list as things that need to get done throughout the day. Some chores need to be done in the morning or throughout the day or specifically at night. This way they can have a chore or two during each part of the day.

After talking about the list and letting them have input, allow your child to choose a few tasks they would like to work on. You might need to help them pick a few tasks if they are unsure. Once you and your child have picked out a few chores, make a list of what they will be working on. This list can be written in words or have pictures to remind your children what the task looks like. Try this for a few weeks and see how they are doing. Do they need something harder to work on or are they doing ok with this task? You can decide this based on how your child is doing.

Be sure to give lots of praise when your child works on their chore. It is important to praise effort, as well as a job well done. Help your child feel proud of themselves for trying hard, following through and completing the task. At first, as your child is learning, you can do the chore together, then watch them do it on their own. They will be thrilled to show you what they learned! Be patient and give them lots of encouragement and time to learn. Soon, they will be independently doing their chores with gentle reminders. Once they start to initiate doing their chore on their own, it’s time to celebrate!

Your child might push back when you ask them to do chores. Making a game out of it can sometimes help—such as using a timer, or seeing who can put toys away the fastest. Your patience and persistence will pay off, and you may have a new helper around the house!

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis, and Kalina Glover-Moresi. 

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