Just about all families expect children to contribute in some way to family life. Some children have household chores or jobs they’re responsible for every day or week. Other children help out when their parents ask them to. Either way, getting children involved benefits everyone.
Benefits of getting children involved in household chores
Research shows that children learn in many ways about family relationships and how their family functions. Being involved in household chores is one way they can learn.
When children contribute to family life, it also helps them feel competent and responsible. Sharing housework can minimise stress in a family. Getting kids involved in chores helps the family work better.
When we think ‘jobs’, we might also think long commutes, cranky managers, ticking deadlines and constant pressure. But for children, a ‘job’ can be a ticket to a grown-up world where they can take on grown-up responsibilities and learn grown-up skills.
How to get children involved in chores – and motivated!
The secret is asking for contributions that you value and that suit your children’s age and ability. A chore that’s too hard for a child can be frustrating – or even dangerous – and one that’s too easy might be boring.
Even young children can start to help out if you choose activities that are right for their age. You can start with simple jobs like looking after their own toys or rooms. These send the message to children that their contribution is important.
It’s also important to think about chores or tasks that get children involved in caring for the family as a whole. For example, get them to help with setting or clearing the table. Jobs like these are more likely to promote a sense of responsibility and participation.
If your children are old enough, you can have a family discussion. This can reinforce that the whole family contributes to how the household runs. Children over six years old can help decide which chores they’d prefer.
What about pocket money?
Researchers also think it’s better not to give incentives such as pocket money for doing chores that contribute to the household. Try instead to give children the idea that helping out makes you happy and makes them an important part of the family.
Lots of encouragement keeps children interested in helping. If their first efforts aren’t that great, you can also boost their chances of success by explaining the job again. Keep telling them they’re doing well and helping mummy or daddy. This way, they’ll feel rewarded.
Suggested chores for different ages
Children can help out around the house in many different ways. For example, they can simply go outside to play when the grown-ups need to do big jobs in the house. Some families expect older children to help with younger children – amusing them, distracting them, protecting them.
Here are some ideas of chores for children of different ages.
- Pick up toys and books.
- Put clothes on clothes hooks.
- Set placemats on the dinner table.
- Set the table for meals.
- Help with preparing meals, under supervision.
- Help put clean clothes into piles for each family member, ready to fold.
- Help with grocery shopping and putting away groceries.
- Hand you wet clothes to be hung out to dry.
- Water the garden and indoor plants.
- Take care of food and clean water for pets.
- Help carry garden refuse, under supervision.
- Clean bathroom sink.
- Wipe down kitchen benches.
- Help wash and hang out clothes.
- Help fold dry washing.
- Mop floors.
- Put away crockery and cutlery.
- Do some dusting.
- Take out rubbish.
- Help with meal preparation and serving, under supervision.
You can help keep kids motivated by letting them change jobs from time to time, to keep pace with their changing interests. This is also a way of rotating chores fairly among family members.