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 in chores is good for everyone.
Household chores: good for children, good for the whole family
Children can learn a lot from doing household chores.
Doing chores helps children learn about what they need to do to care for themselves, a home and a family. They learn skills they can use in their adult lives, like preparing meals, cleaning, organising and keeping a garden.
Being involved in chores also gives children experience of relationship skills like communicating clearly, negotiating, cooperating and working as a team.
When children contribute to family life, it helps them feel competent and responsible. Even if they don’t enjoy the chore, when they keep going they get the feeling of satisfaction that comes with finishing a task.
And sharing housework can also help families work better and reduce family stress. When children help out, chores get done sooner, and parents have less to do. This frees up time for the family to spend doing fun things together.
How to get children involved in chores
The secret for involving children in household chores is asking for contributions that you value and that suit your children’s ages and abilities. 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 a young child can start to help out if you choose activities that are right for his age. You can start with simple jobs like looking after his own toys. Chores like this send the message to your child that his contribution is important.
It’s also important to think about chores or tasks that get your child involved in caring for the family as a whole. A simple one is getting your child to help with setting or clearing the table. Jobs like these are likely to give your child a sense of responsibility and participation.
If your child is old enough, you can have a family discussion about chores. This can reinforce the idea that the whole family contributes to how the household runs. Children over six years old can help decide which chores they’d prefer.
You can motivate your child to get involved in chores by:
- doing the chore together until your child is ready to do it on her own
- being clear about what each person’s chores are for each day or week – write them down so they’re easy to remember
- talking about why it’s great that a particular job has been done
- showing an interest in how your child has done the job
praising positive behaviour
- using a reward chart to track completed chores and give small rewards like choosing a TV program or family meal.
Lots of encouragement keeps children interested in helping. If your child’s first efforts aren’t that great, you can boost his chances of success by explaining the job again. Keep telling your child he’s doing well. This way, he’ll feel rewarded.
Pocket money for children’s chores
Linking your child’s chores to pocket money might lead to bargaining about how much chores are worth. It might also interfere with the idea of doing chores just because everyone in the family has a responsibility to help.
But if your child feels motivated by doing chores for pocket money, go with it. You might even consider giving bonuses for extra chores if your child is saving for something special.
If you decide to pay pocket money for chores, explain chores clearly so there’s no confusion or bargaining about what needs to be done and when.
Some families don’t link chores to pocket money, but might pay extra pocket money for extra chores.
Chores for kids of 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 and so on.
Here are some ideas for chores for children of different ages.
Toddlers (2-3 years)
- Pick up toys and books.
- Put clothes on clothes hooks.
- Set placemats on the dinner table.
Preschoolers (4-5 years)
- 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.
School-age children (6-8 years)
- Water the garden and indoor plants.
- Feed pets.
- Clean the bathroom sink, wipe down kitchen benches, mop floors or take out rubbish.
- Help hang out clothes and fold washing.
- Put away crockery and cutlery.
- Help with choosing meals and shopping.
- Help with meal preparation and serving, under supervision.
You can keep your child motivated by letting her change jobs from time to time, to keep pace with her changing interests. This is also a way of rotating chores fairly among family members.