Household chores: good for children, good for your 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 gardening.
Being involved in chores also gives children experience of relationship skills like communicating clearly, negotiating, cooperating and working as a team.
And when children contribute to family life, they might feel competent and responsible. Even if they don’t enjoy the chore, when they keep going they can feel satisfied that they’ve finished the 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 do fun things together.
How to get children involved in chores
It’s best to start by choosing chores that work for children’s ages and abilities. Chores that are too hard can be frustrating – or even dangerous – and chores that are too easy might be boring.
Even young children can help with chores if you choose activities that are right for their age. You can start with simple jobs like packing up toys. Chores like this send the message that your child’s 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 6 years old can have a say in which chores they do.
You can motivate your child to get involved in chores by:
- doing the chore together until your child can do it on their own
- being clear about each person’s chores for the 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 like doing chores without being asked
- using a reward chart when you introduce a new chore.
Plenty of encouragement keeps children interested in helping. You can boost your child’s chances of success by explaining the job and telling your child they’re doing well. It’s also a good idea to thank your child for their contribution. This models gratitude and helps your child feel valued.
Pocket money for children’s chores
Some children are motivated to do chores for pocket money. But some families believe all family members have a responsibility to help, so they don’t give pocket money for chores.
If you decide to pay pocket money for chores, explain chores clearly and make sure the chores are regular, so there’s no confusion or bargaining about what needs to be done and when. For example, tell your child that tidying up their bedroom involves making their bed and putting their clothes away, and they need to do this each day.
Some families don’t link chores to pocket money but might pay extra pocket money for extra chores.
Chores for children of different ages
Here are ideas for chores for children of different ages.
Toddlers (2-3 years)
- Help to tidy up toys after playtime.
- Help to put laundry in the washing machine.
- Help to fill a pet’s water bowl.
Preschoolers (4-5 years)
- Set the table for meals.
- Help to prepare meals, under supervision.
- Help to put clean clothes into piles for each family member, ready to fold.
- Help to do the grocery shopping and put away groceries.
School-age children and pre-teens (6-11 years)
- Water the garden and indoor plants.
- Feed pets.
- Help to hang out clothes and fold washing.
- Take out rubbish.
- Help to choose meals and do the shopping.
- Help to prepare and serve meals, under supervision.
- Vacuum or sweep floors.
- Clean the bathroom sink, wipe down kitchen benches, or mop floors.
- Empty the dishwasher.
Teenagers (12-18 years)
Teenagers can do the chores they did when they were younger, but they can be responsible for doing them on their own.
Teenagers can also take on more difficult chores. For example, teenagers could do the washing, clean the bathroom and toilet, mow lawns, stack the dishwasher, do basic grocery shopping, or cook a simple family meal once a week.
When choosing chores for teenagers, think of the skills you’d like them to learn.
You can keep children motivated by letting them change jobs from time to time. This is also a way of rotating chores fairly among family members.