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It can be tricky to get children used to chores, but we’ve got some ideas to get you started

Quick notes:

– It’s best to start small and early
– Keep communication open with your kids
– Set manageable goals that all of you can keep track of

Getting kids started with a chore routine has all kinds of ups and downs. Is it too much? Too soon? Can they do it all by themselves or will they need help? How do I remind them without pestering?

The potential pitfalls are seemingly endless! Here are some great places to start and help your children manage their new chores along with a few suggestions for age-appropriate tasks.

Sit down with your kids

When you want to begin to establish clear chores for your child, sit down with them and discuss it first. Maybe even include a few crayons and a notebook to make a list of what you both agree should be their responsibility.

This teaches responsibility while also helping with motor skills. 

The easiest and perhaps most obvious and consistent place to start is making the bed. It’s important to let younger children (ages three and four) try to do this on their own, as it helps to develop their work ethic at a young age and also gives them a sense of pride in their work.

The same goes for simple, daily tasks such as feeding the family pet or putting the recycling in the bin. These teach responsibility while also helping with motor skills in a meaningful way. Preschool and kindergarten-aged children should also be responsible for the clear and directed tasks, like picking up toys and helping to put things away.

Remember to praise and reward your child when they do this correctly or without prompting. “That was so helpful, Braden, thank you!” This will give your kids more motivation to help in the future.

Reconnect to talk about new chores as they grow

Ages 5 through 8 are ready for more than simply tidying and making their bed.

Remember that school-aged children can be trusted with bigger or more time-consuming tasks as they get older. Ages 5 through 8 are ready for more than simply tidying and making their bed. Chores such as emptying the dishwasher and putting away the dishes are good places to start once your child is tall enough or can reasonably handle a step stool.

Other options could be bringing the laundry to the laundry room, putting the groceries away, and clearing the table after dinner. Not all of these are everyday tasks, of course, but this is where a visual aid can be especially helpful.

Consistency is key

The mind of a child is still growing. They sometimes need a clear, easily viewable guide to keep them on the right track. Just as you do with the initial list of chores that you came up with together, make the chart that’s a collaborative project, too.

Kids are more likely to stick to it when they know they’ve had a role in the decision-making process. Help them take ownership of their tasks by allowing them to put together their chore chart.

This also serves as a bit of a psychological trick.

First, divide up the chart by time schedule. Daily chores belong at the top because those will need your child’s attention every day. Weekly or intermittent tasks go at the bottom.

This also serves as a bit of a psychological trick. The eye goes to the top of a page as one would naturally read. Not only do the daily tasks at the top give children handy reminders, the checkmarks (or start stickers, or whatever you choose to use) also serve as excellent gentle praise.

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Incorporate family and community duties as you go

Growing into middle school years, chores mostly become about maintenance. They have already become used to picking up after themselves and helping out around the house. These are lessons in personal responsibility that can now extend into community and family responsibility.

This is when you can begin to add seasonal chores such as shoveling the walk or the driveway after it snows. In the summertime, it can include helping wash the car or brush the grill, even help with the yard work. Tasks like raking the leaves and picking up sticks and brush are easily incorporated into their responsibilities, and it teaches them about the value of teamwork and staying an active part of the family’s chores.

The tween years

A chore chart is still valuable, even as they get older.

Kids from ages 10 to 12 can be trusted with more intricate duties and they know not to swallow any bleach if you ask them to clean the bathroom. A chore chart is still valuable even as they get older. Take advantage of their willingness to treat their chart like a scorecard in a game before the teenage years hit.

All in all, remember to cater to your household needs, as well as the lessons you want to teach, to your child. Some kids will love helping to fold the laundry (matching socks is a great game for the little ones) and some kids will prefer things like bringing in the mail and the newspaper.

Whatever you and your kids decide is right for you that works with your day-to-day lives can be easily managed with communication and consistency.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:

How to get dad to help with chores | Parenting 101
More advice to get (and keep) the whole family involved! 

Money tips for kids: Easy ways to show how money works | Parenting 101
Lessons in responsibility continue with smart money moves.