Parents often struggle with how to best navigate chores with their children.
For some families, allowing their child to not engage in family chores or to keep a messy room is acceptable. Other families want their child to clean up, but become exhausted by the power struggle and give up.
Are chores for kids beneficial?
Laura Linn Knight, author of “Break Free from Reactive Parenting,” told TODAY Parents that it is normal to want your child to contribute to family chores and a clean space, without having to nag or punish.
"As a parenting educator, mother of two and former elementary school teacher, I do believe that chores can teach children to be contributing members of the home, build organizational skills and help children grow into adults that are better able to maintain a clean and organized home," Knight said. "With that said, it is important that chores do not exceed what a child is capable of and that chores are done within a reasonable amount of time."
Knight shared that in her family, chores are not tied to rewards or punishments.
"We all help in our home, because we want our home to be a clean space where we can enjoy fun family time," she said.
Knight cautioned that using too many rewards or punishments can dilute the core values associated with chores.
"Remember, having children help in the home isn’t just helpful for you as the parent, but it is instilling values that will help your child throughout their life," Knight said.
Age appropriate chore list for kids
Knight said that a child’s age will make a big difference in how accountable they can be in keeping their personal space clean and organized and how much they can help with common family areas.
"For a younger child, it will be important for a parent to be present for the cleanup process so that the child doesn’t become overwhelmed," she said.
The parenting educator and author said an example might be a parent asking questions to motivate their young child to think about where toys go in the room and helping them when necessary.
Questions might include:
“Where do these stuffed animals go?”
“Can you please show me where you put your special shells?”
“Can you please show me how you put away your games?”
Knight said it might also look like supporting a child as they use the vacuum cleaner, wipe down the counters, put away the dishes from the dishwasher, separating the clothes from the dryer so that you can fold them together and any other ideas parents have to make cleanup time helpful.
"The most important thing about family chores is that you create the list of chores together as a family," Knight said. "You want your child to be engaged in this process and feel like they are contributing to the cleanliness of the home rather than it being an order. This will create motivation rather than rebellion."
For both a younger and an older child, it is important to remember that there is some training and supervision required by parents for cleaning to be effective long term.
"If you have been struggling with this for some time now, don’t despair," Knight said. "Take a deep breath, allow any stress to release, and know that you are on the right track to teaching your child valuable life skills. Remember, these life skills include how to make agreements, follow routines, organize their space, and be part of a larger family unit."
Chores Ages 5 — 7:
- Putting away toys in their room (your child may need some support)
- Helping to fold laundry
- Sorting laundry
- Clearing the table
- Setting the table
- Watering plants and flowers
- Washing windows (this can be lots of fun!)
Chores For Ages 8 — 10:
- Putting away the dishes
- Cleaning up their room
- Putting clothes away
- Washing the dishes
- Helping with dinner
- Helping with pets
- Making their bed in the morning
Chores For Ages 10+:
- Feeding pets
- Sweeping and mopping
- Washing clothes and putting them away
- Keeping their room clean
- Washing the car
- Helping with younger siblings
- Vacuuming the inside of the car
- Changing the bed sheets
- Doing yard work
Tips for household chores for kids
Knight told TODAY that because a young child often doesn’t have the stamina for a big cleaning project, it is helpful to set a timer and come up with a cleaning plan.
"You may try setting the timer for 3 to 5 minutes of cleaning in the morning or 3 to 5 minutes of cleaning during the evening," she said. "For some families it will work well to do this daily, or you may want to try an every other day routine."
For an older child that has not had experience with chores, Knight shared that a similar approach will work.
"Children don’t instinctively always know how to clean and organize," Knight said. "So parents will want to spend some time teaching their child these important skills."
After an older child has learned how to do chores with a parent’s help, they can become more independent in the process.
"For an older child that has learned how to do chores, you can start by sitting down with your child and deciding what agreements will be made around chores in the home," Knight said.