Children seem to have a natural inclination to help their parents out. My sons followed me around with their own feather duster or toy vacuum almost from the time they could walk.
Now that they are older, they have specific chores that need to be completed in order for them to earn their allowance. Although the chores can usually be done quicker by me (seriously, who takes 45 minutes to fold socks?!), I believe there are important reasons to include my children in the weekly household chores.
Skills: If all goes according to plan, they will eventually move out of our home. Unless they suddenly develop an incredible gift for singing or sports that has not yet appeared, they will not be able to afford a maid and a chef in their early 20s. Skills they learn now will benefit them in young adulthood.
Responsibility: Having a daily or weekly assignment teaches them accountability to the family and respect for our home.
Sense of community: Every member of the family needs to pitch in and help. The more everyone helps, the sooner chores get done, which means more time to spend having fun together.
Accomplishment: The successful completion of a task gives children (and adults) a feeling of achievement and accomplishment. They may not fold their pants as neatly as I would like, but they get better every time and feel proud of the work they do. I try not to re-do their work... at least not in front of them!
It's important, of course, to assign developmentally-appropriate chores. To keep track of chores, you can create your own chore chart on a spreadsheet, use a dry erase board or chalkboard, or even try a chore app.
1 to 2 years old
- Picking up toys. Make it a game or play music and kids will jump right in.
- Cleaning with mom and dad. Use cleaning toys, empty spray bottles, and dry cloths.
- Assisting with meal preparation, primarily emptying measuring cups and spoons into bowls.
- Moving clothes from the washing machine to the dryer if you have a front-loader.
2 to 4 years old
- Putting toys away in specific bins. Use pictures on bins and baskets to assist in the sorting and organizing process.
- Dusting with dry socks on their hands or with a feather duster. Kids are the perfect size for dusting the baseboards!
- Assisting with meal preparation, including learning to measure and stirring.
- Sorting laundry by color.
4 to 6 years old
- Making bed and keeping room clean.
- Emptying the silverware compartment of the dishwasher.
- Setting the table for meals.
- Matching and folding socks.
- Putting away clean clothes.
6 to 8 years old
- Making a simple breakfast, such as toast or cereal.
- Helping to pack lunch for school. This is also a great opportunity to talk about balanced meals.
- Assisting with laundry by learning how to use the machines and how much detergent to use.
- Helping with dishes by rinsing and loading the dishwasher.
9 to 12 years old
- Wash dishes independently.
- Wash clothes independently, including folding clothes.
- Complex meal preparation, including learning how to use knives safely.
- Care and maintenance of bikes and other toys.
13 to 17 years old
- Teens can handle virtually any responsibility if shown how to do it properly. Now is the time to teach everything from buying groceries and comparative shopping to learning simple maintenance on household items to balancing a checkbook.