Chores Make Happy Children
None of us particularly likes chores but we do them because they are necessary. In fact, we probably do more than our fair share of the chores, which is why it’s okay to pass a few on to our kids. Chores teach children teamwork, time management, work ethic and they delay gratification which pays off in schoolwork later down the road.
Research shows that the best predictor of success in terms of completing school, holding a job and having healthy relationships was whether people did chores when they were children, even as young as three and four years old.
Chores Make Children Kind
And since it is our greatest desire to raise kind, prepared and successful kiddos, we should be teaching them chores. Chores require children to look out for the best interest of the family, not just themselves. Their jobs contribute to the entire household, and when they feel their contribution was helpful, they feel needed. Who doesn’t want to feel needed? Feeling needed leads to caring for others, practicing empathy and taking initiative -- all important skills of becoming a good human.
However, many parents don’t require chores of their kids. Some say their kids are too busy with activities and school. Or they consider school to be a chore and others simply don’t like the way kids do chores. Diverting attention away from chores and wholly on a child’s achievements and happiness can lead to some upsetting consequences. Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd and his colleagues surveyed over 10,000 middle- and high school students and found that nearly 80 percent said they valued their own happiness and achievement over caring for others.
Chores Are Valuable
So while happiness and achievements are perfectly fine hopes to have for our kids, there is a well-rounded approach to getting them and that is the simple act of a chore. When a parent requires a teenager to do the dishes after dinner and before homework, it sends the message that you value that contribution to the family and the home highly. Doing the dishes and doing homework are equally important and equally necessary to becoming a responsible adult.
It’s that simple and subtle. And hey, chores are cheap so what do you have to lose?
Here’s a list of age-appropriate chores you can try today. The list spans toddlerhood to adulthood and is customizable. Pick and choose tasks that your child already does and a few to challenge her. Find more chores by age on our Pinterest Board: Mom Life + Tips.
Chores Are Not Too Hard
And don’t be skimpy! Did you know children as young as four and five are developmentally ready to sort or fold laundry, even start a dishwasher? If they can operate video games or wireless devices, you’d be surprised what else they can do.
Toddlers already love helping mommy and daddy around the house, so these one- and two-step tasks are perfect for their small hands and attention spans. This age is also very visual, so it helps to see you do the job too. Choose only a few chores for them to do every day, not too many.
- Put toys and books away in tubs and baskets or on shelves
- Wipe table
- Dust baseboards (put socks on his hands!)
- Put dirty clothes in the hamper
- Dress themselves with clothing that’s not too complicated
- Put their clothes away in drawers.
- Throw away garbage and recycling in the proper bin
- Put dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher
- Put clean dishes away where they can reach
- Sort silverware
- Grab their own dish and utensil for mealtime
- Fold washcloths, pillowcases and dish rags
- Feed the dog or cat
Pre-schoolers thrive on rewards and love to count. Create a chore chart to visually show them what needs to be done and let them cross it off the list once completed. Try counting along with these chores like, “You are holding two plates” when helping with dishes, or “Can you put three cars in the basket?” when helping tidy up.
- Sort dirty laundry by colors (lights, darks, whites)
- Fold shirts and pants (Mari Kondo’s kids do it, so can yours!)
- Match socks
- Put clean laundry away
- Dry dishes
- Sweep with a kid-sized broom
- Clear their place at the table
- Wipe up spills and accidents
- Wipe bathroom sink
- Make bed
- Straighten their room
- Brush dogs
- Empty the trash
- Water plants
- Prepare their own snacks
As children learn cause and effect and embrace more independence, they also learn about consequences. If a child chooses not to put her dirty clothes in the hamper, then they won’t get washed. But when they do their chores, they get positive results. The pattern of cause and effect teaches children to be proactive.
- Set and clear the table for the whole family
- Put away groceries
- Peel and chop vegetables. (Teach knife safety early and always use a sharp knife.)
- Make school lunch
- Take care of pets
- Unload the dishwasher
- Take out the trash
- Do their own laundry (It helps to post a step-by-step guide on the washing machine)
- Wash mirrors
- Refill empty toilet paper
Your child will start developing her opinions about the way things should be done. Give her this autonomy! By owning a task and taking full responsibility for it, she takes pride in her efforts. They may also have a preference for which chores they do. Agree on the chores and encourage them to be consistent with it.
- Load the dishwasher/Wash dishes
- Make school lunch
- Prep meals as a sous chef
- Write a grocery list
- Clean toilets
- Clean room
- Weed the garden
- Rake leaves
- Bring in the mail
- Operate the washer and dryer
- Wash the car
Before you know it, your baby is going to be out of the house. Now is the time to hold your child accountable for their duties and introduce more jobs that teach life skills like such as meal prep. Manage them but try not to micromanage. They will learn best from their mistakes.
- Do the family's laundry
- Wash windows
- Clean out the fridge
- Plan and prepare more complicated meals
- Replace light bulbs
- Replace vacuum cleaner bags or clean out the canister
- Clean bathroom
- Grocery shopping
- Take pets to the vet
- Mow the lawn
- Chop kindling and firewood
- Clear gutters
Chores Make Parents Patient
It’s guaranteed that your little one will not do their chores perfectly. If you were hoping to see an immaculate kitchen counter, then you will probably be disappointed. Teach your children your standard of clean, then let them have at it. With continued practice, they will get better, quicker and more efficient.
You might be tempted to “fix” what they’ve done when they’re not looking. Don’t do this. Children will notice and it could hurt their feelings. Or worse, they’ll lose motivation to do their best since mommy will re-do it anyway.
Chores benefit children in so many ways. Daily chores require children to be consistent and attentive to the needs of their family and home. Consequently, they learn to be reliable, proactive, independent and empathetic. Set your self-starters up for success by choosing a few chores from the lists above. They don’t need to do everything on the list to become successful people, just a few here and there that match their capabilities and developmental level and others that challenge their gross motor skills and problem-solving.
For more ideas, view our Pinterest board Mom Life + Tips.