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A Chore Chart for Kids

Danielle Bullen
Oct. 6, 2014

5 tips for getting kids to help with chores and what tasks they should be doing at each age.

Dishes stacked in the sink, action figures strewn all over the living room floor and clothes spilling out of hampers. Does this chaotic scene sound familiar? As a busy parent, keeping your house in shape can sometimes feel like a tall order.

Get family members to help, especially kids. This is a great opportunity to teach them responsibility and how important it is to contribute.

"As caregivers, one of our tasks is to teach children how to gradually take on more responsibility, be organized and ultimately grow into adults who can take care of their own basic needs," says Yolanda N. Evans, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital and co-author of parenting blog Teenology 101. "Household chores are one of the first steps to accomplishing these goals."

Here are helpful tips for figuring out which chores are developmentally appropriate for your child and how to get them to comply without nagging. And check out the chart at the bottom of the page.

  1. Start Young
    "Start from the very beginning," suggests Kathleen Bechelmann, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson, pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital and co-founder of parenting blog Children's MD. "By age 13-to-14-months, they can clean up spills."
  2. Lend a Hand
    Any chore requires training. The first few times, do a chore with your child. Then when he or she has confidence, encourage them to do it alone. And don't criticize if it's not done exactly how you would want it. Praise the effort and next time show how you would do it.

    Ask your nanny or babysitter to work on these chores with your kids, too.
  3. Get the Right Equipment
    Age-appropriate equipment is a big plus when encouraging little hands to pitch in. A kid-sized broom for sweeping or watering can for taking care of plants can go a long way in making your child feel helpful.
  4. Make it Fun
    "Keep it fun and interesting by changing things up each week or month, adding chores as children get older, or for younger kids add music or make chores part of a game," says Dr. Evans.

    Here are 8 Ways to Have Fun Cleaning.
  5. Create Habits
    Children respond well to specific tasks, especially when they're younger. Instead of telling your seven-year-old to clean her room, tell her to make her bed or put her clothes away. Routines also drive positive behavior. "It's easier to create a habit if we make it part of a routine," says Dr. Evans. The same is true of completing chores."

    As for avoiding nagging, with her own children, Dr. Bechelmann sets an alarm on her phone. When that train whistle sounds, it's chores time. Post a chores chart, which shows who is responsible for what household task and when it should be done.

After all, "Chores are much more than contributing to the family. It teaches positive processing," says Dr. Bechelmann. It's easier for a parent to do a task themselves, but chores are about what you give to your child in terms of self-worth and how they can help the household.

Want more advice? Follow these 9 Tips for Teaching Kids Responsibility.

Chore Chart: What Kids Can Do at What Age

2 to 3 years old

  • Put toys away
  • Put dirty clothes into a hamper
  • Wipe up small spills with a cloth or paper towel
  • Dust low furniture
  • Hang up clothes
  • Fold napkins in half and put one at each plate before dinner
  • Stack books and magazines
  • Put shoes away (in the closet or mud room)
  • Carry his or her own plate to the sink after meals

4 to 5 years old

  • Make his or her bed -- pull up blanket and arrange pillows
  • Water plants using child-sized watering can
  • Bring mail inside
  • Fill bowl with cereal and milk for breakfast
  • Take utensils out of dishwasher and put in drawer
  • Wash plastic cups, dishes and utensils
  • Use hand-held vacuum in small areas
  • Fill the pet's food bowl (with supervision)
  • Match socks in the clean laundry
  • Hang up towels in the bathroom
  • Help carry light groceries from the car
  • Help sort his or her own dirty laundry to be washed (whites, colors, etc.)
  • Brush the dog or cat with a parent's assistance

6 to 8 years old

  • Load the dishwasher
  • Set the table for meals
  • Put away clean and folded laundry
  • Sweep the floor
  • Help unpack groceries
  • Pull weeds
  • Rake leaves
  • Empty indoor trash cans/waste baskets
  • Replace toilet paper roll
  • Feed the pet (and give it water!)
  • Practice simple tricks with the family pet (sit, shake hands, fetch)

9 to 10 years old

  • Walk the dog
  • Fix snacks
  • Hunt down easy-to-find items in grocery store with you
  • Help wash the family cars
  • Vacuum
  • Brush dog or cat without assistance
  • Clean pet cages (dog crate, cat litter box, rabbit or small animal cage)
  • Take trash to the curb for pickup
  • Sweep floors/porches
  • Set the table

11 to 12 years old

  • Wash, dry, fold and put away clothes
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Unload the dishwasher and put away dishes
  • Change their bed sheets
  • Prepare easy meals (toast, sandwich, scrambled eggs)
  • Bathe the pet
  • Pick up dog droppings in the yard
  • Empty and change the vacuum bag
  • Mow the lawn (with supervision)
  • Mop floors
  • Vacuum interior of car

Danielle Bullen is a writer and editor from the greater Philadelphia area. When she's not writing, she's reading whatever she can get her hands on, trying new foods and restaurants, and practicing yoga and Zumba.

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