Giving kids chores helps them develop skills and confidence that last a lifetime! Use this guide to help you plan and implement the chore system that works best for you and your kids.
Do you ever daydream about what your home life would be like if your kids helped out more? Like REALLY helped out? Imagine the toys picked up, coats hung neatly on their pegs, the kitchen table cleared away after dinner… all without nagging or cajoling?
For a lot of us, that idea can feel like a complete fantasy. And if your kids are getting bigger (and bigger kids = bigger messes!) you might fear that you “missed the window” to teach them to contribute to the household in a meaningful way.
Fortunately, it IS possible to teach kids to pitch in, and it’s never too late to start.
The Hidden Value of Chores
“If kids aren’t doing chores, it means someone else is doing them for them, and so they’re absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the good of the whole.” -Lythcott-Haims
When all members of the family contribute, everyone gets to experience feelings of teamwork and family bonding. Chores bring families together around a shared purpose, and help your kids develop a good work ethic.
Even though your kids might complain about doing chores (especially while they’re adjusting to a new routine,) there’s plenty of evidence that chores have a positive influence on their growth and development.
One study found that childhood chores predicted success in adulthood! And the earlier the kids started, the better the outcome. Most experts suggest starting to teach kids to do formal chores when they are three to four years old.
Your household runs on a system with many moving parts. As you get started assigning chores to your kids, follow these steps:
- Take time to think about how want your family to be in this space. What needs to be done so your household can run more smoothly? What concrete skills do you want your kids to learn? What qualities do you hope to foster in your kids, through chores?
- Build your system on paper. Chore charts reduce the need to nag because you and your kids can visually see if things are happening. You don’t necessarily need a printed ‘chore chart,’ but you do need somewhere that you can write things down where everyone can see what needs to be done.
- Get the ball rolling. You don’t need to wait until your system is perfectly created to get started. (Your system will probably evolve as your kids grow older, anyway!) Decide on something, get it down on paper, and try it out. You can always adjust along the way.
Remember: before you assign a chore and send kids on their way, show them how to do the chore and set an expectation of how you would like it done. This teaching moment might have to happen more than once, especially for younger kids.
Chores and Charts for Kids Ages 3-5
This age is when most kids can first start to have formal chores. Before age three, a lot of kids get excited about helping and its OK to let them! Once they turn three, they can then start doing things in a more structured way, and they might surprise you with their capacity to help out.
Age Appropriate Chore Ideas:
- Pick up toys
- Empty mini garbage bins
- Help set the table
- Fold washcloths
- Dust baseboards
- Put clothes in the hamper
- Help make bed
- Put folded clothes away
- Unload silverware from the dishwasher
- Match socks
- Straighten bookshelf
- Fold pants
- Sort laundry
- Sweep sidewalk
- Pull small weeds
Chore Monster: Kids get to feed the monster cookies as they check things of their list. When the monster’s cookies are gone, your chores are done!
Cookie Sheet Chart: An inexpensive DIY chart, made with a cookie sheet, complete with magnet pictures for each chore they should complete each day. Great for non-readers.
Simple Flip Chart: A simple DIY chart with pictures for non-readers. Kids flip tabs to show if the task has been done.
Washi Tape Magnet Chore Chart: An interchangeable chore chart making it easy to switch out jobs, and more jobs as kids grow. Entirely reusable (no stickers!)
Chores and Charts for Kids Ages 6-9
By age six, many kids are growing more responsible and can complete more complicated tasks. Their motor skills are typically improving, as well as their ability to focus. They can use more advanced tools.
Age appropriate chore ideas:
- Sweep Floors
- Vacuum Bedroom
- Clean Mirrors
- Wipe down bathroom sink
- Fold and put away laundry
- Water plants
- Empty dishwasher
- Organize toys
- Clear table after meals
- Wipe down walls
- Dry dishes and put them away
- Make bed
- Easy cooking: scrambled eggs, bake cookies, peel vegetables
- Put groceries away
- Wipe off table and chairs
- Clean kitchen sink
DIY Paint Chip Chore Chart: Use stickers to show chores have been completed and create motivation.
Spinning Wheel Chore Chart: Uses photos and a circular design making it fun to spin the wheel to find out which chores the kids get to do.
Chore Punch Cards: A punch card system that incentivizes kids to do chores and earn rewards.
Pick a Chore: Simple sticker chart and chore sticks that kids can choose to earn extra money.
Chores and Charts for Kids Ages 10-13
Age appropriate chore ideas:
- Clean bathrooms
- Vacuum floors
- Mop kitchen floor
- Sweep out garage
- Wash and dry laundry
- Hand wash dishes
- Wash windows
- Clean out the fridge
- Clean out the car
Dry Erase Whiteboard Chore Chart: Based on the Love and Logic ‘contributions’ method. Beautifully designed and will look good no matter where you put it!
Magnetic Chore Checklist: Simple, customizable chart that adds daily points that lends to a reward system. Comes in a variety of colors and styles.
Magnetic Dry Erase Chore Chart: This chore chart provides columns for the days of the week and rows for the various chores around the house.
Chores and Charts for Kids Ages 14-18
Age appropriate chore ideas:
- Iron clothes
- Make full meals/meal plan
- Clean tub/shower
- Mow the lawn
- Clean and organize garage
- Change lightbulbs
- Supervise younger sibling chores
- Simple home repairs
- Grocery Shop
- Deep clean kitchen and bathrooms
- Run errands (once they have a driver’s license)
Basic Weekly Printable Chore Chart: A customizable chart for teenagers making tasks or chores chart part of their everyday routine.
Morning and Evening Chore Chart: This chart is designed to keep track of both morning and evening chores on one chart, also comes with “chore zones” that will help your kids know which room they’re in charge of that week.
Systems for All Ages
Task Center Chore System: Three different systems that include a customizable chore chart, work for hire, and chore of the week that all are part of a task center.
Printable Reward Chore System: A chore chart system that rewards kids with tokens for doing the things that are expected of them. These tokens become their currency for things they can buy.
Family Do Dots System: This is a fun and motivating way to teach family members to be responsible and independent. It uses time-tested behavior concepts for children, combining a leveling system and a token economy into one easy-to-use system. The DoDots Family System comes with all of the supplies you need!
A Final Note About Chores
Housework can be a source of tension for many families, even when the work is shared. If you implement a new chore strategy you still don’t feel like it’s working after a month, it’s OK to scrap the old idea and start fresh!
Just keep trying until you find what works for you and your kids. And stay positive! When you approach chore time with a constructive and collaborative attitude, you’ll maximize the chances for long term success.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie