As I walked my dog today I saw a 10-year-old boy mowing the lawn, his 8-year-old brother cleaning out the garage and his 5-year-old sister sweeping the sidewalk. I gave the mom a big thumbs up as I walked by.
Perhaps this mom knows that the number one predictor of a child’s success as a young adult is whether or not the child had chores growing up. And the magic age to start is 3. If your child is older, don’t worry, there are still plenty of benefits. (See below for more details on the study and the long list of benefits kids get from doing chores regularly.)
Summer is the perfect time to begin or beef up a chore program but where do you begin? Here are nine steps to get you going, and a list of age-appropriate chores.
To Get Started:
1. Have a family meeting to talk about the importance of chores. Ask the kids if they want to help pick what chores they’ll do? (Or you will just assign chores.)
2. Get the kids’ input and then assign age-appropriate chores. (See list below.)
3. Think about assigning a few daily chores like making the bed, picking up toys or unloading the dishwasher. Also consider assigning a few weekly chores such as dusting.
4. Build in an accountability system like a chart to check off assigned duties. Set deadlines for completion. Pictured below is a simple idea to get you started but Pinterest has lots of fun ideas. Here are other good ideas, too: http://mylistoflists.com/11-easy-chore-chart-systems-that-work/ These three apps have received positive reviews: Chore Hero; You Rule Chores; and Chore Monster.
(Photo courtesy of: www.organizedhomelife.com)
5. Teach the child how to do the chore(s). First have the child watch you, then do the chore side-by-side, then have the child do it independently and inspect their work. (This process can take weeks or even months so be patient.) It’s so worth it, though. So stick with it! This week my teenagers cleaned the whole house, did laundry, organized a party independently and made a yummy key lime pie.
6. Keep your child’s learning style, interests and personality in mind. For instance, if you have an active child who loves the outdoors, have them rake leaves.
7. Be creative and make it fun to do chores. Kids love fun more than anything else and I can promise you that going the extra mile to make it fun will pay off in spades in their desire to take part.
Consider wearing funny costumes while doing chores. A friend of mine calls herself the “cleaning goddess” and wears glamorous clothes while cleaning.
Put on some fun music. For years, my girls and I cleaned bathrooms together dancing and singing Beach Boys’ songs while cleaning the mirrors, toilet and countertops.
You can have the kids create dusting socks (pictured below), be the chore cheerleader, be the “queen of clean” while wearing a tiara, or play Cinderella and have them go to “the ball” after they’ve cleaned the house in their ragged clothes.
8. You’ll have more success if the whole family does the weekly chores at the same time and then does something fun when chores are complete.
9. Have a brief 5-min. meeting each week to review how chores are going. Then, rotate chores to teach kids multiple skills.
10. You do not need to pay kids to do chores. Kids should do chores because they’re part of the family. They make messes. They should help pick up messes.
This list is meant as a guide. It’s divided by age, yet children can accomplish the tasks listed in earlier age brackets, so review those tasks, too, then add your own ideas.
- Pick up toys
- Sort socks by color
- Rip lettuce
- Wipe up spills
- 3-4 Year-Olds
- Sort clothes by color
- Put dirty laundry in hamper
- Put clean clothes in drawers
- Dust with a cloth
- Rinse vegetables and fruits
- Put away shopping items i.e. toilet paper, paper towels
- Clear plate
5-6 Year Olds
- Sort recyclables
- Set table
- Clear table
- Make bed
- Pull weeds
- Pour drinks (with the right pitcher)
- 7-9 Year Olds
- Load/unload dishwasher
- Food/water for a pe
- Water plants
- Make snacks/sandwiches for school
- Pick out school clothes
- Fold laundry
- Get mail/open mail
- Clean mirrors/windows
10-12 Year Olds
- Do laundry (with guidance)
- Bathe the dog
- Wash the car
- Take out garbage/recycling
- Wash patio furniture
- Scrub sinks/clean bathrooms
- Make a light meal
- Wipe off counters
- Put away groceries
- All of the above
- Opening mail
- Shredding documents
- Snow removal
- Watering plants/lawn
- Grocery shopping
- Cooking meals
Details on the Study:
A longitudinal study to determine the most reliable predictor of a young adult’s success followed kids from birth until they reached their mid-20s. The definition of “success” was whether the young adults had healthy relationships, they were not addicted to drugs or alcohol, had completed school and were on a career path. (The study was conducted by Diana Baumrind in California and Marty Rossmann, associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, analyzed the data.)
Why were chores so closely aligned with success?
1. Chores teach kids responsibility.
2. Chores build teamwork.
3. Chores teach about goal setting, time management and breaking a project into smaller steps.
4. Chores build a sense of pride and accomplishment when complete.
5. Chores increase self-esteem.
6. Chores teach kids life-long skills and self-care.
7. Chores encourage consideration of others.
8. Chores help kids learn how to delay gratification.
And of course, the added benefit is that your home will be more pleasant and orderly to live in. When there’s disarray in the home, it can lead to “mental chaos” and make it hard to focus.
When young adults did not grow up doing chores, researcher Jean Illsley Clarke found that they felt embarrassed and distressed because they didn’t have the skill set they needed to be independent. They felt incompetent. In contrast, kids who grew up with chores feel confident and competent when it comes time to live independently.
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