Some parents are really motivated for their children to do chores. They begin with good intentions, making “chore charts”, and sit down with their children and explain how to meticulously tackle each chore step by step. But some parents wonder, should children do chores at all? And at what ages?
Should Children Do Chores?
If you’re on the fence, know that research has shown when children do chores, the benefits are enormous.
What parents need to understand is that the actual chores are not what is most important here; but rather the huge benefits that come from being given such responsibilities.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that a small child isn’t going to complete the job with the same perfection and success that you are – and that’s when the chores slowly start to fall back into your lap.
Here are 6 fantastic benefits to giving children household chores.
#1: Children Who Have Chores Are More Successful As Adults
Dr. Martin Rossman from the University of Minnesota undertook a longitudinal study (subjects were followed up over a period of 20 years) which revealed that one of the best predictors of a child’s success is if he or she began helping with household chores at the age of 3 to 4.
These children were less likely to use drugs and had better relationships, among many other significant benefits.
When children are given jobs to do when they are younger, they will develop confidence in their ability to complete tasks. This goes for very young children as well, because they are the ones always begging to help out with the cooking, the cleaning or the gardening.
Many parents of toddlers will be familiar with their dishwasher being hijacked by a well-meaning two or three year old wanting to help unstack it! Yet, many parents, tell young children “No, when you’re bigger”, or “You’re too little to do this!”, when actually we should be letting them try little tasks (that are safe and suitable for their age group) so our children can feel the success of doing something new on their own.
Many times, it’s more convenient as parents to just do it ourselves, to save time or make sure it’s done correctly, but we are missing out on valuable opportunities to help our children gain confidence. It could be the difference between a ‘can-do’ attitude and an ‘I can’t do it’ attitude as they grow up.
#2: Hands On Movement Will Help The Child With Gross And Fine Motor Skills
There are so many opportunities for small children to work with their hands around the house. Helping in the kitchen by measuring ingredients or drying dishes; helping in the garden by raking dirt or pulling weeds; and even chores such as dusting or sweeping are great for gross motor skills.
There are also opportunities to incorporate math or reading into chores. Tell your child to count out four potatoes, or have them dust only the items that have the letter D in them. Making it fun and helpful will keep your child engaged for a longer period of time.
#3: Children Who Do Chores Learn To Work Well With Others
If you have more than one child, have them work on a chore together. If not, you can have your child complete different jobs along with you.
It’s great for kids to compromise and assign themselves different roles, because it teaches them to be flexible. For example, one night you could wash the dishes and your child could rinse or dry, and then you switch roles the next night.
#4: Chores Will Teach Your Child About Delayed Gratification
Some parents may choose to reward chores with an allowance. Others might give their child a special treat at the end of the week if all of the chores were done. Whatever the currency is for your child completing chores, it is teaching him about delayed gratification; or working towards something later on.
In this world of instant gratification, it’s good for kids to see that they aren’t always compensated immediately for their actions. Sometimes, the compensation for chores might be that mom has time to play a board game on Saturday. This is teaching the child that if he helps mom with the chores, he will benefit from it in the long run.
#5: Chores Give Children A Purpose
Helping do things around the house makes a child feel a sense of ownership; like she is an important part of the household. This shows the child that you need and appreciate her help, so she will be more apt to want to help out on her own in the future.
Children want to feel important, and what’s more important than helping the household to run smoothly? They’ll feel like they’ve contributed to the well-being of the family, which in turn will build confidence and self-esteem. Children who participate in chores have been shown to be happier, even if they feel like the chore is a burden at the time.
#6: Chores Teach Children Self Discipline
There are many things in life that we have to do, even if we don’t feel like doing it. It’s often said that successful people are good at doing what other people don’t want to do or couldn’t be bothered doing – they have great self discipline.
It’s so important to be able to ‘show up’ in areas of your life even when you don’t feel like it – this includes school, work and even relationships. Self discipline is an essential skill required to do well in many areas of life.
Responsibilities Vs Chores
A really good distinction to make with your children is what’s considered a chore, and what’s considered a responsibility.
For example, depending on your child’s age of course, but a responsibility might be to put their washing in the clothes washing basket, or hanging up their coat. Whereas a chore might be helping to load the dishwasher, or assisting a parent to make meals.
How Many Chores Should Children Do?
How many chores you give your children should depend on their age. While children are very young, one chore is enough to help them learn about the power of contribution and team work.
It may help to create a list of age appropriate chores which need to be done for the day, then allow your child to pick the chore he or she wants to do. When given a choice, you’ll find your children will likely be more willing to help.
When deciding what chores to offer your child, always take into consideration where your child is at developmentally. Below is a guide to help, but you know your child best. At the end of the day, the magic comes from contribution and effort, not the actual task.
What Chores Can 2 or 3 Year Olds Do?
At two or three years old, obviously the chores will need to be very basic.
If you need to fold washing, you could have your child pass you the next item of washing to fold. If they’re interested in folding too, they can learn to fold something simple, like dish cloths. Yes, those of us with OCD may struggle with the non-neatly folded cloth. But we didn’t walk the very first time we tried either! We perfected it eventually, because we got started somewhere.
A 2-3 year old could also help you set the dinner table, pick up any clothes, blankets or pillows from the floor. A duster can make cleaning fun – request your child dust the skirting boards, or something else easy to reach.
What Chores Can 5 Year Olds Do?
If you have a 5 year old, you’re probably wondering, what chores can a 5 year old do?
At 5 years of age, some examples of chores include putting books away on the shelf, putting toys away, helping to fold washing, helping to put away dishes, helping with food preparation and cutting vegetables (with a safe knife and parent’s supervision), and feeding pets.
This Opinel children’s chef knife with a finger guard is perfect for helping in the kitchen!
What Chores Should An 8 Year Old Be Doing?
At 8 years of age, you can increase the difficulty of chores.
By now, they can sweep floors, wipe down surfaces, learn how to do their own washing (my 7 year old likes to press the buttons when I’m washing – it’s great preparation for when she can do it herself!), help with baking and food preparation, learn how to make their own lunch and pack a lunch box, and help to put groceries away.
As children get older, into the 10-11 years of age range, they can start doing bigger chores, like cleaning the toilet, making some basic meals (like scrambled eggs), and do the dishes.
Making Chores Work For Your Family
Firstly, its a good idea not to tie pocket money (allowance money) into your children’s chores. It’s important for children to associate chores as contribution to something bigger (the family unit), and not an activity you’d only do for monetary gain. It’s okay to give them an allowance, but do not use it as a payment for doing their chores. You don’t want them to be motivated by money or you’ve lost the valuable lessons.
When you begin a chores routine in your home, naturally there can be some resistance, especially while it’s all new. However, don’t give up! Chores are always easier when you make it fun, manageable and when you do it together.
Families are all about support and togetherness – and when everyone pitches in with chores, it reinforces that message. Put on some fun music to get you all dancing and singing while you work, and you’ll be surprised how much it lifts the mood in the house. Especially while everyone is helping with the chores, together as a family.
Avoid the trap of getting stuck in the mindset of “Ahhh… it’s just easier and quicker if I do it,” because you’ll lose the opportunity for your children to learn valuable, lifelong lessons and become more skilled at the tasks they have been given. Sure, the dishwasher may get loaded like an overflowing toy box and you may want to unstack and re-stack it! But it’s an opportunity to show your children how to stack cups or plates in a better way.
Once your children realise they’re responsible for doing their chores (and mum or dad aren’t going to let them off the hook!), you’d be surprised how quickly they become efficient loaders of the dishwasher. New habits become the norm, and old habits soon die off.
Before you know it, the children will drop right into their new routine and you won’t need to nudge them along so much. Hang in there!