19 Chores For Kids + Why Your Children Should Help Around The Home
Getting young ones to help around the house is, in many cases, easier said than done: Getting kids to do chores can be, well, a chore. But there are real reasons your children need to be tending to home matters. Here, we spoke to a few experts to understand more.
Why should kids do chores?
"It's a really important thing: Research has found that kids who have chores build critical life skills. The point is that they learn how to become contributing members of their household, manage daily self-sufficient life skills that you need as an adult," says author and child care expert Caroline Maguire, M.Ed. "I believe in that kind of citizenship: You are a member of this family unit, and we all help each other out. I am not asking you to do something that I wouldn't do myself. When people grow up and become part of a relationship—be it partner or roommate—you think of others. You don't always just take care of yourself. Chores teach that."
When should kids start doing chores?
Of course, everything is kid- and family-specific, but Maguire suggests when they are around 3 or 4 you start introducing the idea of being a helper—not necessarily the idea of chores. "Start building in the idea of helping: You're gonna do the laundry; do you want to push the button? Do you want to walk with me as I take the garbage out?" she says. "It's all building toward the idea of collaboration."
As for next steps, chores should start with things that they do for themselves: "Good initial chores have to do with self-care. For example: Make your bed and you put your clothes in your hamper," she says. "It's how you become self-sufficient." Once they've mastered those, they can start doing things around the house or family-related.
"Collaborate with them," says Maguire. "Create a list of things that need to get done around the house, and ask them what they are most interested in doing, and start there. Collaborate with other siblings, too, if you have multiple kids."
And the thing is: Encouraging kids to take part in your family and community may make them happier in the long run, too. "We think that happiness comes about because you get things for yourself," according to Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Rochester, says in this article about raising joyful kids. But "it turns out that...giving gets you more."
What are some chores kids can do around the house?
Here are a handful of ideas that you can assign your children. "You can make anything a game: Make it race; dance while you're doing it," says Maguire. "It teaches you how to fit in the mundane stuff."
- Collect and do the laundry
- Set the table
- Clear dishes post-dinner
- Feed pets
- Set table
- Get the mail
- Clean the bathroom sinks, counter, and mirror
- Load and unload the dishwasher
- Make the bed daily
- Fold laundry
- Water plants
- Pick up toys around the house
- Sort recycling
- Take out garbage
- Vacuum and mop
- Shovel snow
- Garden and pull weeds
- Pack lunch for younger siblings
Are any chores off-limits?
"Anything that might cause harm or can be dangerous is obviously off-limits," she says. "Don't ask kids to do things that are out of their depth." Again, this may be different for all families, but if it gives you pause, that may be an indication that your kid shouldn't be doing it.
Chores teach kids to be not passengers in life but active participants. Encourage them to get involved, be part of the family, and take care of themselves.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.