father sitting with young daughterSometimes, getting kids to help out around the house can be an aggravating experience. Don’t give up, though: When kids are given chores, not only does your to-do list become more manageable, but you’ll also be helping your children grow into responsible young adults.

Gradually increasing the expectations you place on your children helps them mature, gives them confidence, and teaches them valuable life skills they’ll need when they’re no longer living under your roof.

What can kids do?

Most children older than 2 are able to help with chores. When they’re little, focus on personal responsibilities, such as putting away toys.

Older children can be expected to take on even more responsibilities around the house. After all, if kids can operate fairly complicated video games and are whizzes with smartphones, then operating a dial and a few buttons on the washing machine should be a snap!

With any new chores, first show your child how things should be done. Next, work with him to complete the task. Once he masters the chore, allow him to do it independently so he can build even more confidence.

Here’s a list of tasks, with ages at which you can safely introduce them:

Kids age 3 to 4 can:

  • Pick up toys
  • Set the table (an adult should place heavy plates or glass items on the table)
  • Dust furniture
  • Put clothes in the hamper

Kids age 5 to 6 can:

  • Make their beds
  • Feed pets, with adult supervision
  • Clear their own dishes after a meal
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Clean up spills using a dust pan and brush (if the brush is hung low enough for them to reach)

Kids age 7 to 9 can:

  • Vacuum or sweep the floor
  • Wipe kitchen counters and table
  • Load and start the washing machine (mom or dad can do the sorting)
  • Load dishes into the dishwasher
  • Assist with cooking simple foods
  • Make and pack their own lunches

Kids age 10 to 12 can:

  • Do simple yard work
  • Mow the lawn, with supervision
  • Prepare a simple meal
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Clean up after pets
  • Wash windows
  • Fold laundry

Tips for success

Resist the temptation to do over anything your child has done. Don’t rearrange the dishwasher or re-wipe the bathroom sink. And be sure to thank your child for her help, so she knows her hard work has been appreciated.

Kids often take to chores more easily at a young age, then may start to balk at them as they get older. It may be helpful to establish a household rule early on, such as chores must be completed before television, video games or play time with friends.

How much should kids do?

There is no hard-and-fast rule about how many chores are appropriate for your child. Kids in elementary school should be expected to do 10 to 20 minutes of helping around the house each day. You can expect a little more on the weekends and in the summer. Teenagers can do 20 to 30 minutes a day, with bigger chores, such as lawn-mowing, on the weekends.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD