All in this together

Chores can be fun…and help make kids and families more successful.

Families that play together, stay together, but working as a team is just as important. Chores teach children of all ages key life lessons and help the household run smoothly. Parents need a plan and patience to make chores part of the family routine, but the reward is a happy, efficient family.

Although it is best to be consistent with encouraging children to help during their earlier years, experts say it is never too late to work on these values.

It’s a process

Kylie Rymanowicz, a certified family life educator with Michigan State University Extension in Saginaw, says many parents who attend her parenting classes ask about age-appropriate chores.

“Yes, it is easier to do it yourself than have your 2-year-old help fold the laundry, but that practice is what helps them learn responsibility and being part of the family,” she says. “You have to allow them to try and complete a task. Focus on the process and not the product.”

Parents are often surprised by what their children can do, even at young ages, Rymanowicz adds. Unfortunately, fewer parents see the value in chores today.

“It has such value—for them to practice life skills in a safe environment where they can learn and grow,” states Rymanowicz. “How many kids go away to college and can’t do laundry or the dishes? [After having performed chores] they learn to solve problems and take responsibility for themselves and the group. We don’t give kids enough credit.”

Make it last

Amanda Schoch of Merrill and her husband, Scott, are parents of four children, ages 12, 7, 5, and 4. All the children do chores in the house and on their farm—from washing dishes and putting away clean laundry, to pulling weeds and helping build a rabbit cage.

“We are teaching them to appreciate what we have and take care of it so it lasts,” says Amanda. “This helps keep our family happy, healthy, and moving in the right direction.”

Remember to give step-by-step instructions that are specific to each task so kids can learn to master skills, such as time management and teamwork.

Activities for all ages

Ages 2-3 – Put toys away, dress themselves, and help put away clean silverware. Make it fun by marking tasks on a chore chart with stickers when completed. Whoever has the most stickers at the end of the week gets an award. 

Ages 4-5 – Help feed pets, make their bed, and clear the table. Make it fun by playing Go Fish with a basket of clean socks. Divide socks among players and leave a pile to draw from. The player with the most pairs wins.

Ages 6-7 – Wipe tables and counters, put laundry away, and vacuum floors. Make it fun by turning a bucket into a personalized cleaning caddy filled with sponges and dust rags. Single socks can be child-sized dusters. 

Ages 7-9 – Load and unload the dishwasher, and help prepare meals and their own lunches. Make it fun by letting them help plan the weekly menus.

Ages 10-11 – Change their bedding, clean the kitchen or bathrooms, and mow the lawn. Make it fun by setting a timer after dinner to do a “10-Minute Tidy” with everyone picking up clutter.

Ages 12 and older – Wash the car, babysit younger siblings, and help shop for groceries with a list. Make it fun by cranking up music and having a cleaning party.