Introducing children to chores around the house not only helps mom and dad, but helps the child develop a sense of responsibility too. But parents may wonder when is the right time to introduce chores.
We spoke with Children’s National’s child psychologist Eleanor Mackey, PhD, on the benefits of chores and what the proper ages are to introduce various tasks.
“Kids develop at different rates and parents will be able to tell when they are capable of doing something,” Mackey said. “If a parent tries to get a kid to do a chore and it’s just not working and the kid is not capable of doing it for whatever reason, back off and try and find something that’s more environmentally appropriate.”
Appropriate Chores By Age
- Ages 2-3 years old: Child places own dish near the sink or on the counter
- Ages 5-6: Child makes his own bed
- Ages 6-9: Child learns how to set the table for the family meal
- Ages 9 and up: increase difficulty of task with a daily chore, such as always making sure there is water in the cat bowl
“Kids’ chores should really first focus on their own stuff in their own space,” Mackey adds. “Young kids shouldn’t be responsible for picking up another person’s mess.”
When a child cleans up his or her own space, it helps to teach them responsibility and learn that mom or dad will not always clean up after them. Mackey suggests parents of younger kids start small by asking children to “put all of the crayons back in this box,” and when they are older, broadening the task to “clean up your bedroom.” Children who are between the ages of 2 and 3 respond better to specific tasks.
Chore charts are a great way to talk to your kids about household chores and make expectations clear.
How to Implement a Chore Chart
- Define two to three chores for the child with specific directions. For example, for a teenager, ask them to take the trash out of the trashcan, walk it to the outside trashcan, and then put a new bag in the trashcan.
- Define how often chores need to be done. For example, a child’s bed needs to be made every day and the trash needs to be taken out once a week.
- Let the child keep track of the chores they accomplish and reward or punish them depending upon completion.
When a child takes responsibility for his own space and belongings, he feels like he is contributing more to the family and it helps to keep him involved.
Mackey said the most important thing to remember when your child is doing chores around the house is to always say “please” and “thank you.”
“Don’t take them for granted. I often hear from kids that they’re irritated with their parents about chores because they feel like somebody’s maid,” Mackey said. “The more parents show appreciation, the more they’ll get back.”