Chores for Kids: Why they need them and what they learn by doing them

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About a month ago, I posted about my cleaning routine and how I try to do a little bit everyday, instead of devoting a whole day to cleaning my house. I mentioned several times that some of the cleaning tasks were assigned to my three boys.

This raised several questions on how we do things here, so I thought I would spell out what my boys do, when they do it, and whether or not they get an allowance for their chores. Here are my thoughts on chores for kids and what they will (hopefully) learn from doing them.

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Cleaning supplies for kids

First, a little background on my boys. They are 14, 11, and 8. My oldest plays in the band which requires a significant amount of after school practice each week as well as playing at football games on Friday nights and Band Competitions on Saturdays.

The younger two play baseball on two different teams which requires at least two practices/games a week per child. So almost every evening we have somewhere to go, and homework and chores must be done before we leave. Most afternoons that gives the boys less than 2 hours to do homework, eat supper, and get their daily tasks finished.

They have also been helping my parents feed the cows here lately, so their time has become even more limited. But I still expect my kids to do chores!

Two kinds of chores–paid and unpaid

Vacuuming the family room. Just one of the chores my children are responsible for doing.
Vacuuming the family room. Just one of the chores my children are responsible for doing.

We have two kinds of chores at our house–paid chores (allowance) and “because you live here chores” (unpaid). We expect our boys to contribute to the upkeep of our house just because they are members of our household. These chores teach our children that some things have to be done just because things have to be done! It helps them learn responsibility for taking care of things as well as teaches them pride in doing a good job without necessarily receiving a monetary reward.

Our boys are also paid for a separate set of chores, since we want them to learn money management skills. We want them to realize that money is not given, it is earned by hard work. These chores teach them not to expect handouts and helps them understand the value of a dollar. They are expected to tithe off of this allowance as well.

***Please Note***

I do not want to get into a debate that my boys should be doing more/less work. Each household is different and places priorities on different things. This is what works for MY household. What works for your household will most likely be different. I also realize that some people choose to not pay their children for chores. That is fine too. Please do what works for you and yours. I am definitely open to friendly discussion, however remember the comment policy–rude and mean-spirited comments will be deleted.

Unpaid chores for kids

Cleaning off the table is a great chore for younger children.
Cleaning off the table is a great chore for younger children.

Every night our boys are expected to clean up our family room and their bedrooms and put away all the toys. They have always played mostly in our family room which I actually prefer. When they were little, I could keep an eye on them as I worked in the kitchen, however, come bedtime, the family room can become a nightmare.

I’m sure some guests that have dropped by unannounced during the day must have thought I was a horrible housekeeper. Many times you can barely see the carpet for the Legos. During the day, I am totally OK with the mess, but I need a clean house to relax, so the boys have to have all their toys put away at bedtime.

Another thing my boys are required to do is put up their own clothes. I do wash, dry, and fold the clothes, but they are responsible for putting them in the drawers and on hangers in their closet. Since I don’t typically pick out their clothes, I don’t need to know exactly where they put them either. And while they are probably not put in their drawers as neatly as I would like, done is better than not at all.

Every day, one of our boys is assigned to be the “kitchen helper”. Since I have three boys, they rotate through this chore every third day. Being the kitchen helper requires them to assist me cooking the meal (if they are home when I cook), as well as cleaning up the kitchen after supper and loading the dishwasher. They put the food away and place all the napkins in the dirty clothes basket (we use cloth) and wipe down the table and counters.

The boys are also expected to help in the garden as needed and help with the chickens when I need help as well. They also help my husband with many household projects such as building things and outdoor clean up. They do NOT help with cutting grass, however, because right now, none of them weigh enough to hold the sensor down on our riding lawn mower and we have way too much grass to use a push mower.

Paid chores for kids

Sweeping the porch is a great chore for children as long as your aren't expecting it to be perfect.
Sweeping the porch is a great chore for children as long as you aren’t expecting it to be perfect.

The paid chores vary by age, and our boys receive their allowance as long as they complete all their chores that week. If the chores are not done, they do not receive their full allowance.

Below, I show you the chores our boys do so that you can see how this works in our household. I have tried to spread them out over the week, since I like to clean a little at a time instead of all at once. Hopefully this will give you some ideas of ways to incorporate your kids into your cleaning routine.

14 Year Old

  • Monday-sweep kitchen floor
  • Tuesday-dust family room, dining room, and office
  • Wednesday-clean bathroom
  • Thursday-vacuum (entire house)
  • Friday-take out compost
  • Saturday-clean out the car
  • Our 14 year old is also responsible for taking out the trash whenever it needs to go out.

11 Year Old

  • Monday-clean bathroom
  • Tuesday-sweep front and back porches
  • Wednesday-take out compost
  • Thursday-dust Mom and Dad’s bedroom
  • Friday-sweep kitchen floor

8 Year Old

  • Monday-take out compost
  • Tuesday-take out recyclables
  • Wednesday-sweep kitchen floor
  • Thursday-take out recyclables
  • Friday-clean bathroom

Other ideas for chores for kids

Here is a list of chores your children may be able to do, depending on their age and ability.

  • load and unload the dishwasher
  • wash and dry a load of laundry (see how we handle laundry here)
  • fold a load of clothes
  • put away their clothes
  • sweep and mop hard surface floors
  • take out the trash, recyclables, and/or compost
  • vacuum
  • dust
  • clean bathrooms
  • clean baseboards
  • set the table
  • cook a meal or assist with food preparations
  • clean the inside of a vehicle
  • wash the family car
  • make the bed

I have also linked to several other sites that give suggestions for age appropriate chores for children from 2 to 18. Even a 2 year old can help clean with a dry rag and (possibly) a spray bottle of “special cleaner” (water). It is never to early to start teaching our children responsibility and how to keep things neat and tidy.

Focus on the Family lists age appropriate chores and also includes two printable chore charts that you can fill out with the chores you would like your children to do. They have two categories of chores–personal chores and family chores.

The Modest Mom Blog has a neat printable that lists chores for kids by age. She is a homeschooling Mom who has her children do their chores before 9:00 or they don’t get breakfast. She found that setting a time limit gets them out of the bed in the morning, and possibly missing breakfast is a powerful motivator to get things done.

A note on chore charts

I highly recommend some form of a chore chart for most children. It keeps parents from having to remember what needs to be done and gives kids ownership in completing the tasks. A chore chart can be something very simple such as pictures (for toddlers) to a handwritten list for older children.

We use a simple chore chart that I made in an Excel spreadsheet. You can also find some really nice ones available for sale. I found several cute ones on Amazon (here and here) that would be cute for younger children.

Why your kids should be doing chores

Chores are something most children should be doing, even though I’m sure most don’t want to. It takes some of the cleaning tasks off the parents, and allows kids to feel satisfaction from helping with household responsibilities.

As children get older, they need to know how to do these tasks and how to maintain a household. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people in college that I taught how to do laundry. Luckily my Mom was a firm believer in chores too, and by high school my sister and I were expected to do our own laundry. I’m sure we complained about it, but at least we learned how to do it while we had someone to help us!

So tell me, do you have chores for your kids? How do you teach your kids to clean? I would love to know what you expect your children to do.

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6 thoughts on “Chores for Kids: Why they need them and what they learn by doing them”

  1. I’m so excited that I can have my kids do so much when they get older!! As it stand my 7 year old is really helpful, my 5 year old is sometimes helpful and my 2 year is absolutely NOT helpful at all making a mess with anything he touches in every room her goes into. Sigh. It’s a good thing he’s so cute! I need to pull out the chore charts again and update them. Thanks for the reminder.

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  2. I’ve got to start being more consistent about this with our five year old, I couldn’t agree more that it’s important for our families… and their future wives will thank you too:] Great article!

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    • Thank you! It is hard to be consistent and I didn’t do very well over the summer but now that we are back in a school routine things are much better. My kids need a set time everyday to do their chores. And they aren’t allowed TV or device time until they are done. 🙂

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  3. Julia, I agree it is so important for kids to do chores, not to just keep the house clean, but so that they can have a sense of pride in a job well done. And they also learn how to run the household. LOL, you having to teach friends in college how to do laundry!! I like your idea of splitting the chores between paid and unpaid. Thanks for the links to the printables.

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