Let’s just preface this by saying I am in no way an expert on this topic and I know there are many people who do this better than me; I am just hoping to help some of you get started on having your kids help out around the house. This is something I am asked often to elaborate on so I thought this would be the easiest way to do that.
The first thing I would suggest is to start young. It has just always been expected that the girls pick up their own toys at the end of the day ever since they could walk. As they grew, we added age appropriate tasks for them. They don’t have a chore list per say but they have tasks they are expected to do and a variety of others they know how to do when I ask them to help in that area.
This leads me to what I think is the most important thing: don’t ask them to do something you haven’t showed them how to do. You want to make sure that you do a task with a child a number of times, teaching them to do it before having them do it alone. So when they were toddlers, that looked like passing them a toy and walking them over to a bin to put the toy in while narrating that this is how we clean up our toys. Now the bins in their toyroom are labelled and I have walked them through it so many times over the years they know how to clean it properly. Take advantage of how little ones love to help! When I would clean the bathroom they would want to help so I’d let them wipe the counter and the sink. When I wanted them to start cleaning the bathroom alone, I did the whole thing with them a few times, always narrating. “When you clean the toilet, start with this…” You wouldn’t want to be given a task with no instructions so don’t do that to your kiddos either. Set them up for success by teaching them to do the task you want them to do. Make sure your expectations are age appropriate and that you are more thankful than critical. I try to have my girls each clean a bathroom once a week and even if they aren’t done perfect, they are done and it saves me time to not have to do it myself!
Choose your language around this to set it as standard practice and not as a punishment or “chore”. What I mean by this is that you should start from the very beginning speaking of it in a positive manner. Some ways to do this would be to talk about it as working heartily as unto the Lord to properly steward the house and things you’ve been given, talking about cleaning in the context of blessing each other in your family, etc. I have always told my girls right from the start that we were a team, it’s so often just us 3 and I need their help. They’ve been hearing me say that since they were little toddlers. They know mom wants to do lots of fun stuff with them and we will have more time if they pitch in. I am hoping by doing this since they were very young, they will continue to grow up with a helpful heart.
Do we always get this right? You bet NOT! The girls sometimes complain about having to clean their playroom or make their beds or sweep the floor or whatever I might have asked them to do. We are quick to have them repeat in our house that “obedience is all the way, right away and with a joyful heart”. Sometimes we will come alongside and work together to do a hard task or they will just learn the perseverance and diligence to power through.
There are so many different tasks around the house that you could have your children do. This list is absolutely not at all exhaustive; it is just a few ideas if you don’t know where to start.
- put away their toys
- put their dirty dishes in the sink
- put their dirty clothes in their hamper
- wipe the table
- all of the above
- put their clean laundry away
- fold face and dish cloths
- feed pets
- sweep / vacuum
- water plants
Elementary Age Tasks
- all of the above
- make their beds
- wash dishes / load dishwasher
- put clean dishes away
- laundry (i have an index card written with it step by step on our washer)
- clean bathrooms
- chop veggies
- clean out the fridge
As I mentioned, these aren’t exact or exhaustive lists. Your child may be doing something at a younger age than I listed it, or you might have chores I totally forgot of when making the list. This is just a jumping off point. But, regardless of age, every child should at the very least be learning to clean up after themselves. That is just part of teaching responsibility and respect.
I hope this was helpful. Start somewhere and just expect it. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, it’s just how it is. Praise them and thank them for helping. Most young kids will be so happy to please and help you. If you have other suggestions or ideas, leave them in the comments please so others can benefit from your knowledge and experience.
(I do want to add that I use natural cleaning products like Norwex and Young Living so I feel completely safe having the kids use cleaning products)