Working at home means maintaining a delicate balance between getting work done, entertaining the little ones and staying on top of the housework. If there was a solution that helped balance all three, would you do it? There is! Assigning kids chores helps to teach them responsibility, gives them something to occupy their time, and helps keep the housework from piling up. In a perfect world, it would even save you some time, though a lot of parents find it's often faster to do the chore themselves than to convince and teach a child to do it. So how do you manage kids' chores so that it actually frees up some of your time, besides just teaching responsibility? Here are a few tips.
Base chores on the individual child.
Lists of chore suggestions according to age are great places to get ideas for what your children should be learning to do. But don't assume that just because someone else's two-year-old puts all the laundry away yours should be doing that, too (especially when the end result is a pile of now un-folded laundry).
Also, keep in mind what your child likes to do. I know...who likes chores, right? But even adults have chores they prefer over others. If you have a child who likes to wash dishes, by all means, let them wash the dishes. Kids who like routines may prefer to have the same chores each week, while kids who bore easily may prefer to switch it up and trade with a sibling, for example. For chores to work, they have to work for your particular family. That may mean a bit of trial and error, but find something that works and stick to it.
Let little ones help before they're ready to tackle a task on their own.
Often, toddlers and preschoolers who are too young to complete a task on their own can benefit from helping mom, dad, or another adult complete the task. For example, kids who aren't ready to use the stove yet can help mix the ingredients. While a three-year-old may not be able to wash the dishes and get them clean, playing in the water may keep them entertained while you finish the task—and even that can be a big help.
Keep the overall goal in mind.
The goal of giving children chores isn't to have a cleaner house. Keep in mind that you are working to teach them responsibility and life skills. Don't get upset when something isn't quite clean—acknowledge that they completed the task. Practice patience—you may need to show them how to complete a task more than once.
Start with the chores that affect them directly.
There's a lot of tasks that kids can help out with, but you have to find balance so they aren't spending too much time on chores. Start by giving them tasks that take care of their own messes before taking care of others'. Kids should pick up their own toys, clean their own bedrooms, and do their own laundry, based on their abilities. They can have a few chores that help the family as a whole too, but it's a good idea to start them off cleaning up their own messes.
Try a chore chart for kids ages 3-4 and older.
Chore charts can make chores more fun—and sometimes even make it easier on the parents, as well. Chore charts are useful for mixing up the chores each week so there's variety, or for teaching older kids time management by giving them a deadline. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
From Craftaholics Anonymous, a magnetic chore chart from a cookie sheet
From Simply + Kierste, a simple chart with washi tape and popsicle sticks
From BD Design Blog, an easy option with clothespins
Most parenting experts agree that it's a bad idea to reward for chores—or at least for every chore. Chores give kids a sense that they can contribute even if they're young (no matter how much they complain). Sometimes, when a kid actually enjoys doing a chore, rewarding it can make it all about the reward instead of the fun. It's okay to reward for extra chores, though—seasonal chores work well here like helping with the spring cleaning and doing the yard work.
Keep life skills in mind.
Will your child know how to do their own laundry when they move out? What about clean a bathroom? Along with teaching responsibility, chores help kids learn tasks that they'll one day need to do in their own homes. Along with things like using a dishwasher and safely operating a lawnmower, there are other life skills involved too, such as time management—like doing their chores before they go play. Keep in mind the life skills you want your kids to lean and incorporate them into their chores. A preteen or teenager, for example, can start learning smart grocery shopping and how to write a basic budget.
Chores teach responsibility—but they can be difficult to manage. Try a few different things to find what works for your family, and always keep the overall goal in mind.