Raising kids sure ain’t easy. Raising responsible kids sometimes feels downright impossible. As parents, we feel a strong obligation to, well, not mess up this parenting thing. I think we can agree that, as an end result, we want well-adapted, nice, and responsible kids who can then grow into well-adapted, nice, and responsible adults.
One way to teach kids responsibility is to assign them chores. Studies show that children who complete weekly chores feel a stronger sense of contribution and accomplishment, which ultimately leads to overall feel good vibes and happier kids. Seriously!
Here’s a quick guide to some age-appropriate chores you can start introducing in your own households:
Chores at this age should be simple one-step things that serve to introduce the concept. At this age, children are not motivated by money, and introducing dollars into the equation will only muddy the waters. So put away your wallet. But do feel free to layer on the praise and high-fives.
- Clean Up Toys
This is a simple repetitive task that should be required of the child every time he leaves a play area and before he moves on to the next spot. Clean up can be fun, and many parents and educators introduce silly songs to make this chore feel more like play. Toys don’t have to be put away exactly—remember, it’s the concept of the chore here. So what if your child shoves all of the play cooking items into the play kitchen sink? If your inner neat freak can’t handle, go back in after they go to bed and rearrange.
- Clear Your Plate
If your kid eats off of one of those plastic kid plates and you don’t mind a few crumbs possibly falling to the floor, the task of clearing one’s plate from the table is a great one for little kids. The younger children may need some assistance, but they should feel like they’re helping. Clearing the plate might be as simple as walking it from the kitchen table to the kitchen counter, but, hey, it’s something!
- Put clothes in the laundry basket
My kids love running their dirty clothes from their room to the laundry room and adding them to the growing pile—and most often they do this while running through the house in their birthday suits. Sometimes we add to this chore by having the kids “shoot” their socks into the laundry basket. Their basketball-loving dad loves this particular chore!
At this age, kids can be given a bit more responsibility and trusted with more valuable items. You can also build upon the simple chores you assigned them when they were younger, and add multi-step tasks to the equation.
- Load and Unload the Dishwasher
Beyond just clearing their plates, kids should now start the habit of loading their plates into the dishwasher and putting away clean plates when they’re done. Depending on their height, you may need to assist with the high cabinets, but kids at this age can be trusted with some of your more fragile plates and cups.
- Vacuum and Sweep
Sunday mornings in my house are my vacuum mornings. Particularly during mud season, when everyone and the dog traipses dirt, leaves, and wet grass into the house, it’s important to keep this a weekly habit. But now kids of this age can join in. Have them vacuum the stairs or pull out the old dustpan and dust certain rooms. Partaking in this chore might always make them more aware of taking off their shoes before running into the rest of the house.
- Help Make Dinner
Cooking can be a lot of fun when you involve the family. Even my preschool-aged daughter helps with shucking corn. Older kids can be more trusted with a knife or a peeler, so they can act as your sous-chef and prep things while you handle the stove and more complicated cooking tasks. This is not only a great chore, but it’s an opportunity to teach your child about healthy eating and nutritious foods. Double win!
- Take Out the Garbage and Recycling
Now that their muscles are more developed, kids can handle lugging the garbage outside. Better yet, GeniCan makes it easier to get kids involved by sensing when the garbage will over flow and by sending your kids an alert to their devices that the garbage needs to be taken out. Pretty sweet, huh?
Ages 13 and Up
At this point, there really isn’t much the kids in this age group can’t handle. So if you can dream up the chore, they can probably do it. You may also want to consider introducing the concept of allowance. It’s your call, but money can be quite the motivator for this group.
- Clean Entire Rooms
This chore encompasses several smaller chores (again, building upon the chores the kids have been doing for a while now). Put each child in charge of a room, and enlist him to dust, mop/vacuum/sweep, wash windows, etc.
- Do Laundry
It’s good to introduce the laundry chore to your teenager—besides, he’ll have to do his own laundry when he’s off to college! Learning to wash, dry, and iron clothes is an important life skill, so let them have at it. Bonus? It gets you out of having to touch those super stinky soccer socks!
This chore might be appropriate for the pre-teen crowd, too, but only you know your kid—you can decide when is the right time to put him in charge of others. Many kids start out as “mother’s helpers,” meaning they watch the kids outside or in a back playroom while Mom (or Dad) is still home. Close enough for any immediate emergency but far enough removed so that the kid has responsibility over the younger child. This is also the time when many teenagers start babysitting regularly for some income, so, before sending them out to watch neighborhood kids, make sure they get some practice at home first.
Photo by Frisno Bostrom/Flickr