“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
Abigail Van Buren, better known as renowned advice columnist Dear Abby, penned those words in one of her legendary columns. Popular Science reports that it is the primary responsibility of parents to make sure their children can survive as independent adults, once they “leave the nest.”
It’s not too early to begin instilling regular habits in children that are age and developmentally appropriate. A study in Developmental Psychology found that children close to two years of age have an internal motivation to begin helping with tasks, which can build a lifetime habit of performing chores of increasing responsibilities.
A famous Harvard study that tracked children’s habits over many years into adolescence and adulthood found that children who performed chores fared better later in life.
The study found that “chores were the best predictor of which kids were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults.”
The American Academy of Child and Developmental Psychiatry recommends setting clear boundaries of what is expected of each task and set regular routines. For example, “please clear the trash after dinner,” sets a thorough expectation of the task and when it is to be done. Consistency is key as well as serving as a positive role model for your children. If mom or dad don’t help with household tasks, what example does that show our children?
The Academy also advises that parents “focus on small, manageable tasks” for younger children while longer jobs can be made fun. Making it a game or using a song (“clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!”) can help motivate younger children. Setting up a chore chart for each task and a reward system helps track goals and progress.
Don’t be frustrated if kids push back. That’s totally normal, says Popular Science. After all, do adults always like to complete chores? Commiserate with your children that chores aren’t always fun, but they are a part of what a family does together. Tasks don’t have to be completed perfectly or just as you would do it. Praise your child for the effort and helping the household.
You’re teaching your children more than completing menial tasks. Chores help them feel competent, learn time management and organizational skills, and set a great foundation for years to come.
APPROPRIATE CHORES BY AGE
2-3 years old (Toddlers)
• Put away toys
• Feed pets
• Place clothes in the hamper
• Dust baseboards with socks on their hands
• Stack books and magazines on shelves
• Help make beds
4-5 years old (Preschoolers)
• Make bed without supervision
• Clear the table
• Pull weeds
• Use a hand-held vacuum for crumbs or room edges
• Water flowers
• Put away clean utensils
Ages 6-9 (Primary Schoolers)
• Sweep floors
• Help make boxed lunches
• Rake the yard
• Clean their bedrooms, with minimal supervision
• Put away groceries
• Load and empty the dishwasher
For a printable age-appropriate chore list, click here.