I knew that I wanted chores to be different for my kids. Sure, they needed to know that they were a necessary part of life, but I also wanted them to know that they could enjoy doing chores.
The question was how to make this happen.
Then I heard in a couple of places that by the age of four, a child could be acquainted with every duty required to run the house. Say, What?!?!
(To clarify, this doesn’t mean they could do them all alone, but that they would be aware of what needs to be done and would have an idea of how the chores work.)
They also mentioned that by seven, a child could be about as helpful as an adult with the household duties. Come again!?!?
I was intrigued to say the least. But I wasn’t sure how to make that happen, or how to assign tasks that were age appropriate.
One day we were talking with some friends, they have four children and mentioned that their kids took pride in their tasks to help the family run properly.
The mother did not have to micromanage the process for the older children (ages 9, 7, and 5), and it sounded like their children actually received enjoyment from doing their chosen jobs to the best of their ability.
I wanted in! I questioned them until they spilled all their secrets. My oldest daughter had just turned three and, though she had always done tiny little tasks to help every day, she didn’t have specific tasks of her own.
I decided to try out their tips and, amazingly, after only a couple of weeks, she was doing chores that I would have never thought she could handle.
Of course, I wasn’t far away if she needed help, but if I hovered too closely, she soon started telling me, “I’m ok Mommy, you can go do something else.”
The best part is that the steps we took are simple and easy to replicate.
Here are the 11 tips for teaching your children to love doing chores:
(And if you prefer to watch your content, here is the video that goes with this post!)
How to Teach Your Children to Enjoy Chores
1) Start When They’re Small
I started having my kids help me with simple chores around the age of one. I use the term “help” quite loosely here. If I was folding a pile of laundry, I would point to an article of clothing that was farther from me and ask them to bring it to me.
Each time they successfully did what I asked, I would praise them with the kind of over-the-top excitement only a mother can give. I would often entertain them like this until I was finished.
Pro Tip: Be ridiculously excited, people. They will love it and think it’s a game to see how happy they can make you.
Whatever work you are doing, find the simplest part of the task and start teaching.
If you need some inspiration on where to start with your little ones, check out my post, A Beginner’s Guide to Toddler Chores!
2) Choose Age-Appropriate Chores
Babies and toddlers love wiping things. I would hand my girls a rag and ask them to wipe a part of the baseboard or floor while I was cleaning the bathrooms.
This small task could entertain them for quite a while…well, quite a while for a toddler!
As they grow, expand and change the chores to fit their ability. Something that might be a great task for a toddler would bore a bigger child and vice versa.
Kids love spraying anything from squirt guns in the backyard to cleaning solutions in the bathroom. While I didn’t want the harsh chemicals near their little lungs, I wanted them to be able to do the piece of the task that brought them joy.
I was able to find gentile cleaning solutions so that they could help out!
I also used the spraying time to teach them to listen to instructions. I would tell them where and how many times to spray and they would do it. They loved this game!
Once they understood the process, they would lose the spraying privilege for a little while if they couldn’t follow directions (which only had to happen once for each of them!)
3) Chore Chart
Even if kids are too young to read, they will enjoy having a chore chart and checking things off their list!
For older kids, this can help them take ownership of their chores so you don’t have to micromanage them.
You can make your own chore chart using paper or a dry erase board, or you can use the one in my Autopilot Workbook.
4) Take Advantage of Mimicking
From two-and-a-half to three, it seemed as though my girls were constantly playing the game of Monkey-See-Monkey-Do.
I took advantage of this to create a good work ethic.
From the time they were awake for more than 5 minutes at a time, I would always do my cleaning routine when my girls are awake and around where I was working.
Each time the girls saw me doing my chores, they wanted to try whatever task was at hand.
Even if the chore was above their level of ability, I would let them try it out for as long as they liked.
One day, when my younger daughter was having a particularly fussy day, I had to vacuum the floor with her on my back in the Lillebaby. After I was finished, my oldest wanted one of her dolls in her doll carrier and proceeded to vacuum the floor again.
5) Keep Things New and Exciting
Once you can tell your child has effectively mastered a chore, try giving them a new chore to work on next time you are working together. (Think progress here not perfection.)
When I started having my oldest help me with the bathrooms, her job was the toilet. Mainly because it was low to the ground and she loved using the scrubber to swish the water.
After a couple of weeks of cleaning the toilet once a week, she was able to do the entire thing without me saying a word. I then simply changed her chore to the mirrors when I was doing the rest of the bathroom.
This little adjustment kept her engaged and excited to learn something new.
Another way to tell if they need a different task is boredom. If they started with a great attitude about helping, but you are now greeted with “I don’t want to” at chore time, try mixing it up!
6) Model Working Before Playing
I’m sure I’m not the only parent whose children would rather play with them than to do chores with them.
But when the girls ask me to play something with them or go to the park before our chores are done, I say “I would love to, as soon as we finish our work. Work first, then play!”
Since this is the norm and not the exception at our house, they aren’t surprised by this response. Usually, they jumps in to help so we can get to the fun stuff more quickly.
7) Do Chores Together
Once they were old enough for a chore of their own (which was around three for us), I created a little chore chart for them that was based around My Simple Weekly Cleaning Schedule.
(If you would like to create your own cleaning routine, check out How to Create a Cleaning Schedule You Can Stick With.)
On the days that I cleaned the bathroom, for example, one of my daughter’s chores would be to do the toilet and the other one would do the mirror. When I vacuumed the downstairs, they would dust.
Having our cleaning routines synchronized was especially great when the girls were learning to start doing chores. I was able to talk them through where to start and what to do next without them feeling like I was hovering over their every move. But I was close enough to evade any disaster.
I was amazed by how quickly I didn’t need to tell them what to do anymore. Now they just ask me if they want me to check something to see if it is clean enough.
Even if they are taking to chores like a duck to water, remember that they are still little and enjoy praise and company while working. Stay close enough that you can help if they need it.
Here is a video showing you how I coordinate my Cleaning Routine with my 5-Year-Old’s Routine:
8) Set Clear Expectations
If your children have never done chores before, pointing them toward the bathroom and asking them to clean it isn’t going to go well for anyone.
People like to know what is expected of them, and children are no exception. We often forget that children are rational beings who are learning to think and reason like adults.
If we simply tell our children to do chores without explaining what chores we would like them to do, how we would like them to be accomplished, or what qualifies as a finished task, they will end up frustrated and disenchanted before you know it.
Here are three steps you can take to set clear expectations:
1. Write it down: Even young children will have fun checking off their chores each day. You can use my Printable Chore Checklist for Kids if you’d like, or you can make your own!
2. Show them how: Even if something seems obvious to you, it probably isn’t to your child. Show them exactly how you want it done and have them help you with the process. The younger the child, the more you will have to show them.
3. Explain what “finished” means: This will probably mean something different for each age-group. For young children, show them how the water drops will disappear when they are done wiping the mirror. For older children, explain that they need to add some elbow grease to get dirt and grime off.
In our house, I still have the girls get me to check their work when they think the job is done (they are six and three at the most recent update of this post). Sometimes it is done, but usually, it needs a little bit more work.
If it needs more work, they have to stay and help me until the job meets the standards that we set for that job.
9) Have a Positive Attitude
If you always complain about what you have to do when it comes to housework, your children will too.
This is a challenging one to stay on top of, at least it was for me, but practice makes progress with attitudes too!
I try to be cheerful and excited when I say it’s time to do chores, and their attitudes usually follow suit.
10) Brag About Them (In Front of Them!)
When we first started doing chores, I made a big deal about this one. When Ross would come home from work and ask how our day was, I would go on and on about what a big helper my oldest daughter was to Mommy.
I would tell him every detail that she helped with (even if it was something like running upstairs for a diaper for her little sister.)
She would beam with pride while Daddy would tell her how proud he was of her. Sometimes if I would forget, she would ask me, “can you tell Daddy what a big helper I was today?”
No, this isn’t good for teaching humility, but it is quite effective for getting toddlers excited about helping.
11) Make the Time as Pleasant as Possible
It can be easy to get into the habit of only telling them when they are doing something wrong, especially with young children who have no idea what they are doing; but try to affirm them as much as possible.
I’m not saying to let them go crazy with the spray and make more of a mess for you, but look at their attitude and intentions.
If they are trying their best, keep things positive. No one wants to work for a boss who only focuses on the negative. 🙂
My girls love singing. Often as we are cleaning, we will sing their favorite songs or listen to music. This helps the time move quickly for both of you and makes it fun to work together.
You want them to like working with you; and if you make it fun and encouraging, they will!
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