Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheating Our Kids?

Last year, Mary and I read a book based on the true story of an eight year old girl who went along with her father into new territory to build a house in colonial days.  The trip lasted months, during which the little girl prepared meals over an open fire.  The Courage of Sarah Noble was a great chapter book to read aloud. 

While I have no desire to send my kids out into the wilderness or to equip them with fire ;), I do think that children are quite capable of amazing things.  In all of our desire to provide for our children and to keep them safe, I must wonder…

Are we cheating our kids by not expecting them to do chores and pull their weight at home?  Do we excuse our children from helping out because they are too little or the job is easier if we just do it ourselves?  Are our kids too busy attending lessons and practices to learn basic household skills? 

I am glad my kids do not have to help around the house in order for us to survive, as children in days gone by may have.  Still, I know that doing chores is vital to a child’s development.  I want my children to know the value and satisfaction of a job well done.  I want my children to be equipped to care for themselves when adulthood arrives.  I want my children to be a vital and important part of the family. 

Each age groups is different, but at about 18 months of age a little one should be able to help clean up toys with a little encouragement and guidance.  It’s so much fun to throw toys into the box!  They should also be able to help wipe up small spills and take their clothes to the hamper.

At ages two and three, kids begin to gain much ability around the house.  This is a great time to get them helping in the kitchen.  Kids in this age group make great pancake stirrers.  They also are perfect for setting the napkins on the table and picking up the dropped Cheerios under the table.  Kids at this age can also help retrieve things like diapers and sippy cups for their younger sibling. 

By ages four and five, children can do so many great things.  One of my five year olds favorite things to do is help plant the seeds in the garden and pick the produce.  He also spent much of the summer feeding the calf a bottle and helping to care for our chickens.  His least favorite job is taking out the compost, but we have made it an adventure that he gets to go on by being on the lookout for bugs and animals along the way.  Children this age are old enough to set the table by themselves.  They are also great sock matchers!  Kids this age can begin to help measure ingredients in the kitchen.  They can also put away their own clothing.


At six and seven, a child is old enough to entertain a younger sibling in another room while you finish supper.  They are capable helpers in weeding flower beds, folding towels, and getting clothes off the line (if they can reach, Mary is tall!).  Kids this age can put away the food after supper and scrape and stack the plates.  They can load the dishwasher with a little help and training.  Children this age can do some of the bathroom cleaning jobs (if you provide a simple vinegar water solution and a cloth it is very safe for them to clean the mirrors, counter and sink).  Kids this age should be able to keep their rooms pretty clean without much help from adults.

We’ll have to wait for the rest of the list, as this is as far as my children’s ages have allowed me to progress.  But needless to say, the jobs they can do well will increase with each year.  I hope that all of my children will have enough skill and knowledge that they could do anything that must be done around the house by age 16, including changing the car’s oil (and even I don’t know how to do that). 

I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing, this teaching our kids and making them do chores.  So I’m wondering, what kind of chores do your kiddos do?  What do you think about making kids do chores around home?  How much is too much?  How do you motivate your kids to help?  Looking forward to hearing from you!


  1. I must add to this! My kids do not spend much of their day doing chores. I believe in allowing kids to be kids and to have ample play time. Still, each of them does their part and I do not allow bad attitudes about the work that must be done. Okay, now I'm done. ;)

  2. We set up a system when school started this year. The girls each have a set of index cards with their morning routine, a set for their afternoon/after school routine, and a set with their evening routine. These include the normal things they have to do to get ready for school (get dressed, eat breakfast, etc.) and bed (take a shower, brush teeth & floss, etc.) and the things I expect them to do after school (hang up backpacks, clean out lunch bags, sort their school papers for me to look at later) it's a bit of a combination of chores and to-do list trying to build a routine. I also gives me a quick answer to "What else do I have to do?" my response "look at your cards" :) Included in the cards is a morning chore (give food/water to the dog), afternoon chore (put away clean clothing/make beds - I know this one should be in the morning but mornings are just too crazy!), and an evening chore (straighten up their bedroom). They also have one additional chore each day of the week, things like helping cook a meal or pack lunches, gathering the laundry or trash, or just helping me keep the things organized that we already have organized (we have enough that still aren't!) They have a couple other sets of cards we call Practice Jobs and Bonus Jobs. The Practice Jobs are more fun jobs, like practicing golf or gymnastics or reading, more a reminder to keep practicing the things they are interested in. The Bonus Jobs are things they are capable of doing and I would love their help in doing but I don't expect them to do all the time (though if I ask them to do them or help do them I better not hear any complaining...but I probably will! ha!) So far the card system is working really well, especially for the morning, afternoon and evening routines. We're easing into the other stuff still :)

    Sorry for such a long post but I'm pretty excited about how well this is working and how quickly the kids adapted to it and their enthusiasm about it. Right now the cards just have words on them (which is fine for Kendall) but I'm working on coming up with pictures for them too so Jaidyn has an easier time knowing what to do.

  3. Trinity did/does much of the things at the same ages as you listed for your kiddos and Keenan puts his dirty clothes in the hamper and helps clean up toys :). We just made things a little more formal with a chart of chores that need to be completed each day with a small incentive ($3.00, we are trying to also teach saving money skills and that $$ doesn't fall from the trees, or mommy's purse) when the chart is full. I hope to blog about that soon, as soon as I find time to type it all out ;). Yes, I think they should help out and learn how to do housework; so they know how to do things to keep a house running and so they are contributing to the family. Sadly I think there are too many kids out there that do nothing and think all of these things should be done FOR them, not a message I want my kids to have.

  4. It's so great to hear how others are making chores a fun and important part of their kiddos lives! Love the ideas!

  5. All my kids help with household chores in the morning before breakfast and general clean-up 1-3 times a day. They all help with folding laundry. My almost 3 year old helps fold hand towels, wash clothes, burp rags and bibs. My Almost 5 year old fold pants, shorts and underwear. My 6 1/2 year old folds shirts and socks. Sometimes they switch with each other and that isn't a problem. They each have a day or two where they are supposed to sweep the kitchen and dining room floor. They make sure their dirty laundry is in the laundry room basket and make their beds. My almost 3 year old also gets out the cereal for breakfast and sets it on the table. Once a week the 2 oldest help wash the dishes. My 6 year old is responsible for clearing off the table before meals, the almost 5 year old is responsible for setting the table, and the almost 3 year old is supposed to wipe the table off. All of this really doesn't take as long as it sounds, either :)


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