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How to Keep Your Child Engaged and Excited by Chores

15 June 2023
How to Keep Your Child Engaged and Excited by Chores -  clean up

We all know that the ongoing battle in every home with children is how quickly your home goes from looking like a feature in House and Garden to the aftermath of a bomb explosion. A lot of parents often feel overwhelmed with how much more has   been added to their to-do list since having children. 

The good news is, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, you can start teaching your children to perform chores from as young as two years old. While you won’t have your toddler vacuuming and washing the dishes, here are a few guidelines on age-appropriate chores for your children:      

Suggestions by age include:

  • 2 to 3-year-olds can put toys and groceries away and dress themselves with help.
  • 4 to 5-year-olds can help feed pets, make their beds (maybe not perfectly), and help clear the table after dinner.
  • 6 to 7-year-olds can wipe tables and counters, put laundry away, and sweep floors.
  • 7 to 9-year-olds can load and unload the dishwasher, help with meal preparation, and pack their own lunch for school.
  • 10 to 11-year-olds can change their sheets, clean the kitchen or bathrooms, and do yard work.
  • Those 12 and above can wash the car and help out with younger siblings. Teens can help with grocery shopping and running errands.

Chores teach more than just keeping your space clean. Chores encourage development of time management skills, accountability and responsibility and organizational skills, to name a few.

Now, as is the case with vegetables, we know it’s good for them, but how do we make chores more exciting? It’s common knowledge that most of us in the animal kingdom, no matter what age or species, respond well to rewards! Whether it’s a raise at work or a sweet after a doctor’s appointment, rewarding an ideal behaviour seems to do the trick.

In order to keep your child motivated to do the daily, less exciting, chores you need to create a reward system. 

And it starts with a chart.

We tend to forget that a lot of our children’s behaviours still need to be learnt. Verbal instructions like “go clean your room” mean nothing to them if they actually don’t know how to clean their room. A visual chart with images of the tasks they need to complete in a day, is really helpful in teaching your children which chores they need to do. Assist them with the task on the first few tries (the clothes must go in the washing basket, not next to it) and you’ll find that soon they will be able to do the task without even being prompted. How does this tie in with the rewards?

Find some great chore chart templates here:

Make a weekly visual roster.

Tick off the tasks that they performed in the week. At first, tick off the tasks that they actually performed, whether prompted or not. After a week or two, tick off the tasks that they performed well like they put all their toys in the toy box or they made their bed neatly. Once you feel your child is comfortable and confident in their new routine, tick off the tasks that they completed without prompting. All adding up to the reward system.

How to manage the reward system.

This is where it gets tricky, do you offer pocket money, a new toy, a holiday? Well, no. Keep your rewards simple and cost effective (just in case your toddler does learn how to vacuum, wash the dishes and clean the shower after a month). Let their reward at the end of the week, or even every two weeks include things like:

  • Picking the Friday night movie (this is extremely effective in a home with multiple children).
  • Picking a weekend activity (within reason, Disneyland is not an option for making your bed all week).
  • Pick a weekend meal, whether it’s their favourite home cooked meal or a take-a-way.

This way, the reward doesn’t become the motivation, it just becomes a perk. Offering money or extravagant gifts then becomes an expectation rather than a reward. You want your children to learn that chores are a necessity that offers a simple reward- we all know how good it feels to sit back in your tidy home with a cup of coffee.

Helping out at home raises self-esteem: when parents insist that their kids do their chores, they are letting them know that they are not just loved, they are needed. – Wendy Mogul 


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