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When Should you Introduce Chores?

Have you ever thought about when is the right time to introduce chores to your kiddos?  Do you ever have dreams about your kids helping out without you having to ask or remind them? 

Giving kids chores can be beneficial for all.  It allows kids to feel a sense of accomplishment and responsibility for contributing to the family.  More importantly, it can teach them valuable life skills, such as responsibility, follow through, and communication (when things don’t get done). 

Plus, it can help out with the parents’ workload, making it a potential WIN/WIN for everyone!

My household is definitely still a work in progress, but there are a few things I’ve found effective to make our household run much smoother, whiles teaching our kids some valuable lessons.  

First, my partner and I decided on a few basic tasks that are expected of our kids because they live in this house.  Things that they are required to do in order to contribute to the family.  We call these types of tasks “responsibilities”.   For example, picking up after yourself (aka putting toys away), making your bed, helping put clothes away after laundry, etc…  These are just some examples of core responsibilities. 

Keep in mind that how much help we provide as parents during each of these talks varies based on the age of the child.  We slowly remove our support as they get older and more responsible/able to complete the task on their own.  These tasks started as soon as they were able to assist in the specific task at hand (as early as 1 years old).  And their responsibility continues to grow as they get older and have the ability to tackle more. 

Here are some great tips/strategies to make sure your journey is as effective as possible.

  1. Visuals: Using visual reminders for routines has been helpful so that we aren’t having to constantly remind the kids of the expectations. For example, the morning routine is a visual check off that includes making bed.  You can create visuals checklists with text and/or simple pictures, put in a clear plastic sheet so that your little can check off with a dry erase marker and use again.  Below is an example: 

In the visual above includes school prep for the evening on top and the morning below that I used with my 3 year old.   Her older siblings had similar ones but without the pictures.

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Dry Erase Pockets     Dry Erase Markers


  1. Follow through with discussed consequences: When the kids do complain or ask “WHY” they have to do something like pick up their toys, we try to explain the need to keep things organized and the responsibility of “if you play with it you must put it away” (in addition to that possibility that toys could be hazardous to pets or younger siblings, or people stepping on them). When it gets pushed further, and they say “NO” they aren’t going to clean up, we will let them know that if they can’t clean up the toys, that means they shouldn’t have them since that is too big of a responsibility and we will give the toys away to other children that are ready for the responsibility.  And yes, they have tested this and yes, we did give the toys away that they didn’t clean up.  It only happened one time, which is the beauty of follow through.  Now, I do always say they can ask for help (because sometimes the messes can be HUGE) and we will offer support when needed.  The important thing here is that you uphold the discussed consequences, so that your word means something.  Don’t say it if you can’t do it. 
  2. Consistency: Being as consistent as possible in the beginning makes good habits form faster and makes life so much easier in the long run. Try to set expectations for yourself and for you kids that can be met without too much struggle.  This will help everyone involved have a feeling of success, which will only reinforce you and your littles to continue making progress.
  3. PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!! You really can’t give enough praise to your child for doing the work you asked them and  have expected them to do…especially in the beginning.  Be descriptive and tell them what they did that was great as well as the outcome of what they did and how it was helpful. 

Next, when the kids were a little bit older, we came up with a list of chores we felt the children were capable of completing on their own, respective of their ages, that we were willing to pay them for.   When we officially started our chore charts, our kids were 7, 5, and 3.  We found these amazing chore charts that we have loved and use every day!

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We discussed with the kids that besides the basic responsibilities mentioned above, there were also opportunities in the home for each of them to earn money by completing various tasks.  We laid out all of the chores we thought they could complete on their own and allowed them to select a couple that they wanted to take on.  The older two were very excited to earn money so they were ready.  My youngest was not, so we held off until she was more motivated (when she started seeing her sister and brother earn money and buy things).   

For this to be successful, I think there are a few things to consider:

  1. Easy tasks they can complete on their own.
  2. Daily tasks (if possible) so they get into a routine.
  3. Visual reminder (the chores chart) and usually one verbal reminder about chores.
  4. “Payment” at first immediately and then weekly “allowance”. At first they received a nickel or dime after the task and then it moved to $1 per week for each task they completed.
  5. Verbal praise immediately and describing how helpful it is for you.
  6. Consistent parental follow through with rewards and other consequences.

There were some hiccups along the way.  For example, initially we had them choose 5 paid chores but when they started complaining, we realized that was too many at first.  We told them if they complained about the chores we weren’t going to pay them.  It was a choice they could make to participate in the paid chores but we weren’t going to pay for bad service!! 

So the chores needed to be done on

time, without a ton of extra reminders, and definitely with no complaining.  They moved to 2-3 chores and worked their way up.  We also have a conversation as to when they were ready to take on more.  This gives them an opportunity to speak up and helps create buy-in to the process!!

A couple of side notes:   There are many lists of appropriate chores for various age ranges to give you some ideas of what to expect, just make sure to tailor it to your child’s skillsets, and tailor the reward to what you know with help reinforce this behavior.  Money is a concept that also needs be taught before trying to use it as a reward for most kids. Feel free to use other types of rewards if money is not currently something your child wants to earn or work towards, or if it’s not a concept that you want to introduce at this stage.

Don’t forget to start small and work up as you and your family get into a groove of what works for you.

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