Household Chore Ideas for Kids – 9 Creative Ways to Put Your Kids to Work
It’s hard enough to get myself to do chores. Engaging my kids to clean sometimes feels like an impossible task. However, there are a few tricks that makes activating my minions a little bit easier.
1. Treat Them Like People – I know it’s hard to think of your children this way when they’re melting all over the floor, bawling about doing chores, but kids are people too. Explain to them in age-appropriate ways why you’re cleaning the house. Don’t lecture or make it a big thing. Try – Doesn’t your room feel nice when it’s clean like this? – or – Let’s tidy up so we can find all our toys next time we want to play.
With older kids, I’ve found it really effective to sincerely tell them the message it sends me when they throw their belongings all over the floor and assume I’ll clean up after them. Because, guess what. Moms are people too!
2. Bundle Cleaning with Something Fun – This goes along with explaining the why of chores but takes it a step further by creating an immediate why to motivate everyone. Kids are much more motivated to clean when they’re doing it for a higher purpose, i.e. imminent reward. I like to use holidays, out-of-town guests, vacations, and fun family outings as opportunities to sneak in a few extra chores.
“Oh Grandma’s coming tomorrow. Let’s get the house looking great as a surprise for her,” or, “I would love to take you guys to the zoo this afternoon. Let’s see if we can get all our chores done so we have time to go see the flamingos.”
The fun thing to remember is that the cleaning and the impending fun don’t have to be related in any way to work. “Hey guys! Who wants to help me dust the baseboards so we can head down to the library?” is way more fun than, “I need you to all help me dust the baseboards now,” followed by an unrelated trip to the library that you were going to take anyway because you had overdue books. You feel me here?
3. Introduce New and Exotic Chores – Think about the assignment of chores as a way to delegate items from your family to-do list. Sometimes I get stuck only assigning my kids task that have traditionally been seen as children’s “chores.” If they’re becoming resistant to wiping the table, vacuuming, or dusting, consider asking them to file some papers, draft a meal plan for the week, organize the back hall closet, or restock the bathrooms with toilet paper.
4. Use Natural Sibling Rivalry to Your Advantage – My kids love each other and working together can be extremely distracting and counterproductive. They are also extremely competitive. So, lately I’ve been having them tidy the house one at a time in shifts. Wanda (6) goes first, clearing up every mess on the main floor that she is responsible for. Next Magoo (10) clears up every mess he is responsible for and also calls Wanda back in to take care of any of her messes she’s missed. Then Laylee (12) repeats this process, drawing attention to anything her siblings overlooked. Finally, Wanda goes back through and tries to catch anything the older kids missed.
This works really well because, while they each want desperately to catch one of their siblings missing something, they just as urgently want not to be caught missing something by one of their siblings. Never has my main floor been so tidy!
5. Set a Timer – No one wants to start a project with no end in mind and your kids are likely very aware that the chore supply is endless. When you say, “Let’s clean the house,” what your kids hear is, “Let’s clean the house FOREVER because fun has died. I killed it with my bare hands.”
Helping out can be much easier to take if there’s a time limit. Tell your kids you want concentrated effort for 10 minutes. If everyone works hard for ten minutes, you’ll stop, whether the job is done or not. Set a timer and work, work, work. If they’re dragging, tell them you’re adding another five minutes and you’ll keep adding five minutes until they give you some sincere effort. It generally does not take long for them to clue in and step up their game.
6. Let Them Keep Chores Longer – As much as it’s good to shake things up and give kids new chores, I’ve found it’s really effective to have kids keep their same daily chores for long periods of time, allowing them (as children of the industrial revolution) to specialize.
When kids have the same weekly chore for several weeks or months, they can get really good at doing it and it also becomes a habit. For the past year, Laylee has been responsible for emptying the dishwasher each morning before she leaves for school and Magoo’s job is to gather all the dirty laundry, take it to the laundry room, and sort it. They know what’s expected and they are really competent at their chores.
7. Make a Visual Reminder – Whether it’s a chore chart or popsicle sticks in a jar, have some sort of visual reminder for your kids to help them remember their responsibilities and to give them a sense of satisfaction when they complete them.
This chores jar has sticks that are three different colors on top. Yellow sticks are to be completed in the morning, things like Brush Teeth and Prep Backpack. Red sticks are for afternoon tasks like Unpack Lunchbox, Homework, Piano Practicing, and Bedroom Tidying. Blue sticks are for nighttime routines like Reading and Flossing Teeth.
The bottom half of all our sticks are green, indicating completion. It feels great to flip those sticks over and see that them all turn green. Green means go. Green means Minecraft time.
8. Write a To-Do List – Sometimes you don’t have the energy or creativity to establish a cute Pinterest-worthy chore system. If that’s the case, just grab a piece of paper and jot down a few things you’d like your kids to get done. They can check off or cross off each item as they go.
As they get older, guide them to write the lists themselves.
Last summer, in an attempt to add a little more structure to our insanity, we had a planning meeting each night for the next day’s activities. Each kid came prepared with a notepad and pencil. I would show them what we had on the calendar, we’d discuss what preparations needed to be made for that specific activity, and each kid would write a list of what they needed to do to be prepared for the day.
One would gather and fill water bottles. One would be responsible for sunscreen and hats. Another would make a picnic lunch. They took more ownership for their chores because they had a hand in planning them.
9. Work Together – It goes without saying that we need to show our kids good examples of work if we want them to become hard workers. However, often the work we do goes completely unseen by our children.
Frequently I get the bulk of my work done when they’re asleep or away at school so the house gets cleaned by “magic.” Lately I’ve decided it’s worth holding off on house chores and other visible acts of family solidarity until the kids are around so we can work together and they can see a little more of what I do for the family. It’s not grandstanding. It’s standing together.
Kids need chores so they can feel like part of your family team. Kids needs chores because eventually they will actually become proficient at cleaning and their help will be helpful. Kids need chores so they can learn to work hard and feel successful. Kids need chores to help them not grow up to be jerks.
What spoons full of sugar have you found to help the chore medicine go down?
Getting our kids to clean doesn’t have to be a chore in and of itself. Try some of these fun hacks for helping them be successful!