They improve kids’ behavior too!
When children do household jobs, you—and they—get much more than clean dishes or a crumb-free floor. In her book The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It, author Katherine Reynolds Lewis recommends chores as a big part of that “what to do” about kids’ behavior struggles and lack of discipline at home.
“Children gain confidence and a sense of meaning when they’re responsible for walking a dog, setting the table, cooking dinner, and other daily jobs,” Lewis writes, citing research to back up the claim: “When children help with the work of the household, they develop a belief in themselves as capable and effective.” That, in turn, helps them better manage their emotions and regulate themselves when they encounter difficult situations.
Doing chores also helps kids learn time management and lifelong skills like cooking, laundry, and gardening. Plus, parents get to connect with kids (one of Lewis’s key behavior-improving strategies while teaching these skills.
Double-Duty Chores That Deliver Big Results
These tasks are common jobs for kids, but they offer much more than meets the eye. They are all appropriate for kids ages six and up, especially if you start small and work up to bigger challenges. “The key is to stay one step ahead of them in level of difficulty,” Lewis writes. “Teach them something at the edge of their comfort zone” to build confidence and pride in their work. They’ll learn that and more when they take on these responsibilities at home.
1. Sweeping: Pushing a broom is a repetitive, gross motor activity, which means it soothes the mind and strengthens muscles. Similar jobs: mopping, shoveling snow, raking leaves.
2. Tidying: Putting away toys and books helps teach organization, and it may appeal to kids who love sorting and stacking—so take advantage! Similar jobs: putting away groceries; organizing a linen closet, the pantry, or refrigerator; switching clothes by season.
3. Petcare: Being in charge of a living creature’s well-being helps kids learn and practice responsibility and nurturing. Similar jobs: baby-sitting, or playing with younger children while parents are busy.
4. Laundry: Taking on a complex, multi-step task like this challenges kids’ working memory and sequencing powers. Start small, having younger kids put their dirty clothes in a hamper and sort (and fold!) clean socks. In time they can add more tasks until they’re completing the whole process from start to finish. Similar jobs: Cleaning a closet, packing a lunch, taking out trash and recyclables.
5. Setting the table: Placing utensils, plates, glassware, and napkins requires fine motor skills and caution (avoid urging your child to be careful; instead express confidence in his ability to do the chore without spilling or breaking). Similar jobs: Unloading the dishwasher, weeding a flowerbed or vegetable garden.
6. Food prep: Hiring your child as a sous-chef, to chop veggies and other ingredients using a knife, not only gets your dinner on the table faster but also lets him take risks in a controlled environment, which makes him feel capable and empowered. Similar jobs: Household repairs, assembling furniture, or bike maintenance using hand tools; working at a hot stove.
7. Cooking: As your child moves from meal prep to actual cooking, she needs to use math skills for measuring, reading to follow a recipe, planning and sequencing, and problem solving if something goes wrong. Similar jobs: Planting and maintaining a garden, sewing.