A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Kids To Do Chores

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See my simple 3-step method for teaching kids to do chores. You will also find 8 tips to make that 3-step method effective now and long-term.

Mother teaching her daughter how to do chores

I have always loved a good chore chart. Getting the family on a chore system has always been in me.

As a teen, I even made up a chore chart for my family to follow and I was shocked that my mother did not follow it. Ha!

Now that I am the mom, my chore systems can be followed and I can enforce it.

Teaching your children to work hard and do their Chores around the house is possible and feasible.

It is not an easy road.

There will be many years when your child’s contribution is waaaaayyy below the standard of clean you have set for yourself.

There will be many more hours spent helping, teaching, and walking your child through chores than there would be if you just did it yourself.

There will be many creative efforts taken by your children to find a way out of the chores.

You will have frustrating days when it seems like no one is doing their chores or everyone is taking a million hours to do simple tasks.

Sounds hard right? So why bother?

Child vacuuming doing a chore

Benefits of Chores

There are payouts down the line, despite the difficult road getting there.

Having children do chores is so beneficial for families. One day, your child will vacuum a room and you will realize that he did a good job.

Your kids will be able to help clean!

You will have multiple children who make multiple messes, but who also provide multiple hands in cleaning up that mess (trust me, you do not want to face the messes of your children alone 5-10 years down the line).

I am also looking to the day when my children move out of the house and are able to go in confidence, capable of caring for themselves.

In the fall of 2018, I faced a sudden major surgery. A routine appointment had me in the operating room less than three weeks later.

I was, and am, so grateful for the years I spent teaching my children to do chores.

I knew my children would be able to help around the house. I knew they would help clean bathrooms, vacuum, and make dinner.

I knew they were able to take care of themselves, the house, and even me. This was not a payday I could plan for; it came suddenly. The years of effort paid off.

Teaching your children to do chores is simpler than you might think. It takes time. It takes effort long before you see results. But I can promise you, it is all worth it.

It is of great worth for children to learn how to work.

There is a life skill learned, yes. It is nice to go off to college knowing how to do your own laundry.

There is also the great benefit of mom not having to do all of the cleaning around the house alone.

But doing chores does even more than that.

It teaches children to be responsible and to value work. It builds character and creates a bond with those they work with.

For more on this, see Teaching Children Life SkillsWork and Responsibility, and Work: More than Economic Value.

8 simple tips to teach and motivate kid to do their chores pinnable imges

How to Get Children Doing Chores

So how do you start teaching children to do household chores?

It doesn’t happen overnight. If you decide today that you want your children to be able to do chores, they won’t be able and capable tomorrow or even next week.

It takes time to teach and time for them to learn. It is worth the time! Here is my 3-step method for teaching my kids to do a new chore.

As I teach my kids to do chores, I start by having them help me do chores. They pick up a lot by just being around me and copying what I do.

I then move on to explaining how the chore is supposed to be done. I talk through the chore as we do it.

I then hand the task over to the child and let the child practice.

This three-part method can take even up to a year, depending on the age of the child. It is a time investment. Older kids can be just a few weeks.

Let’s talk about some important aspects to remember as you teach kids to do chores.

1 – Do Chores With and Around Your Child

The key to all things parenting is being a good model of the behavior you want your child to mimic.

If you clean around your child from very young, your child will want to clean from a very young age.

This isn’t always easy. It is often easier to clean while your baby is napping.

When my oldest was a baby, we lived in a studio apartment, so I had to clean while he was awake.

He loved cleaning. He was literally trying to sweep with a broom at 7.5 months old.

When my second was a baby, we were in a house with bedrooms! I cleaned while she napped. As she got older, I realized she did not care for cleaning at all.

I since learned from that and have been sure to do some cleaning with my children around even as babies, and my second two children both have been happy cleaners from a young age (and don’t worry–my second is a good cleaner now. Mistakes can be remedied 🙂 ).

2 – Find a Way to Allow Your Child to Help

Your little one is going to want to do chores with you if you have modeled it from a young age.

I remember giving a 9 month old Brayden a broom and letting him “sweep.” Allow your child to contribute to doing chores.

Get creative to find ways to allow your little one to help you. If you are dusting, give your child a dust rag to help dust. Get a little broom so your toddler can sweep alongside you.

Give your preschooler a squirt bottle filled with water and a rag and let him clean things (I often ask the little one to wash doors this way).

As your child helps, thank your child for helping you and commend your child for being a good helper in the family. Children love praise and they want to please you. Thanking the child motivates the child to help more.

A young child wants to help–you want to fan that flame and keep it burning as long as possible. Your child will not always find a thrill in cleaning. Even a ten year old who doesn’t mind cleaning will be able to think of twenty other things that could be happening rather than cleaning.


Read: Getting Children Actively Engaged in Household Chores


3 – Give Your Child Chores at a Young Age

You have to trust your child enough to go ahead and give out chores from a young age.

By the time my oldest was 3, he could vacuum a room well enough that I didn’t secretly go over it later. Yes, three.

Children can often do more than we realize. Keep in mind that just because it is a “chore” doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. See my post Making Work Fun for more on that concept.

Keep the chores you give young ones small. My three year old could vacuum a room well, but I didn’t have him do more than one room at once.

Here are my chores by age to help you know what is age-appropriate for your child:

4 – Be Consistent

Consistency is an important aspect to instilling chores in the family.

If your child has always done chores for as long as she can remember, why would she think there is any chance of her not having to do chores this week?

She might give it a try every so often, but she won’t expect any reward to come from that effort. Be consistent with your rules and expectations.

Also, be consistent with when chores happen in the routine, or what can’t be done until chores are done. For example, you might not allow electronics to be used until chores are done.

As your child gets older, have chore time a part of the day. I would start required chores even as early as 2 if desired.

I would really have it in place as a 3 year old–but if your child is older than that, it isn’t too late to start! See Working Chores Into Your Day for more.

how to get your kids to do chores pinnable image

5 – Distract Yourself While Your Child Cleans and Accept the Job Done

Your child will not be perfect in how she completes a chore.

You have to accept less than perfect.

Your young child will not be as good as you are at cleaning. No way. It won’t happen for years. Be okay with that. The day will come when your child does a great job. I love this story from Loren Dunn to illustrate the point:

“While we were growing up in a small community, my father saw the need for my brother and me to learn the principle of work. As a result, he put us to work on a small farm on the edge of town where he had been raised. He ran the local newspaper, so he could not spend much time with us. … And sometimes we made mistakes.

“Our small farm was surrounded by other farms, and one of the farmers went in to see my father one day to tell him the things he thought we were doing wrong. My father listened to him carefully and then said, ‘Jim, you don’t understand. You see, I’m raising boys and not cows’ ”.

Loren Dunn

You might have to either walk out of the room or busy yourself with your own job in the same room so you don’t become a major micro-manager as your child cleans.

Remember a child is learning how to do these things and will not be as good as you are at all. Remember the WHY behind your child learning to do the chores. These young years are practice time. Not perfection time.

You want to accept the job well done and be satisfied with the efforts.

Let me give one caveat. Sometimes children will try to get by with the bare minimum effort.

Accept your child’s best effort, but require the best effort.

If you see your child is not putting forth his best, reteach and remind your child to take pride in the job done. You want best effort; just don’t demand perfection.

6 – Use Chore Charts

Use Chore Cards, chore charts, Chore JarChore Wheel, etc. for your chores if that works for your family.

If you do a simple Google or Pinterest search on chore charts, you will find countless ways of tracking chores. Find one you like and try it out. When that gets stale, try something else out.

I find kids get excited about the same old chores by a simple switch up of the chore chart. I have a few ideas for you: Chore CardsChore Jar, and Chore Wheel.

If chore charts are just annoying, forget them.

Make the culture of your home one where everyone contributes to helping keep the home clean. This teaches your children these life skills and it also eases the burden off of you. Kids can contribute in a positive way if you allow them to practice.

7-Find Ways to Motivate Kids to Do Chores

If your kids do not do their chores, find ways to motivate them. Do races, set a timer, or have a fun activity planned for when chores are completed.


Read: 10 Uses For a Timer That Will Make Parenting Easier


8-Have Consequences if Chores Don’t Get Done

Teaching kids to do chores won’t mean that life is always sunshine and rainbows. There will be times kids just won’t do the chores. They will be distracted by other fun things or even feeling a little rebellious.

If this is happening, first go back to step 7 and find ways to motivate your child to get things done. If that doesn’t work, turn to consequences. Read Consequences: Natural VS Logical and How to Use Each for help with this.

Conclusion

You can definitely have children who are good cleaners and helpers with a little (okay, a lot) of work. Slow and steady. Keep up the good effort and your day will come.

While getting your children to the point of being good at chores takes a lot of time and effort, it is an effort worth making.

As a mom with older children who are now able to be independent and good at chores, I can say I am SO GLAD I put the effort in while they were young.

As they get older, they get more and more capable of creating large messes. Their clothes get larger so the laundry loads increase each week.

As they grow, our need for chores increase and I would not be able to maintain my sanity without my children being able to contribute to helping contribute to the cleaning in the home.

Related Chore Posts

A Beginner's Guide to Children Doing Chores. How parents can teach their children to learn to do chores and help with household tasks at home with a picture of a child vacuuming

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2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Kids To Do Chores”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Valerie. This is so timely as I’ve been thinking about this a lot. My oldest turned 4 today, I have a two year old and another coming in March. I would love to set us up with better habits before the baby comes. My question is, do you use a chore chart or some kind of system to remind kids what chores to do? (Forgive me if that is in another post I haven’t read.) Any tips on encouraging kids when the chores aren’t fun? My son was all about dust-busting the crumbs under the table for the first few weeks, but now grumbles when I ask him to do it. Maybe there would be more motivation with a chart or allowance. How do you feel about those? Thanks again! Haley

    Reply
    • Hello! If you go here, you will see all of my chore posts. https://www.babywisemom.com/chores-index/

      Chore charts are great. I find you have to mix it up–you can’t use the same chore chart forever. Kids need a change of scenery every once in a while.

      I don’t do allowance. We have in the past. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it. IF you do allowance, it is wise to charge your child for not doing chores.

      Reply

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