When to Do Chores

Updated on November 23, 2009
L.C. asks from Newbury, MA
12 answers

Hi Moms, Dads,
I'm amazed by how many of you have your children doing chores on a consistent basis, and how much you're teaching your kids to be responsible at an early age. I've started working on this, as it's much needed in my house! My question is WHEN do your kids do all these chores? I love the idea of having my older one empty the dishwasher. for example,. but mornings are difficult as it is.. After school, they're usually exhausted and then when they get their energy back, after a snack usually, they want to play. I want to give them time to play.. as school is so structured. Dinner time is so hectic for me, I'd love for their help, but often times it's easier and quicker for me to do it myself..

If some of you could share your daily/weekly routines in regard to cleaning and helping out, that would be wonderful.! Also, If anyone would be willing to share /send me a chore list / daily schedule (if you have one electronically) I would be most grateful!
many thanks,

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answers from New London on

My son is 12 he does the dishes, compost and the recycling. The chores are done right after school, he is allowed to have a snack if needed. But it's done first and foremost. On weekends they get done as soon as neded and again before anything else.
If it's not done, nothing else gets done-playing, etc.
My daughter almost 4, cleans her toys as well as enjoying helping her brother...ussually with the silverware.
After reading some other responces I think I will impliment my daughter to clear the table as well. Plus it makes me feel good because my husbands family never made him or his sister do a thing and everyone is always telling me I make my son do so much. So I also thank you for this question! Can't wait to get new things underway.

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answers from St. Louis on


My children are too young to help with chores for the most part but I do make sure that my 27 month old daughter cleans up her toys in the living room and in her room before bed each night. I also make sure she puts her shoes in her room.

When my kids are older, I will expect them to unload the dishwasher (at my parents house you could do it before or after dinner but it had to be done). I will probably have one unload and one set the table. Maybe not every night? But at least a few nights a week. I will also expect them to throw all their dirty laundry down the laundry chute once a week including their bed linens. Once a week (probably Sundays) I will ask that they bring their trash cans to me and when older, probably have one of them take the trash out of the entire house. I think once they are 5 or 6, they can start helping with these things as it teaches them responsibilty!

Right now, my husband and I do the chores on Sundays. Laundry and dishes are done as needed - usually daily. He works night so he'll put in a load of clothes into the washer/dryer and I'll fold it the next morning (after a few minutes of fluffing it up). I usually load the dishwasher and he'll unload it. On Sundays, we take turns watching our 2 year old and 3 month old while the other one cleans. He cleans our room (vacuuming, dusting, changing the bed, cleaning the bathroom), my daughter's room (dusting, sheets, vacuum), he vacuums the hallway and wipes down all fans. When it's my turn, I clean the other bathroom, sweep and mop the kitchen, vacuum the living room and dust it and then clean the kitchen in general (wash the inside of the windows, wipe down all counters and the oven, empty dishwasher and sink, etc). It works well for us!

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answers from Boston on

my kids are only 16 mos and 3y3m.

tub time, both kids strip down and put their laundry in their basket in their room. even my 16mo old has started to do this now...i strip him down and pile his clothes up and he runs around the corner to his room and puts it in the basket and he comes back to the tub. (altough i'm finding sippy cups and shoes in there now too :) ).

towels - we each have our own colored towel. so if someone leaves a towel on the floor we now who did it. this was mostly for my husband. after a shower he'd leave the bathroom with a towel and go to our room to get dressed - and he'd leave a towel on the floor or on our bed.... then the next day he'd get a new towel... so we each have our own towel and i pull all the towels on wednesday and sundays.

dishes, my 3 year old, after dinner takes her plate, scrapes it into the trash and puts it in the sink. we give her one piece at a time and she brings it to me at the sink or put something back in the fridge. she clears the entire table.

i have that swivel sweeper, my kids love it, and the are vaccuming the floors all the time. if my daughter makes crumbs, or drops her container of goldfish etc... i make her help me clean it up.. i hold the dustpan while she sweeps, she uses the swivel sweeper etc.

when we walk in the door, she takes off her coat and she hangs it on the hooks in her room. during the day she might want to take her socks off (or her pants for what ever reason) she immediately puts them in the laundry hamper, or on her hooks.

laundry - i do all the laundry, but i put my husbands all folded and sorted in front of his closet - he has to put it away. again - he's try on a shirt, decide he didn't want to wear it and be lazy and just throw it in the laundry and not just fold it to put it back... so to show him how much laundry he creates, i would do the laundry and pile it in front of his closet to put away. mind you there usually is always a basket of clean clothes in front of his closet... but that's the way he chooses to live.

my daughter who is 3... i give her each of the things that are in drawers - socks, underwear, undershirts, PJ's.... i give her one set of items at a time and she puts it away.

i also have front loading washer/dryer, and she can reach it so she helps put the laundry in, pull it out, put it int he dryer, pull it out. i have her stand in teh laundry basket and pull all the clothes down around her.. she thinks it's great to be buried in the laundry.

every night after tub, we clean up all the toys etc, before she can watch an episode of dora before she goes to bed. we have the ikea trofast storage system and i put picture/word labels on all the buckets - so she knows where everything goes. once she grows out of the toy stage, i think i'll even keep it for her clothes too.. real easy to pull out a bucket and pick something out.

the older your kids, you will get more resistance to enact these chores... but stick with it. start off with the items that effect them - their food, their laundry etc... and they'll notice the impact it has, and hopefully it'll be easier for them to chip in other areas.

my daughter is still at the age where she likes to help and she thinks it's great... and my son is just likes to follow her around...so what ever she does he wants to do too.

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answers from Boston on

Hi L.,
I don't know how old your children are, which makes a big difference in how much they collaborate.

My son is nine now. Since he was five he's been folding his own laundry and putting it away. Now we've also told him to keep track of when he's getting low on clean clothes so we don't have an "uh-oh, I'm out of clothes" moment and have to drop everything to do his laundry in a rush. Usually on the weekends.

On garbage and recycling days, he brings in either the trash bin or recycling bins once emptied (started this about four months ago). That happens when we get home from school/work.

He has to clear his own dinner, lunch, and breakfast dishes (started this about two years ago).

He sets the table as asked (started this about two years ago).

He helps bring in and put away groceries (started this a few months ago). Weekend mornings.

He tidies his room weekly at least, and as asked (started this about three years ago). This on weekends or in the evenings before bed.

He's been receiving a $5/week allowance as of 3 months ago and that's when we stepped up with the chores (like groceries, trash bins). We also ask him to do other random things as needed, like help outdoors with things or with cleaning tasks.

The thing is, kids have to learn eventually that responsibilities come before fun. So even though their day is structured at school and you'd like to let them play, it's important to teach them that work comes before play. Emptying the dishwasher really only takes a few minutes and if they focus on it, they'll get it done in a jiffy and then they can play with no burdens on them. Also, if you have a couple or three children, they can rotate the chore so that they do it once or twice a week while the others are doing something different. The real objective is to teach responsiblity and inculcate the notion that everyone who lives in the house collaborates toward its cleanliness and proper functioning.

During dinner prep and cleanup you can give them smaller jobs just to teach them, and as they get older, their coordination and mastery of the chores improve you can give more responsibility and therefore free yourself up. It doesn't happen overnight and of course at first it will take more of an investment on your part than liberation, but the end result is worth it.

Good luck!

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answers from Boston on

Chore routines really vary per kid, per age, per family. We find that after school and before supper is the best time for our son to empty the dishwasher and take his laundry downstairs. He knows he needs to do them in that time period. My job is to see if I can let him do it himself without reminding. (I'm not sure which is harder--the not reminding or the emptying and laundry toting. I know my answer but I'm not sure our son would agree. : ) He also usually puts his dishes in the sink or dishwasher. We often do it all as a family so sometimes it's not just one person's responsibility.

It's funny, but probably not all that unusual... Our son is 13. As a little guy, he was much more willing to help. He used to love to vacuum with me, fold clothes, cook in the kitchen with me, rake leaves, garden, shovel. He is still helpful around the house, but it's a different dynamic now--more of a drudge than a fun event. Alas, the gig is up I think. He now knows this stuff is called "work" and "chores" by everyone else. Bummer!

One note. The last year or two, we've gotten into more verbal tussles about his chores. He felt I wasn't acknowledging his abilities because if he didn't do it on my schedule, I would ask "too many times" to do something. We've come to an agreement--we've tried to give him more latitude of when he does the assigned tasks in exchange for me not "nagging" him about it.

The more your child owns the job, the better. But there has to be a level of trust and accountability on both sides for it to succeed. (Sometimes we are a picture of success in this and sometimes we're miserable failures. LOL)

Another trick we tried a few years ago was that we listed all of the things that needed doing. Then we all (my husband, son and I) chose which ones we wanted to do. One person's pain-in-the-rear job was another's relaxation. So, it's sifted out pretty well. But we weren't always so lucky. We split the worst jobs so no one was getting socked with them all.

Think of it as an adventure and forge forth!



answers from Boston on

My girls are 9 and 12 and help with: putting laundry in washer, transferring it to dryer, swiffering woods floors, feeding the cats, sorting their own socks and underwear out of the laundry basket, putting laundry in their dressers, setting the table, bringing stuff upstairs from down stairs and vice versa, dusting the living room, tidying up their own rooms, getting the mail from the mailbox. When they were little I started with: you put all the blocks in this bin while mom finds all the Barbie clothes, etc. Very specific tasks to clean up their toys. While you are doing things just hand over some part of the task. I find my kids want to be helpful (most days, although the pre-teen is sulking more and more). At first you ask them to do stuff while you are doing it too. Now I say: within the next hour I would like for you to move the wet laundry to the dryer and your sister to put the next load into the washer (I still add detergent and start them). Some days I am happy to see them want to read so I let them do that. Other days I feel overloaded and tell them to help me. Every little bit helps. Good luck!



answers from Springfield on

My kids are 6 and 9 and we just started having them do chores a few months ago. The work we is very busy as you said so for monday thru friday we have them be responsible a few things, every morning they need to make there beds, get dressed and make sure there is nothing that needs to be put away in there room, after school they have to do their homework, pick out there clothes for the next day, get there bed ready, make sure their school bags and coats are in the kitchen ready for me and they also need to put away any clean laundry that I leave on their beds. Also they need to make sure they are not leaving any of their belongings in the kitchen or livingroom before the night is through. Some nights One will set the table and the other will clear the table. Weekends are for extra chores, they each take a day to feed our dogs. our older son vaccuums on sundays and will unload the dishwasher on sat. My little daughter, likes to try to sweep the kitchen and livingroom (hardwood floors) and she also washes the counters and table down. They take turns cleaning the toilet (this is actually to most wanted chore LOL). I give each child $5 a week for chores they are allowed to keep $3 and $2 gets put away in an envelope for their savings account. Once the envelope reaches $10 I have the option to double it IF I think they have been good (no back talking, being nice to each other) in that time but it has to go to the savings account. I have them fill out their own slips and take them to the bank to deposit it themselves. I;ve been told by lots of my family and friends that this seems alot for a 6 and 9 year old but its really teaching them to take care of their own belongings and that they are part of a family and have to help out. Also that if they work hard there is a reward (allowance) for that work. Hope this helps. Good luck



answers from Boston on

My kids are a little young for formal chores (6 mths and 3 yrs) but my 3-year-old alerady knows he's responsible for hanging up his coat and taking his shoes off and puting them by the door when we come in. Empty plates and cups go by the sink (he isn't quite tall enough to get them *in* the sink yet) and he puts bits of trash in the trash can when needed.

I think it's about setting reasonable expectations for your kids based on their ages. Some parents assume their kids aren't capable of anything and some assume their kids are capable of too much. My sister, a mother of 7 kids, starts her kids out by having them "try" something new. Sometimes they can manage it, sometimes they can't. Once they show they can take on a new skill, it gets added to their "charts" which they complete in the morning before school. Anything not completed in the AM gets finished after school. For every day they complete their chart, they get a bean in a jar with their name on it. At the end of the week the beans are exchanged for money (this is a sliding scale for each age group). The littler kids have easy chart items (brush teeth, get dressed, etc.) and the big kids have harder chart items (feed the dog, take out the trash, fill the dishwasher, etc.) and some of the bigger jobs get rotated each week so one child isn't always responsible for a specific chore.

Don't be afraid to try out a system and see if it works for you and your kids. Every family is different and there may be a system and rewards that work better in your family (or for each child) than what works better in another.

Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Hi L. & Moms & Dads,

When there is not enough time in the morning to do chores or whatever before school, put your child to bed earlier. I have found, that when they get up earlier, you/they won't have the morning stressful rush.
My children are now ages 10-14. They are required at every meal/snack to take their dishes to the sink - if the dishwasher has dirty dishes, they load their own dirty dishes in. Takes a minute. Are they perfectly loaded, no, but it's easy to fix before we run it. For the past 3 years they have been emptying the dishwasher. The teaching moment is that They decide when - so dishes pile up in the sink - after the child unloads the dishwasher, they then have to load up any dirty ones accumulated in the sink. So it behooves them to do it earlier rather than later. Each child has 2 days/week to do this, we do it the 7th day.
The child who has dishwasher emptying duty - sets the table that day.
My children also help fold clothes & put them away. It takes 30 minutes a week when we do it together.



answers from Hartford on

Hi L.,
Instead of a just a chore chart, we use a card system. Each chore (and/or positive behavior e.g. "read a book" or "held Mommy's hand nicely in the parking lot") has its own index card. At the end of the day, we count up how many cards were earned. (I used a chore chart I found online to keep track of the number of cards earned.)How you reward the cards earned is up to you. For now, my little one just loves trying to get more cards than the previous day. Also, it took a little pressure of me as enforcer. I could always say, "you don't have to do XYZ task, but if you don't you won't earn a card for it." Another bonus, it's nice to recall all of the good things your child did that day. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

Hi L., I believe that kids who are organized for school inthe morning and can get themselves organzied for their own activities, are doing their chores and what is expected of them developmentally. However, I do add some repsonsibilities in the summertime to balance that out. I also offer that there are specfic age apropriate chores that kids can and should do. For example, my 6 year old is responsible for getting herself ready in the morning, for cleaning up her work/play areas, and whenI need a little help- such as making her bed, taking the dog out, she can do that for me. My almost 10 year old gets himself organized for homework and multiple sports activities, cleans his work/play area and also takes out the trash when asked, takes out the dog almost daily before school, plays with our dog outside a few times a week for exercise and once he turns 10 I would like him to be able to make his bed every day. I add a little as they get older.
Hope this helps!




answers from Boston on

Here's a link that can help you create a chart:

Right now we're not doing anything structured. My oldest daughter has a sticker chart where she gets a sticker when she does something to help - especially when she volunteers, or if she goes above & beyond what I expected her to do. When the chart is full, I let her "cash it in" for something that she's been wanting. (She draws the chart, so the size of the chart determines the size of the reward. Her last chart got her a $5 DVD from Target.)

We don't have any daily or weekly chores yet, although she does have things that she's expected to do - put shoes & coat where they belong, put dirty clothes on the stairs where someone can carry them up later (the socks strewn all over make me crazy!), put dirty dishes in the sink. She doesn't get rewards for those things. I also ask her to clean up toys when she's done playing with them. But if she cleans up a mess her sisters have made, or cleans & organizes really well, then she'll get a sticker. Stickers are also rewards for household tasks, like helping with the dishwasher or cleaning the bathroom with me.

Oh, and she also got stickers when she learned new things - like how to buckle herself into her booster seat or zip up her coat by herself or tie her own shoes - since those help me too!!! :) Although there's less of those as she gets older.

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