How I Simplify Kid Chores
Like a lot of kids who grew up on a farm, I had chores to do every day, whether that was outside or inside. Before I did anything else after school, the kid chores had to get done.
When Ryan and I got married, I swapped the dairy farm I grew up on for a hog farm. I had no doubt that I would instill the same hard work philosophies on my own children. I grew up knowing that I wasn’t entitled to things without working for them. And in turn, I feel that I grew up more grateful for what I had, independent, and competent.
If you are new to letting go of the reigns and sharing the house chore load – start here
At 9, 6, and 3, my kids each have daily age-appropriate kid chores that they’re responsible for. But what chores looked like for Kading at 3-years-old is much different than what they look like for Gracyn now. Gracyn isn’t 3 until October, but she’s been “helping” with chores since she could walk.
Why do I have my almost-3-year-old do chores?You may think this is too young. But hear me out because my own perspective on this has changed a lot since I first became a mama. While I always knew my kids would have household responsibilities at some point, I didn’t originally assign them at such a young age.
So, what is the right age for kids to start doing chores?There’s a lot of perspectives on this topic of appropriate age. And there’s no one right or wrong answer. A lot depends on the temperament and personality of a child and the dynamics of a family. But here’s what I do know… Kids should do chores around the house as soon as they are old enough and able to help with the most basic household tasks. I’m talking about simple things―putting laundry in hampers, picking up toys and putting them where they belong, and “dusting” with socks on their hands or in my case, Kids Norwex Dusting Mitt’s (I put that in quotations because things might get dusted, it just might not be perfect. Done doesn’t have to be perfect). While I’m not an expert, by all means, there are people out there who have done the work on the topic. Social scientists around the globe have actually proven through long-term studies that children who grow up with home responsibilities grow up to be:
- More successful in adulthood―chores help children learn at a young age to trust themselves in their abilities which leads to higher confidence and self-esteem.
- Involved members of society―household chores teach kids to work as part of a team. They learn to be accountable to themselves and others.
- More mindful and aware―when kids have even simple chores they’re responsible for, they learn to be less impulsive, make better judgments, and pay attention to how their decisions affect other people.
- Able to withstand delayed gratification―this is a big thing! When kids have to wait to get what they want until they finish a task, they learn that things don’t come instantly. In this crazy age of technology, I feel that this is incredibly important for my kids to learn.
Are assigning kid chores worth the struggle?How many of you are thinking that sometimes assigning chores and keeping your kids on task feels like more trouble than it’s worth? I totally relate. Which is why I wanted to share my new(ish) chore strategy. Our family has tried several chore charts and methods. Many of which stressed me out because they required more planning on my end. My girls struggled remembering which jobs were theirs, which led to some nights where I felt like I did more nagging than I wanted to. No one wants to be that naggy mom! And no kid wants to be constantly nagged at! Our zone method has almost (I can’t emphasize “almost” enough here) made my nagging stop…
Embrace household kid chores “zones”There’s no need to make complicated chore charts. In fact, your kids (and you) are more likely to follow through on a more simplified version. Using the “zone” chore system, kids can quickly look to see which area of the house they’re responsible for that week. You may have to help the younger ones who can’t yet read out a bit, but once they get the hang of it, they’ll need very little help.
Step 1: Break your house into manageable zonesThis may not look the same for everyone because homes and household needs are so different. In the Kress household, I break kid chore zones down like this: -Mudroom/Laundry Room -Living room -Kitchen and dining area -Basement Playroom -Outdoor Here’s a tip right off the bat…If the number of kids is fewer than zones in your house, have each child take a zone and the rest are ones “everyone pitches in on.” Don’t set yourself up for failure, especially with littles by expecting them to handle multiple zones unless you’ve been at this a while and we are all quarantined – again.
Step 2: List out what each kid chores zone entailsI said this is simple, and I promise that it is. But the first time setting these kid chores zones up, you’ll have to talk out specifics (or expectations) for each zone. So the first few days of starting this routine, it takes a little effort setting the foundation…and some reminding.
Mudroom/Laundry Room:Like most kids, mine feel the need to fling their shoes, backpacks, jackets, you name it, across the mudroom like there’s a prize for whose stuff can take up the most space. The mudroom zone includes placing shoes in the shoe bin, hanging up coats and bags, and making sure any random papers that make it out of backpacks get placed on the counter. It also currently includes putting dirty masks in a special hamper to be cleaned (can’t wait for this one to be a task of the past). Clothes need folded that are in the dryer and put into separate stacks for each member of the family. (Win for mama!!)
Living Room:I’m not going to lie, my kids hate when it’s their turn for the living room zone. It’s obviously one of our most lived-in spaces and things seem to get pulled out a lot. There ends up being a lot of re-doing. Honestly, when Kading complains, I don’t feel that bad for her. Girl, I’ve been re-doing shit for years now with no end in sight… The living room tasks include: folding up any left out blankets, dusting, putting toys and anything else that doesn’t belong in that room away. It is a great one for Gracyn since most of the said items left out…are usually hers. I digress.
Kitchen:Like the living room, our kitchen is a place of hustle and bustle most nights. Kid chores in the kitchen zone include: setting the table before dinner, putting any random items in their places, emptying the dishwasher and sink of clean air dried dishes (I don’t take the time to dry dishes, they air dry in our house. I mean who has the time?)
Basement Playroom:The playroom ends up being one of the shared zones. It’s a fairly easy task for a toddler to pick toys up and put them in their place (not that it’s an easy task to get her to do it all the time). Kading has taken claim to most of the playroom as her classroom and she’s typically the one who makes it look like a war zone, so it feels justified that they all do their part to put it back together.
Outdoors:Our outdoor zone might be different from someone who lives in town…it includes bringing yard toys in, making sure the garage and garden shed are somewhat organized (aka in a “no one will fall and break a bone” state), picking up sticks, feeding the barn kitties…all that outdoor fun. Again, this is one they all pitch in to do. I can’t expect Reagan who is built like a twig to haul in Kading’s bike, just because she didn’t feel like putting it away. We very much enforce everyone picks up after themselves – everywhere.
Step 3: Rotate each weekHow you choose to rotate zones is purely up to you. For me, I just move clockwork and each of the older girls gets one kid chores zone from Sunday to Saturday. But it’ll be different for each family, depending on the number of kids and the ages. Even my youngest gets put in on the rotation. I just know she’ll need help with some things. Gracyn loves to help so she does her best, but she’s obviously limited on some things. She’s actually an excellent towel folder for an almost-3-year-old but my older girls help put the folded ones away. She can’t empty the dishwasher completely nor would I want her to break every plate. So I have her do what she can with my help, like putting silverware away, drying plastic cups, and putting things at her level away. She feels like big stuff helping her sisters – and the task gets done, so it’s a win.
Don’t forget the individual daily “must-do’s”In addition to their weekly assigned “zone”, each of my girls has a list of daily “must-do’s.” Because they’re each at a different age and abilities, the lists aren’t equal. An example of my 3rd grader’s daily responsibilities is:
- Read for 20 minutes and/or complete homework
- During playtime outside she practices the current sport or activity
- Bring up her dirty laundry basket every weekend
- Put laundry in drawers and/or bring the basket to the laundry room
- Put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher
The money-maker choresAllowance being tied to household chores is one of those topics I can see both sides of. I feel like we all live in the house so we all can contribute without expecting to be paid. But I also want my kids to grow up learning about how to earn money and how to manage it. So, here’s what we do as a balance to both of my conflicting viewpoints… Kading gets $2 when she watches her younger sisters while I run and Ryan is out taking care of chores. Reagan dusts’, sweeps, and mops for $1 per chore—she loves this because whenever she’s short on money, she knows these things almost always need to be done. (Yet, another mom win!) Household kid chores don’t need to be a complicated ordeal. Keep it simple! The point is to get your children doing chores regularly without you feeling like you’re wasting more time nagging at them to get tasks done. If you’re looking for safer cleaning products for your kids to use in their daily chores, check out the Norwex line. Not only are they 100% safe for the kiddos to use, but they last forever. The Enviro line is full of great starter products―the silver lining is antibacterial and re-sanitizes itself between uses if hung to dry. Shop online at www.dawnkress.norwex.biz.
I’m here to helpSometimes when we have so much stuff, it makes basic household chores daunting to even start. Snag this simple declutter checklist to declutter your home in just 15 minutes a day – best yet, your kiddos can help ya! Because let’s be honest, their “stuff” clutters up our homes too.
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