Want to raise kids that are hard-working and responsible? Then it might be a good idea to let them clean that mess up themselves! According to a recent study, only 28% of parents require their children to do chores around the house (source). Kids are entering college unable to do basic household tasks, and it isn’t helping them any. I highly recommend involving kids in family chores, and start early! Two year olds love to help, why not start while they’re enthusiastic!
One ongoing issue that I run into with chores is that it’s so much faster and easier to do them myself.
I struggle with this quite a bit. At the end of a hectic homeschool day, it’s so much easier to send them outside while I straighten up the house. In order for chores to be successful, it’s important to train kids on exactly how to complete the task. This takes time! It’s also important to be consistent. We have a weekly deadline for chores, which you can read more about in this post.
Despite the effort, training my kids to be skilled around the house is totally worth the time investment. My kids are getting to the age where I am starting to see the fruits of my labors. Aidan (age 13) can clean bathrooms, wash dishes, load the dishwasher, take the trash can out to the street, vacuum, fold laundry, and put groceries away. And he can do all of this independently! We don’t ask him to do all of those things every week, but he is capable of completing any of those tasks when I need them done.
I decided that it would be helpful to compile a master list of cleaning tasks by room and by age to help with me focus in on what skills I want to work on with each child, because in the “moment” of a busy day, it’s hard to come up with a plan! I have a friend who has a good system going with her four boys (ages 11, 9, 7, and 4) and I asked her what jobs her boys do. She was VERY helpful in contributing to this list! Her older two boys do their own laundry, and her third boy (age 7) does all of his own folding and putting away. When I talked to her on the phone, she had been sick in bed for a week, and the boys had all continued to do their chores and had kept the house clean – even the kitchen!
Big families can quickly make big messes, but when everyone has a job to do, the mess can be dealt with efficiently!
A Guide to Cleaning with Kids by Room and Age
Note: Ages are approximate guidelines. Obviously, there may need to be adjustments for ability and maturity. An 8 year old should be able to also do all the tasks on the 5-6 and 2-4 lists, and so on.
2nd Note: The intent of this list is that Mom is working alongside the kids so that training is ongoing. Over time, the kids will be able to do these tasks all by themselves!
- Sort out-of-place items into piles. For example, you could have them do toys (if not stored in the bedroom), books, trash, and laundry. For younger ones, have them just look for one type of thing, like laundry.
- Check under the beds and furniture for things that don’t belong
- Dust baseboards
- Dust windowsills
- Carry laundry to the laundry room (or hamper), take toys and books to where they belong. (I put this on age 5-6 because my 3 year old gets way off track if I send him around the house…)
- Dust furniture
- Make beds
- Change sheets
I didn’t break down the play room by ages, because any age child can help with putting away toys. We keep the majority of our toys in plastic tubs for storage, and this seems to work well for “boy toys.” We have tubs for blocks, hot wheels, army guys, toy animals, Nerf guns, etc., and a large under-the-bed style tub that holds most of our puzzles. When we bought our house last year, the sellers gave us the option of purchasing a large storage cabinet that was already anchored to the wall. This has been great for storing tubs of toys!
We do a daily toy pick-up in the play room – usually right before dinner.
- Put away toys, shoes, books
- Dust baseboards
- Dust window sills
- Dust end tables (with an adult or older sibling moving any breakable decor items)
- Check under furniture for toys, books, socks, etc. that need to be put away
- Put away items that were discovered under the furniture
- Dust furniture – Mom may need to move items first, depending on what kinds of things are out! Work toward dusting the entire surface and getting in corners of shelves, etc.
- Dust blinds with a feather duster or microfiber duster
- Fold throw blankets and straighten sofa pillows
Bathroom notes: My 9 year old cleans the bathroom himself with chemical cleaners (Scrubbing Bubbles and Chlorox toilet cleaner). We have cleaning gloves, and he washes his hands when he is done. Another option is to fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. This makes a safe cleaner that any age child can use! Cleaning wipes are a super simple option for wiping down the sink and toilet, depending on how you feel about those.
For smelly boy bathrooms, we like to make a homemade cleaner for the floor – nothing will totally get rid of the smell of a boy bathroom, but this cleaner definitely helps! If I don’t have time to mix up the cleaner, I will often sprinkle baking soda on the floor and have the boys spray 50/50 vinegar and water on the floor and scrub with sponges. This seems to be good for freshening up the results of bad aim! Also, after a floor scrubbing session, the boys are more motivated to be a little more “precise.”
- Empty trash
- Clean baseboards
- Carry dirty towels to the laundry room
- Take bathroom rugs outside and shake them out
- Sweep the floor
- Take laundry hamper to laundry room and empty it, if you do a hamper
- Clean the toilet
- Spray down the mirror and wipe it clean
- Clean the sink
- Scrub the bathtub or shower
- Empty silverware out of the dishwasher and sort into the drawer
- Move chairs so that an older person can sweep or mop
- Put napkins at each place for meals
- Shake crumbs off of place mats into the trash after meals, or shake them outside
- Carry items to the pantry or fridge after meals (butter, ketchup, bag of chips, etc.)
- Take items to the recycling bin
- Sweep (this won’t be perfect at first, more so than other jobs on here, but it’s so good to practice!)
- Spray down and wipe front of oven and dishwasher
- Clear the table
- Unload dishwasher
- Set the table (silverware)
- Wipe down the table
- Take out the trash
- Load the dishwasher
- Wipe down countertops, including moving small appliances and wiping under them
- Wash dishes
- Dry and put away dishes
- Fix drinks for meals
- Help Mom or an older sibling sort clothes by colors
- Match socks
- Carry laundry to the laundry room
- Help Mom or an older sibling transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer
- Learn to fold. We’ve found that it’s easiest to start folding things like hand towels and dish towels, since they are small and an even shape. Then we move on to child size shirts and pants. We also have the boys fold one sock around the other to make a pair. Gresham (age 6) has just mastered socks! Bath towels are one of the hardest things to fold, but 6 year olds can do it with enough practice!
- Transfer laundry to the dryer
- Learn to operate the washer and dryer
- Learn how to sort independently enough that he/she can start a load without ruining anything 🙂
What does this look like in reality?
We have weekly chore assignments for each child, and all chores must be completed by the deadline which is Friday at dinner time! This has been working really well. You can read more about what we do for kids who don’t complete their chores or do them poorly here: Family Chores System.