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.
Dawn @ PricklyMom Feb 11, 2013
This has to be one of the best mom-blog posts I have ever come across! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all out for us.
(BTW...I had to chuckle when I read above that your middle boy cleans up dog poop once a week. I was envisioning land mines all over the house the other 6 days...LOL!)
Sarah Feb 11, 2013
In the yard! He picks up poop in the yard! LOL
Thanks so much for your comment!
Cassie @ 3Dinosaurs.com Feb 11, 2013
Okay I so need to do more of something like this! I love your ideas!
Renita Feb 11, 2013
As usual, your post is timely and helpful! I'm in the midst of revamping my own system for house cleaning, and this is a good reminder to include on-the-job training for the boys as part of my game plan! We love all your wise and, ahem, frugal ideas!
Marnie Feb 11, 2013
I love this post. I am also really impressed with your organization. I am a terrible "house wife". Bad cook, bad cleaner. My 3.5 year old really enjoys changing our laundry around too...so there is hope for the family! Thanks Sarah! Marnie
Barb @ A Life in Balance Feb 17, 2013
So happy I found this while I started reworking my defunct home management binder. I've gotten pretty good about the daily stuff and making sure I pass the job along to one of my 5 kids before doing it myself.
Now we're adding in a family cleaning hour every Saturday during the school year. I may keep it during the summer, too, and just add in a daily tidying of toys on top of the other dailies.
I would love for you to link up your post at Motivation Monday! It's perfect!
Natasha Mar 26, 2013
So useful. I love this. Will be referring back to this when I write my chore chart x
Preethika May 29, 2013
You have an awesome blog. So much of your activities and house rules work perfectly for us. Love visiting your blog. We did the angry birds game yesterday and my son(almost 5) seems to love it so much that he wants to read your blog with me:).
Allison Jun 16, 2013
:) Thanks for the great list! And also for the reminder about judging ourselves for not having a spotless house (after a long day when this pregnant mommy of four boys was too tired to much more than keep them alive and fed and has the house to prove it!) Great ideas and suggestions!!!
Jennifer Jun 16, 2013
Hahaha! Love all the details... like in your list of things to pick up in the living room... shoes. Yes, exactly, why are there always shoes left in the living room? Also, great idea having the boys clean around the base of the toilet... I do the same thing with the baking soda and the vinegar. I even put a ring of baking soda around the base in the morn then sweep it up at night and spray vinegar to complete the clean. The powder will absorb the moisture and keep it out of your grout and out of the crack between the base of the toilet and flooring. We let out kids clean the shower and bathtub. I put them in there with scrub brushes, baking soda and vinegar and they have a fun time scrubbing and watching the reaction. I have to go in after them to finish and wash it down but, this seems to be a fun chore for them. Thanks for the post... will def use some of these ideas :)
sally Aug 25, 2013
Thank you! This is very helpful as I'm planning out our new chore chart! Love your blog!
Rachel Oct 19, 2013
This is a perfect list and thanks for the reminder to work along side kids. I have gotten out of that habit then get frustrated that the kids aren't through.
Amy Jan 5, 2014
The homemade bathroom and floor cleaner should last untill you use it up especially if you use it housewide. We make our own laundry and dishwasher detergent and use mostly the same ingrediants excluding the vinegar (good in place of jet dry for a rinsing agent). We have used it since June and it has not gone bad. We use 50% peroxide 50% water for kitchen cleanup and laundry pre-treater (great on training undies) it is totally safe and disinfects well. I hope this is helpfull. :)
Courtney Jul 6, 2014
I couldn't agree more and would even argue that the ages on most can be adjusted down if you start them young. In our house, my boys have been cleaning the sink and toilet in bathroom since age 3.5 and independently since age 5. Vacuuming can be done at age 5 (with adult "checking" the corners etc...). My 5 year old folds towels and everyone age 5 and up fold their own clothes. Kids put clothes away since age 3 with help, independently by age 4 (I sort it in the laundry baskets and hang the nice stuff). Dishwasher unloading again independently since age 4. They also help with garbage, get the mail, set/clear table, dusting, washing of laundry etc... We have a list we write up each 6-12 months of KID CHORES and MOMMY chores. If they want to earn money or get a toy back from toy jail (where toys go when not put away on toy clean up days OR if other issues like disrespect or distraction from completing homework etc...), they can by doing mom's chores. If mom has to do their chores, then they have to pay me a toy of my choice. They also then love getting coupons for "mom will do 2 chores for you for free" on their birthdays or other special events.
Side note: we all HATE matching and folding socks......so if you miss the toilet too much -- besides cleaning bathroom, which no body minds doing, you also get sock duty for that week -- everyone's socks=)
I have also found that, for reasons I can't explain, if I leave a list for the kids to do when they wake up (they are both early risers and I don't allow tv in the morning) before playing - it gets done faster and with a lot less whining that if I ask at any other time of the day. They can choose how to split the chores up (usually they each take a turn and do half but some days they will do it all together). The list is never more than 1 or 2 things usually. They love to cross off the things when done on the list and I get up to find the chores done....
Christiene Jul 6, 2014
Thank-you for sharing your wisdom. It really is true that a little time preparing can make a big difference.
I've adopted a sit down rule for all in my house when they use the bathroom. I thought this was crazy at first when a friend told me, but why not? It keeps the bathroom much cleaner and we don't have any odor problems. Although if they don't mind cleaning the bathroom, then the choice is yours.
Misty Jul 11, 2014
Good list! My 3 1/2 year old does some of the 5 year old stuff already. I did laugh a lot about the baseboards...I have 2 kids and stay at home and the last thing on my mind is cleaning the baseboards!
Misty Jul 11, 2014
I do also think paying kids for chores is silly. Families have to work together and everyone needs to do their share.
Nbm Oct 24, 2014
What happens if they say 'no' or refuse to participate? Or complain so much and for so long that nothing gets done? I need help implementing a program that my 7.5 year old son will willingly participate in! I'm a single mom and having no help with any household duties is killing me. Suggestions?
ealingcarpetcleaners ltd. Jan 6, 2015
Very useful article! I think that it is very important to show our kids how to keep the house clean and tidy because this make them more responsible. Keep going with the good advices!
Pamela Silver Mar 26, 2015
I have seven-year-old boy and I am trying to teach him how to clean his house. It is kind of hard to make him think about something else but playing video games but I am an optimist. I think that this article helped me a lot! Thank you!
Laurie Johnson Nov 3, 2015
Amazing guide. My son is 4 years old. I think it is final time to clean with him. I am so happy that I have found your post. Now I know which activities are appropriate for him. Thank you for sharing this article! Greetings!
Allison Jan 28, 2017
This is great! I have my kids (5,4,4,3) so many of these already....just wondering how you schedule it in the day. Since my kids are young, they play much of the day. I have them change the laundry over for me if they are inside close by, but otherwise I just do it. I have started leaving the silverware for my 4 year old and my 5 year old picks up dog poop daily. My other 4 year old feeds the dog. Those are the only "set" daily tasks we have. But I often find I will do a chore while they are outside playing well together. So, should I have a more set chore time or call them in and interrupt their play to do the chore as needed?
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