Chores for Kids

Working together on chores is a necessary part of living in a family.  The amount of mess we generate in a day is pretty incredible, but we are getting to the point where we are starting to see the fruits of our labors in teaching the boys to work.  For years it was more work for me to include the boys in household chores, but now it’s paying off!  The three older boys can all fold and put away laundry independently.  Aidan can clean bathrooms, wash dishes, do laundry, and he can get the kitchen really clean!  Gresham can vacuum and dust, and he is the best at cleaning up the game room because he is good at organizing.

As our boys get older, it always helps me to talk to other moms and see what jobs their kids are doing and how they are handling chores.  So I thought you all might like to see what we do at our house.  Keep in mind that every family is different and has a different schedule and different needs, so I am certainly not saying every house should look just like ours!

Getting Started with a Family Chore System

Required Chores and Paid Chores

Each of our boys receives a weekly allowance starting at age 5.  They also each have required daily chores.  We don’t see the allowance as “paying for chores” but rather as having work to do because they are part of the family and having their own money to handle because they are part of the family.  (The amount of money they receive in their allowance would be a really low hourly rate if we were paying them to do chores!)  We also have a list of paid chores that the boys may do to earn extra money.

Out of their allowance, each boy sets aside money to give to the church and to save.  Aidan gets $3.50 a week.  (I’m sure this is low, but with our income and the amount of children we have, this is what we can pay.)  50 cents goes to his church jar, $1.50 goes to savings, and $1.50 goes to spending.  We don’t have hard and fast rules on how long they have to save their savings money.  Basically, whatever they want to save for is fine (within reason!).  What we want to discourage is spending all of their allowance every week on candy or impulse buys.

My husband recently set up new checklists for the boys with their daily and weekly tasks.  The weekly tasks can be done on whatever day works out, depending on the week.  We usually have a late afternoon chore time in which they must choose at least one of their weekly tasks to complete.  Saturday morning is usually a big chore time.

Getting Started with a Family Chore System

Aidan (age 11)

Daily tasks:

Make bed

Brush teeth

Tidy bedroom

Guitar practice

Meal clean-up:  Breakfast – clear the island

  Lunch – clear the table and island

                                Dinner – dishes

Weekly tasks:

Take out the outside trash cans on trash day

Vacuum the stairs

Vacuum upstairs (his room, game room, Janie’s room)

Dust the game room

Vacuum the van (this doesn’t get done every week, although it probably should)

Clean two bathrooms

Gresham (age 7, turning 8 in 3 months)

Daily tasks:

Make bed

Brush teeth

Tidy bedroom

Practice violin

Feed the chameleon

Meal clean-up:  Breakfast – unload dishwasher

  Lunch – load dishwasher

  Dinner – Clear the island

Weekly Tasks:

Dog poop pick-up

Sweep the back porch

Vacuum downstairs

Bedroom – dust and vacuum

Owen (5)

Daily tasks:

Make bed

Brush teeth

Tidy bedroom

Feed the dog

Pick up toys

Meal clean-up:  Breakfast – put away silverware from the dishwasher

  Lunch – Sweep

  Dinner – Clear the table

Weekly tasks:

Empty bathroom trash cans

Dust baseboards and windowsills

Take recycling to the outside can

Paid Chores:

Sweep the front porch – 25 cents

Make Jonathan’s bed – 25 cents

Make mom & dad’s bed – 50 cents

Vacuum master bedroom – 50 cents

Sweep garage – 50 cents

Vacuum out Dad’s car – $2.00

Mop the kitchen – $1.50

Bathe the dog – $2.00

Clean the master bathroom – $2.00

Getting Started with a Family Chore System

Chores Troubleshooting:  (Because making the plan is easy, but implementing the plan is another thing!)  

Addressing the heart issues behind working, and what the Bible has to say:

My husband and I put together a printable Bible study about work and laziness.  This is for kids and parents to do together. You can find that post here:  Printable Bible Study on Work and Responsibility.

What happens if the kids don’t do their chores?

We pretty much lost all sense of routine in the months leading up to Janie’s birth and right after she was born.  Life happens, and routines get tossed!  When we implemented our new checklists, the boys showed very little motivation.  They woke up every day with the expectation that they were going to enjoy a leisurely breakfast followed by endless free time.  If I didn’t remind them, they didn’t do their jobs.  We feel like especially at Aidan’s age (11), we should not be reminding every day for teeth brushing, bed making, and instrument practice.  Gresham (7) should be starting to remember his jobs and may need occasional reminders, not CONSTANT reminders.

S0… We tried a new plan, and it’s WORKING!  Friday night is movie night at our house, and so Friday night became the perfect time for a chore “make up” session.  The older two boys are responsible for checking off their tasks each day.  If it’s not important to them to remember to get their jobs done, they can make them up during the Friday night movie time.  If they fail to vacuum during the week, they can do it during movie night.  If they fail to practice their instrument for two days during the week, they can do a double practice session on Friday night.  This plan has been pretty effective!  If we have a crazy day with lots of appointments, I may choose to excuse them from their chores that day.  But if we’re home, they need to do them.

Also – periodically rotating who does what chores can help keep things more interesting!

What happens if the chores are done poorly?

Learning to clean is a process.  If Owen (age 5) overlooks some toys in the game room, I will remind him.  However, if he is laying on the floor reading a book instead of picking up toys, that’s another thing.  At our house, doing a poor job on chores means that you need to do extra chores so that you can have some more practice.  Thankfully, Dad has taken charge of this and often supervises extra work in the evenings if I have not been able to do this during the day.  I think that with boys especially, it’s so helpful if Dad takes a role in teaching them to be hard workers.

What happens if the kids never want to do any of the paid chores?

At our house, the boys generally ignore the paid chore list if there is not something they are currently saving for.  Awhile back, I noticed that no one was ever doing any of the paid chores.  We evaluated and decided that we had bought them a few things instead of making them spend their own money.  If you want your kids to show the initiative to do paid chores, make sure that you are not funding their wants!

Also, if paid chores are not completed, we often do them as a family without pay.  For example, the floor just needs to be mopped and mopped often.  We usually end up doing the kitchen floor together when it needs to be done, and no one gets paid.

What if we have never asked our kids to do any chores?  How can I get them to do them now?

If you have never really asked your kids to do chores but you want to get started, I would recommend starting with an after-meal routine where every member of the family has a job to do, even the toddler if you have one.  Mom and Dad too.  If your kids are not used to doing chores, it probably won’t work to ask them to clean while you check e-mails.  Make it a family affair.  After a meal, one person can sweep, while someone else clears the table and someone else puts plates in the dishwasher.  Little ones can throw away napkins and put the butter back in the refrigerator.  Turn on music and make it a positive time to be together.  If meals are rushed because of schedules, try a Saturday morning routine where everyone helps start laundry, straighten the house, or whatever tasks need to be done.

For suggestions on what jobs kids can do at each age, check out our Guide to Chores by Room and by Age.

8 Comments

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  1. Laura Twiss Jul 27, 2014

    This is just so helpful, thank you for taking the time to share your great ideas with those of us just trying to establish good habits. May God bless you as you endeavor to bring up those entrusted to you in a way that glorifies Him.

    Reply
    1. Almost Unschoolers Jul 27, 2014

      Getting started by doing chores together is an excellent idea.

      Reply
      1. nive Jul 30, 2014

        Sarah,i am going to implement your troubleshooting ideas.Chore 'make up' session sounds like a terrific idea.

        Reply
        1. Kirstie Aug 1, 2014

          Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have a set of young entrepreneurs that are crazy about making money at every opportunity and are constantly bugging me for paid jobs to do. So I think they would be trying to convince me every single day to clean the master bath, and sweeping the porch four times a day!

          Reply
          1. Angela Aug 1, 2014

            Great ideas, and I'm comforted to know that the effort you put in when your kids were very little has paid off. My 18 month old is in the 'helping' phase - which I am making the most of - but it does mean taking a breath and going very, very slowly :-)

            Love the tithe, spend, save split with the pocket money too.

            Reply
            1. Ilana Solomon Aug 13, 2014

              I just discovered your website and I love it! As a mother of 3 boys, I am always looking for projects, advice, organizing tips, and generally fun stuff to do. Thank you!

              Reply
              1. Ilana Solomon Aug 13, 2014

                Also, I love the idea of dividing the money they receive- charity, spending, and saving. what a great way to teach them about giving and being responsible.

                Reply
              2. Sarah Sep 5, 2014

                This is wonderful! My parents did something like this with my sister and I when we were growing up. I think it teaches so many things and helps children to feel that they are an integral part of the 'family team'. I remember being a teen and having to drive home from friends houses to unload/reload the dishwasher because there were no clean dishes left in the house (oops!) and, even though I hadn't been there, my family needed me to come back and pull my weight. It must driven my parents mad but it taught me so many lessons. I hope mum half the parent they were!
                Thanks for reminding me of this. ☺️

                Reply
                1. Trace Oct 13, 2014

                  I started all three of mine at very young ages to help clean. I would give the little ones spray bottles with water to wipe up little fingerprints off walls and such. Each cleaning to their own height! They LOVED playing/cleaning with their own sprayers! And because money was tight with me in school and two in diapers, chores were rewarded with equal or double the time spent cleaning, as game time or computer time. I used this time to prepare dinner before my husband got home from work. They are older now and chores are expected and rewarded with cash. Any cash chores not done at the end of the week is considered lost to them but is instead placed in a family fund to use as towards family fun days or activities! (Oh and 10+ years later, I still have the cleanest baseboards in town!)

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