When my kids reached 6 and 8, I sometimes missed their toddler days, when they would beg to push the vacuum, sweep, cook, and even wash dishes with me.
While toddlers and young kids are excited — even delighted — to help out, once kids reach school age, you’re likely to get a few grumbles when it comes time to take care of household chores. So keep the tone light and fun, and emphasize that chores are something you do together.
“As with 4- and 5-year-olds, the important word here is ‘help,” says Barbara Greenberg, a clinical child and teen psychologist based in Fairfield County, CT. “Six- to 8-year-olds are still like your assistants. It’s great to do chores together, put on music, and make it a game whenever possible, like who can toss the most clothes in the laundry basket. Not only am I spending time with my child, but I’m showing her how to help and share and work together. Those are all skills that will be invaluable in the future.”
Luckily, first through fourth graders like to show their independence. If it appeals to your child, a chore chart or app can help him keep track of his areas of responsibility. But cleaning up together whenever possible will reinforce that you’re all in this together as a family. Keep in mind that participation is the goal, not perfection. Above all, don’t turn chores into a power struggle that involves tears, scolding, or arguments.
“Chores shouldn’t be set up as a dictatorship,” says Rona Renner, a parenting expert and the author of Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Get Your Kid to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool. “You can have family meetings to talk about what’s needed and how you’re going to get it done. If one child hates sweeping the kitchen, maybe find something else for him that’s more enjoyable, like watering the plants.”
Here are some age-appropriate chores to try
Setting and clearing the table
Kids can count and distribute plates, silverware, and napkins and then help clear the table when the meal is finished. Just don’t let them carry too many plates at once.
Helping prepare meals
Kids can help by getting things out of the fridge, measuring ingredients, rinsing produce, and doing safe meal-prep activities, like shucking corn, stemming kale, using the can opener, and draining beans.
Picking up and putting away
The endlessly ongoing task of putting away toys, games, and art supplies and reshelving books is easier when there are clearly designated places for your child’s belongings. Learning to put things in their places is an organizational skill that will help your child keep track of schoolwork, too.
Helping take care of pets
While not yet old enough to take full responsibility for a pet, your child can feed animals, and help in other ways, like brushing the dog, changing the papers in the bird’s cage, and fishing out the goldfish while their tank is being cleaned.
Sorting and helping fold laundry
Younger kids can match socks and stack underwear, while older kids can learn to fold simple things, like pants and, eventually, shirts, too.
Armed with a feather duster or a dusting sheet, your child should be able to make tables, chairs, bookshelves, and other surfaces shine. To make the chore a bit more meaningful, talk to your child about what dust is, and how it can affect people’s health.
Working side-by-side with you, your child can help pull weeds, rake leaves, and plant new things in the garden. Tending to plants they’ve put into the ground is an especially rewarding “chore.”
Tidying their rooms
Your child is now old enough to make their bed every morning, put their dirty clothes in a hamper, and either fold their clean clothes and put them away or lay their clean clothes flat in a designated spot so that you can put them away. Praise and positive reinforcement can help make these two things into a routine that your child ceases to think of as a chore!