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Getting Kids to Help With Household Chores

Children should have lots of time for play and recreation. But just about every family expects their kids to contribute in some way to household chores, and getting them to start early can help them feel confident and responsible, child psychologists say, even if they sometimes complain about it.

“Chores help kids understand that families are built on mutual obligation,” said Dan Pink, author of “Drive; The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

When all family members help out, there is also more time for the family to play. Some families schedule clean-up time on Saturday mornings followed by a quick trip to the ice cream store, a longer family outing, or free time for the older kids.

Other families tie kids’ weekly allowance to the completion of their assigned household chores.

The secret, Pink and other family living experts suggest, is in asking for contributions that are appropriate to a child’s age—and watching older siblings help out is good motivation for younger kids.

Here are specific chores children can reasonably be asked do at various points in their growing up years:

Age 2 - 3:
- Pick up and put away their toys and books
- Hang jackets and/or other clothing on clothes hooks
- Set placemats on the table before dinner

Age 4 - 5:
- Set the table before meals
- Help with preparing meals, under supervision
- Help with grocery shopping and putting away groceries
- Hand you wet clothes from the washer to be hung or put into the dryer
- Help put clean, folded clothes into piles for each family member

Age 6 - 8:
- Water garden or flower areas and/or water indoor plants
- Take care of food and water for pets
- Do some dusting
- Take out the kitchen trash
- Keep their own rooms neat and clean
- Be of more help with meal preparation, under supervision