Tips for encouraging children’s chores

On the continued topic of inspiring children to establish organized routines, the HGTV website has a helpful article on motivating and prompting kids to clean up their rooms.

From the article “Cleaning Children’s Rooms“:

Make a cleaning map for a child’s room, showing where everything is to be stored. Include items such as compact discs, shoes, books, stuffed animals and dirty laundry. Not only is this fun and educational, but the child also has no excuse about not knowing where to put away items.

How do you inspire your children to do chores? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

(Thanks to Parenthacks for the link.)

23 Comments for “Tips for encouraging children’s chores”

  1. posted by empty on

    Sometimes we sing the song he learned in preschool:
    It’s time to clean up
    It’s time to clean up
    Clean up, clean up,
    It’s time to clean up.

    But mostly we use the time-honored, “Once your toys are picked up, we can [go to the park, eat dinner, read that book].” It’s never been a problem. He even picks up the baby’s toys. We help with particularly overwhelming tasks, of course, like putting away a train track that winds around the entire room.

    Our son is almost four years old and we’ve always encouraged him to take care of his things. I think once he said he didn’t want to clean up something and we said, okay, we’ll get rid of it if it’s that much trouble for you. He decided he’d rather pick it up. He doesn’t wash his clothes or scrub the bathroom (I wish) and of course he’s still too short to do things like wipe down counters, but he puts his dirty clothes and napkins in the hamper, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, clean clothes in the dresser, clean flatware in the drawer, and so on, and has done so since he got the appropriate motor skills. I’ve honestly never thought about how we inspire it. It’s no biggie, it’s just what we all do.

  2. posted by Kelly on

    Maybe I should create a cleaning map. …one that doesn’t include a chair full of random clothes.

  3. posted by Dawn F. on

    My 6-year-old son has learned to pick up his things partly (I believe) to seeing his parents do the same thing – we put away our things when we are finished with them. My personal opinion is that parents should teach by example first and foremost.

    We also give him positive reinforcement through compliments and high-fives! Who doesn’t like a high-five after a job well done? 🙂

    We also give him allowance, which is partly based on him picking up after himself, as well as making his bed, setting the table for dinner, putting away his folded clothes and helping us with other age-appropriate chores.

    Perhaps one reason why some children have a hard time keeping up with their toys is because they have so many… Just a thought…

  4. posted by momofthree on

    Too many toys? How could you ask such a question? hahaha

    What is that line from Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “Teach your children well…”

  5. posted by HippykidZ on

    We Made a weekly chart with the days of the week and each of the chores on it. Two chores for each boy on each day. We do a “grab bag” on Sundays, all the chores go in the bag and the boys draw one chore and place their marker(little boys with velcro on them)on the correct day and chore. We go through till the week is full. After the week is full each boy is allowed one “swap ya”. They may go to the chart and swap one chore for one chore with their brother. After that is the “Daddydidits” we have two Daddy did it sticky’s and each boy may choose one chore for Daddy todo.(I usually scoop the litter a couple days a week) We have found that having some say in the chores as well as knowing that they are not alone in doing them helps with motivation. Also knowing that you are only two weeks away from getting that new DS game or Transformer goes a long way. They get one day off a week (Sun.) and earn a small allowance based on the work they did(a flat rate for each daily chore). We do not force them todo their job on any given day. We do however keep track of the “no-work” days and it reflects in the allowance “you only get paid for what you did” It took some doing to get the system up and running but once we had it going all that we needed todo was to keep it going.

  6. posted by Nancy on

    Having raised 3 kids to their late teens/early twenties, this sums up my life long experience with kids and chores:

  7. posted by Sarah on

    A year ago, after my son turned eight, I sat him down and explained the importance of a clean and tidy house. Then we talked about each family members role. We (but mostly me) came up with a list of areas that he would be responsible for keeping clean and set up a weekly routine. I worked with him, side by side, for about 7-8 months. Now he works on his own. His weekly responsibilities include: cleaning his bathroom, bedroom, toyroom, doing his laundry, and vacuuming the house. He does a great job and it’s a real help to me.

    That’s not to say it’s always easy to get him going. I think there are two reasons he gets them done. The first is I let him do the work on his own time table. Sometimes he does it first thing in the morning, sometimes not until right before his computer time. That’s the second thing, no chores no computer time.

  8. posted by Karen on

    One way we keep our children’s rooms uncluttered and tidy is to keep most toys out of there. They have books, some “treasures” in their nighstands, and stuffed animals. And clothes.

    Most all the toys are downstairs in our playroom, the library, and family room. Our philosophy is the bedroom is a place to sleep and rest, not play, and we wanted our kids to associate their bedrooms with sleeping, not neccessarily playing.

    Oh, and they do play in their rooms–boys are always finding ways to roughhouse in their bedrooms, aren’t they?–but when they go to sleep at night, or for naps, they’re not distracted by their toys. And when it is toy pick up time, we pick up in the family living areas, so we’re all working together.

    Works for us!

  9. posted by PATTY on

    My nieces and nephews were coming for an extended visit – it was “camp” at my place.

    We planned a fun filled week yet I told them that they needed to live with the house rules. Chores and errands first thing, and then we can play all day long!

    I made a chart, included chores and errand and all of our names. the first few chores/errands were only ones that I could do. Then when they arrived, we took the Summer Camp Chart and I gave the marker to my niece and told her and her brother to assign up the work. It was funny – ahhh drive the car….. that’s Aunt Patty’s job; ahhhh cook the dinner…. that’s Aunt Patty’s job again. You get the picture. Oh course then came the make the beds, recyclying, newspaper, clothes, shoes, and assorted other items. It only took a few more minutes and we had everyone’s job. The week went well, all the chores were taken care of (and when they were, I gave them an extra hug, and told them how much I appreicated their cooperation)and yes, I had to ask if it was all done (several times LOL). Later when their brother visited, he wanted to be on the chore list! 🙂

    I’d take them any time – great kids!

  10. posted by Leah Goodman on

    I have ADD and found that “CLEAN YOUR ROOM” was a job way too big for me as a child. It was completely impossible. When people broke down the job into small tasks, I was able to take on the tasks myself.

    Now I can break down the tasks myself, but I still get overwhelmed easily.

  11. posted by Kaz in Oz on

    We start with small tasks here too. Make your bed (easy with a quilt and pillow), then pick up books or pick up towels. The whole clean your room just doesn’t get done. They tune out and start playing in it and make a bigger mess.

    We tried the “keep the toys out of the bedroom” for a while, but since the TV room that they used as a playroom is also the way to our bedroom, I got sick of having to step over toys and stuff every night when they hadn’t put it away. Now I can just close the door on it.

  12. posted by Marge on

    I’m not sure what all the buzz is about but at our house we learn/teach best by example. From a very young age we’ve taught our daughter that cleaning up is just a part of every day life (we clean as we go). We sing a song if we need a little extra help…

    Clean up, clean up
    Everybody, Everywhere
    Clean up, clean up
    Everybody do their share.

    But for the most part our almost 3 year old ‘put it back’ on her own without being asked because it is second nature I guess. Even small children can be taught and can help, I’ve learned. Our favorite chores to do with our daughter (who is now a big sister) include loading and unloading the dishwasher (she hands stuff to us and we put it away), vacuuming (she’s really great with all of our Dyson attachments) and of course putting away toys and books.

    Maybe as she gets older I assume they’ll be some resistance but I feel like as we do so will she follow.

  13. posted by Dorothy Paulsen on

    Years ago I heard about the “five finger chores” at a homeschooling workshop. When my children were very young, the most basic chores were “assigned” to their fingers- things like brushing teeth, combing hair, picking up clothes, putting away toys, etc. Every day the first thing to do was the five finger chores. As they got a little older, some of the basics were exchanged for household chores like putting away dishes or taking out the trash. I can even see it working for a school-age kid– as in, “the five things I absolutely must do before I leave the house.” In any event, five things are a manageable amount for any child, and counting them off on the fingers drives the point home.

  14. posted by lola meyer on

    Start early, set the example, keep clutter to a minimum, create organized systems they can work with, use motivators and rewards of activities, and remember-these are the skills that will make life easier for them when they are grown.

  15. posted by Tracie Yule on

    So far my daughter who is 3 has had no problems cleaning up and doing chores. She actually loves to do them. When I clean the house, she cleans with me. When my husband cooks dinner, she helps. Granted the help isn’t always “helpful” but she feels a part of the job and later it will just be habit for her.

    For my teenage boys, we have a chore list and they earn allowance by doing those chores. Also, our house is rarely messy and I believe that part of their cleaning up is because my husband and I pick up after ourselves.

    I find that if the kids are doing something I don’t particularly like, I look at myself: am I doing it? If so, time to change and sometimes the others follow.

  16. posted by Jay on

    As we parents know, one size does not fit all.

    In addition to teaching by example, I would suggest for some kids NOT making a big deal out of chores. Don’t talk about chores, don’t make lists, don’t plan chores. Just do them and have the kids do them. Also, try to be cheerful while doing them. If you make a big production out of chores or have a negative attitude about them, the chores may seem overwhelming to your child. I have found that if my wife and I appear mellow and nonchalant about chores, the kids are more likely to do them without complaint.

    In other words, don’t make chores seem like chores, and they are more likely to be done.

  17. posted by Andy on

    We added a “game” of sorts to my 7 year old’s room-cleaning chore and he LOVES it. I go into his room and choose one secret item. I write it down on a slip of paper and then stick that somewhere safe. Then my son goes in and cleans his room, putting everything in it’s place. When he feels he’s finished, then I come back in and see if the secret item has been picked up and put away. If so, then he gets a reward of some kind (10 more minutes of cartoons, or an extra cookie for dessert, etc) If he missed the secret item the first time, he gets two more chances, but the treat/reward is diminished each time.

    He loves to try to figure out what the secret item is. Sometimes we choose something big (like a stuffed animal) and sometimes we choose one tiny little lego block. When we first started this game, he was all about the reward. Now he doesn’t care about the reward, but is more interested in figuring out what the secret item is.

  18. posted by Michele on

    I’ve been giving my daughter more and more chores as they become more age-appropriate for her. Now that she’s 10, she’s expected to keep her room straight, make her bed every day, put her own laundry away, take the garbage to the curb on trash night, and some other stuff.

    I hate to sound like an authoritarian jerk, but I don’t “encourage” her to do chores so much as I expect anyone who shares my household to share in the household tasks, according to their ability. So when we go to the grocery store, she is expected to help the household by carrying home a bag or 2 of groceries, for example. This expectation has always been clear, so she doesn’t feel that she’s being put upon when I ask her to do something, such as helping to get dinner accomplished by emptying the dishwasher, or helping housecleaning by moving a light piece of furniture. Her “reward” or “encouragement” comes in the form of my asking politely (“Hon, would you please move that chair so I can vacuum behind it?”) and thanking her when she’s done.

    An exception is when we have something heavy-duty and seasonal to do, such as when I had to clean the bathroom walls this summer and do some other disagreeable deep-cleaning tasks. We decided that if we got our disagreeable stuff done by the end of the week, we’d go out to a free summer concert that Friday. And we did.

  19. posted by Lisa on

    Be sure to start your kids young – and don’t do everything for them – even though it’s easier! (I’m speaking for experience – both ways!)

    1. It teaches them to be responsible for themselves – so you’re not doing for them later.
    2. It takes some of the load off you so you can enjoy the children more.
    3. It is so important that kids feel important to the functioning of the home. {KEY: Kids need to be needed, being loved is just not enough.}

    Enjoy life with those little ones. Before too long, they’ll be grown and gone!

  20. posted by cbuffy on

    Your ideas are excellent! We had a “toy monster” – just a big bag I sewed and we painted a big face on it with fabric paint. Then he came and “ate” any toys left after the “official cleanup” each night. On Sunday evening he got emptied and everything was put away. Lots of weeks he was hungry! (made a big, fun deal out of it with lots of growling, snarling, and sad faces when they didn’t leave him anything to eat each night!)

    Now my babies are 21 and 18. I told my dh the other day, I’m going to have to HIRE A MAID when they move out. They do EVERYTHING! Ok, I clean my own room and bathroom, do my own and dh’s laundry. But they keep their side of the house sparkling (these are BOYS), do their own laundry, mow the grass, feed the dogs, take out the trash, often cook meals, change the oil….. They are good, responsible adults. (yes, the 21 y/o lives at home, but only recently – and temporarily.. we’re happy to have him back!!!!!)

  21. posted by Cyndi on

    We instituted a reward process for my 10 year old son that has had a dramatic effect on him! We sat down with him and wrote out a list of chores he has to do, WHEN he does them, etc. If he does his chores WITHOUT BEING REMINDED he gets $1 immediately. If we have to remind him, or if he doesn’t do even one of them at all, he loses that $1 for that day. He has been extremely responsbible after seeing how that $1 a day adds up! He now takes his own money when we go anywhere! He buys his own frozen lemonade (his personal addiction!) at Disneyland, his own video games, and buys his own books at the school book fair! Since it’s HIS money that HE HAD TO WORK for he is very picky about what he spends it on too! As he gets older we will add more chores and increase that allowance, but will also require that he save some of it…..say for his first car!

  22. posted by sschroeder on

    I have two girls four and six and have had recent good luck getting them to clean their room and playroom with a modified version of musical chairs. I put fast paced music in the CD player, but before I start the music they each pick a task, for instance pick up all of your shoes, or books, or barbies. Then we start! They rush around to finish their task before the music stops. Once it does they have to freeze! If someone moves before the music starts again, they get tickled. But once the music starts again they have to go back to their task. Stopping the music gets their attention long enough to either assign the next task or offer praise or a well needed tickle for a giggle to make the unpleasantness of cleaning their room bearable. New tasks are assigned until the floor is somewhat visible. Once the floor is more visible and we get down to the tiny things such as pieces of paper, or light bright pegs, barbie shoes, pony tail holders etc, it becomes the “Speed Round”. During the “Speed Round” the music stays on and the ‘tiny’ tasks are shouted out, each girl racing to finish the next task. They love running back into the room after putting something away and shouting, “Done!” each time they’ve finished. It gets the heart pumping and the energy flowing. Once they’ve completed the speed round I stop the music and ask them, “If mommy were to come into this room right now with the vacuum, is there anything on the floor that you want to keep?” That usually helps them decide if they really want to keep the scraps from their last cutting and taping project or if gets sucked up.

    The first time I tried this it took twenty minutes to clean their playroom after a birthday party. I asked them how long did they think it took, one of the girls said 5 minutes and the other said 7 minutes. They couldn’t believe it took as long as 20 minutes when it felt like fun! It also doesn’t feel as painful to the adult helping since yelling, crabbing and whining (on our part!) is rendered unnecessary.

  23. posted by Ashley on

    After listening to my 3 year old daughter sing for nearly 30 minutes in the bathroom while “cleaning” the sink and toilet…I knew she was ready for chores. We started with a blank piece of paper and I let her choose what she wanted to do for the next few Saturdays. We wrote it down. As she did each chore I took a picture of her with my cell phone. She got to see the picture when she was done. She loved it.

    Also, being a preschool teacher for several years now I know how important it is to make things positive and fun. When it’s time to put the dolls away we say, “The babies are so tired. Let’s put them to bed.” When it’s time to put the legos away we say, “Let’s see if we can hide all of the blue legos in the bottom of the drawer.” It’s exciting and fun and that’s what everyone wants. It also encourages her to clean up quickly.

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