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Summer Chores: How to Get Your Child Involved

Summer Chores: How to Get Your Child Involved

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Updated on Jul 8, 2010

Summer chores can be overwhelming. But who says these projects have to be tackled when the kids are napping or visiting grandma for the weekend? From weeding to watering to painting the deck, it’s a good idea to involve your children in household chores.

Kids enjoy learning new skills and participating in important family activities. In fact, many teachers who are also parents rank chores as one of the top priorities for their children’s summer activities. According to renowned parenting expert and author Elizabeth Pantley, assigning children household chores is a great way to build self-esteem and a feeling of competence. She says, “Regular chores establish helpful habits and good attitudes about work. Having chores also teaches valuable lessons about life and creates an understanding that there are jobs that must be done to run a household.”

This is also discussed in terms of social responsibility. Children are a part of a household, and it is their responsibility to contribute to the efforts to keep the household functioning. With time, children can apply their understanding of chores on a grander scale, recognizing that they are a part of a community, a city, a state, a county, and so on. Pantley, who authored the No-Cry book series published by McGraw-Hill, believes that children who are given responsibilities have an easier time transitioning from childhood into adulthood. “Children who grow up perceiving chores as a normal part of life will find the flow into adulthood much easier than those without responsibility.”

This seems logical. Yet, a recent growing trend has been for parents to choose not to delegate chores to their children. Some parents of teenagers are reluctant to ask them to help out around the house because they are already burdened with a heavy load of homework and extracurricular activities. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that when children are made to be responsible for juggling chores with homework and extracurricular activities, they learn how to prioritize—an important life skill that will  benefit them today and in the future.

Nancy Bradford-Sisson, Extension Educator for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, agrees. She says, “Chores help achieve one of our primary goals as parents—to teach children to be responsible and capable adults. As their confidence blossoms with each new task mastered, children learn necessary life skills and the ability to prioritize, organize, and use time wisely.” According to Bradford-Sisson and other family and childhood experts, it’s important to start involving children in daily household responsibilities when they are very young. It’s also necessary to slowly increase the complexity and difficulty of the tasks as children grow older.

Here are a few more tips from the experts:

  • Offer your children choices in household chores. (Would you rather set the table or load the dishwasher?)
  • Make chores fun. (Try to add an element of joy to regular household work. Turn on upbeat music, have a “chores” baseball cap made for everyone in the house, etc.)
  • Praise your children for a job well done! And most importantly, don’t “fix” your children’s imperfect work. (Don’t come behind them and reorganize the closet.)
  • Assign chores that are age appropriate. (See below for a list of sample chores across the ages.)

2 and 3-year-olds

  • picking weeds
  • watering plants
  • sorting clothes
  • picking up toys
  • baking

4 and 5-year-olds

  • caring for a family pet
  • setting the table
  • folding clothes
  • organizing toys
  • baking

School-aged children

  • caring for a family pet
  • setting the table
  • loading the dishwasher
  • making dessert
  • folding and putting away clothes

Teenagers

  • grocery shopping
  • preparing meals
  • doing laundry
  • vacuuming
  • dusting

Summer is a perfect time to involve children in household chores. We often plan special projects for the summer—tiling the bathroom floors, cleaning the outsides of windows, recovering the kitchen chairs—and children of just about any age can benefit from helping out. Not only does this provide an opportunity for children to learn new skills, but it also allows for special family time working toward a common goal!

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