Chores Make the Grade



Brian Pacilio is a typical 15-year-old, busy with sports, school, friends. But he’s not too busy to help with dinner dishes, do some laundry, take out the trash and keep his bathroom “hotel ready.” That’s because for Brian’s mom, Cheryl, it’s about more than getting help with housework. It’s about helping her son, too.

Chores can be an important part of our kids’ lives. Not only do tasks at home teach life skills and allow kids to contribute to the running of the household, they also yield benefits that support even the youngest child’s academic life.

Preschool

For young children, household tasks can provide real-life experience with sorting, matching and patterning. Have your preschooler help sort laundry into light and dark piles, or ask him to match up pairs of socks out of the clean laundry pile. Let him put away the silverware from the dishwasher, which requires sorting each type of utensil. Preschoolers can also help set the table, an exercise in patterning (Fork, plate, cup, knife, repeat).

Amy Payton, an occupational therapist, points out that “learning to clean up at home also translates to school. Hanging his jacket on a hook; having a place for his shoes and backpack.”

Keep organization simple for this age and your children will have the tools needed to follow expectations in preschool.

Elementary School

Once children reach elementary school, they’re ready to take more responsibility. Tara Aaronson, author of Mrs. Clean Jeans’ Housekeeping with Kids says, “Chores give kids a sense of responsibility that follows through into other areas of their lives, especially school.” She also encourages parents to, “invest the time now and you’ll be rewarded with a child who takes pride (if not joy) in carrying his share of the home cleaning load.”

Chores can help kids practice math and planning skills. Most children this age can help cook meals by working alongside mom or dad. She’ll get hands-on experience with fractions while she measures ingredients and, with some input from an adult, can learn the science behind different aspects of cooking and baking. For younger elementary age children, focus on estimating and comparative sizes.

Have a garden? School-aged children can help plan, plant and maintain your garden. Planning out the division of space for different plants and measuring planting depth and distances provide a great mental workout.

Payton agrees. “[Gardening] is a great multi-step chore. Look at it as step-by-step sequencing. Have them plan out the tools needed. It can even involve research.” Kids can learn soil properties and gardening conditions, making it a great science-related chore as well.

Junior High and High School

Kids this age have hectic schedules, but parents should still make sure they make time to help with chores. In fact, as her children grew older, Cheryl Pacilio added responsibilities, rather than reducing them. She ties her son’s allowance to his chores as a way to motivate him and train him in real world economics.

Jobs like mowing the lawn and vacuuming can be good for teenaged brains as a mental shift. The downtime from thinking about schoolwork while getting tasks done can be both refreshing and energizing.
Chores at this age also develop other academic skills such as learning how to prioritize and working on time management. Payton points out the benefits of learning to plan are related to housework, in particular laundry. A teen might say, “I want to wear my favorite jeans on the weekend, but I forgot to wash them…”
The big idea at this age is to progressively assign more responsibility. As Pacilio notes, “The value of chores is in creating full-functioning members of a society.”

Start Now!

New to the idea of chores and not sure where to start? Aaronson suggests starting slow. “Begin by creating a chores list with just one or two chores for each school-age kid.”
Giving kids jobs shouldn’t be looked at as a burden or a punishment. Parents need to remember that chores won’t hamper kids success at school, but instead will build on it. Pacilio advises, “I would encourage parents to look at chores as necessary teaching opportunities. To let your child leave the house still a child is to thwart his adulthood and cripple a society. Chores are the tools you use to create a good employee, an appreciated neighbor, and most importantly, a good spouse and parent himself.”

Suggested Chores for School Age Children (adapted from Mrs. Clean Jeans’ Housekeeping with Kids)

Elementary-Age

• Make their bed
• Squeegee the shower
• Feed & exercise pets
• Clean pets’ bowls and cages
• Wipe down interior of microwave
• Simple cooking tasks such as rinsing vegetables
• Put dishes in dishwasher
• Take out trash and recycling
• Pour beverages for meals
• Help hand-wash dishes
• Make lunch for school
• Unload the dishwasher
• Disinfect kitchen and bathroom countertops
• Prepare meals
• Clean coffeemaker thoroughly
• Mow lawn
• Vacuum house

Tween

• Pour beverages for meals
• Help hand-wash dishes
• Make lunch for school
• Unload the dishwasher
• Disinfect kitchen and bathroom countertops

Teen

• Prepare meals
• Clean coffeemaker thoroughly
• Mow lawn
• Vacuum house

Chores For Preschoolers

Preschoolers learn by doing, and parents are their best teachers. We can help young children develop a ‘can do attitude’ by teaching them skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Linda Passmark, former director of the Okla. State Department of Health Child Development Program, confirms that chores are important for children three to five years of age. “Preschoolers learn they are a valuable part of the family, because they are contributing to the family.”

Suggested Chores for Preschoolers

• Making beds. Preschoolers can help remove sheets and carry to the laundry area.
• Washing clothes. Show preschoolers how detergent is measured, how wash or dry cycles and temperatures are selected. Ask him to help by tossing wet clothing into the dryer. Give him a basket of clean clothes to fold when washing is done. Hand towels and socks are good items to start with.
• Cooking. Preschoolers can help with stirring, pouring and, best of all, tasting.
• Washing dishes. Provide your preschooler with several objects (plastic ware or washable toys) to wash and discuss how to best clean the items.
• Groceries. At the store, discuss the items that you choose. When you get home, let him help carry small items or place items on the shelf in your pantry.
• Dusting. Let your preschooler loose with a clean cloth, paper towel or feather duster (no polish).
• Yard work. Preschoolers can help with weeding, watering plants, bagging fall leaves or sweeping the sidewalk.

Young children usually have short attention spans, so they will likely be ready to move on to another activity after five to 15 minutes. All preschool chores require adult supervision in order for the child to learn the expectations/sequence for completing the task.

Donna S. Jones, M.Ed is a Certified Child and Parenting Specialist in Tahlequah.


Lara Krupicka is a freelance writer and mom to three girls, ages 7, 10 and 12. She learns as much from sharing housework with her kids as they learn from her.

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