Kids, Chores, and Routines – A Simple, Yet Crucial Part of Family Management

Photo Source: Pink Sherbet Photography

No matter the size of your family, whether you have one child or ten, there will always be work to do.

Dishes to wash and put away, laundry to fold, meals to prepare — those things don’t go away. In fact, depending on what interests your teens exhibit as they grow — culinary arts, football, music, social butterflyism — these basic household tasks may increase, though your child is no longer a toddler, needing you to help them at every turn.

To maintain your sanity as well as the smile on your face, it’s good to have some basic routines and chores that kids are required to do. Not only does this help your workload, but it also helps them learn responsibility and home management. Unless they become multi-millionaires, they will always need to pick up after themselves. Teach them now and save yourself and their future spouses a boatload of grief.

I feel like I’ve tried almost every kid chore program in the book. Sometimes with success, sometimes not. What works in one season and the current developmental stages of my kids doesn’t always work with others.

And different kids are capable of varying levels of responsibility. My oldest could be handed a list of twenty chores and get them done by lunch. The others? Not so much.

In my efforts to simplify things for everyone concerned, I made these charts. Each chart, one for morning, one for evening, represents the bare minimum that needs to get done at those times of day. (I did not originate this idea, but I have no idea where I got it. If you do, let me know in the comments so I can give credit where it’s due.)

Each child is expected (on a good day) to do all five by school time each morning.

Morning High Five:
1. Bed = Make it. Change sheets once a week or whenever I remember, whichever comes first.
2. Breakfast = Eat it and clear your dishes
3. Clothes = Get dressed, put away jammies, put away clean clothes.
4. Teeth = Brush and floss.
5. Kitchen jobs = Everyone has at least one of the following: empty dishwasher, load dishwasher, wipe counters, empty trash and recycling, clear and wipe table, sweep or shark floor.

Bedtime High Five:
1. Shower and Jammies = Bigger boys take care of this themselves, my three littler ones need help.
2. Clothes put away = Dirty clothes goes to laundry, any clean stuff gets put away.
3. Teeth = Brush and floss.
4. Tidy Up = General pick up of living areas and bedrooms.
5. Story = The ideal is “bed by 8:30, lights out by 9.” Kids can read books in bed during that interval or if we have a read aloud going, I’ll read to them.

I know from experience that if I make my expectations clear to the kids and ACTUALLY FOLLOW UP ON IT, then we see great success. Truth be told, I get distracted by other things and these routines often fall by the wayside, only to be picked up again.

Teaching children self-discipline takes self-discipline, doesn’t it?

I can certainly grow in that. But, having a little chart to look at certainly helps put it in the front of my mind.

What do you do to help your kids learn responsibility? What routines work well at your house? We’d love to hear it.

Want more ideas on getting your family’s act together? Get a copy of my book, Organizing Life as MOM, a 173 page document full of printable planning sheets for every need. Homeschooling and blogging add-on packs also available.

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Comments

  1. Jon and Christine Knecht says:

    I love the last part of your post. I am always looking for a new routine to help me teach my kids a little household responsibility but it always gets out of hand when things get crazy around the house, especially when Mommy feels pressure about ANYTHING :) Thanks for the new idea! I was told to teach my kids diligence and I think about that all the time because I myself am not a diligent person but I have to figure that out before they will.

  2. This is a great idea! I really like the simplicity of it.

  3. I love this idea!! I have been doing the system for myself where I have 3 Most Important Tasks I have to do a day. And I find that I get more done than that usually, but I feel accomplished even if I get the 3 done and don't feel overwhelmed. So I think breaking things down to 3-5 items makes it easier. I love the simplicity of this and that it's a visual reminder.

  4. The Real Me! says:

    Very cool idea. I like it!!!

  5. Jenny Zepf says:

    We use the envelope system at my house. I choose chores for the day and put them in that childs envelope, then they can do them throughout the day, but by the end of the night, the envelope should be empty. Some choose to do them right away, some later and some space it out. But they can even do extra chores to earn more chore money. This is what is working for us right now!

  6. What is a good age to start chores/responsibilities like this? My oldest just turned three.

  7. I like the sound of the envelope system, Jenny. I'll keep it in mind next time we switch systems.

    Kelly, with help a three year-old can do many of the things mentioned here. I've had two year olds who helped empty the dishwasher and knew how to run our cordless sweeper. I think probably the most important thing is that they learn the routine. Knowing that things should be picked up at bedtime and then learning how to do different parts of that as they grow is invaluable.

    The routines also help kids feel stable.

  8. I love seeing everyone's ideas – thanks so much for sharing it!

    We love routines at our house, but "chores" is one area that I think needs to be refreshed periodically to keep everyone enthusiastic about it! I love the simplicity of this high-five idea; I bet my kids will love it, too.

    One system that works well with our kids was "zone duty." Each child was assigned a "zone" and it rotated each day – kitchen, bathrooms, living room, etc. We were at a stage where we really needed to work independently =) and they did something different each day so it didn't get boring. I also think just having a new name helped! They thought it was cool to have a "zone."

  9. Great idea, Cathy! Love the zone thing. I think my boys would embrace that as well…. well, as much as they could "embrace" their chores…. LOL

    I think you're right about the change-it-up-so-that-it-stays-fresh-and-exciting.
    Kind of like how we moms might change our planner system or change how we do to do list. Something new tends to be inspiring.

  10. Katie @ goodLife {eats} says:

    I love the high five routine…what an awesome idea, and something easy that say, my 4 1/2 year old can manage. Going to start this ASAP!

  11. Love, love LOVE this idea!

    We've tried a few things with our 4-year-old twins but they haven't been a huge success…I'll need to try this one!!!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Lea

  12. Thanks for posting this today! It's exactly what we needed to get going. I was just talking with Jill B. about chores yesterday. I was feeling like we needed a kick in the pants over here since Jill's oldest (age 6) knows how to clean her room and clean the whole bathroom-including the toilet! The High 5 plan will get us moving toward more family cooperation and a happier mommy!

  13. We started using Daddy Dollars for chores completed after I read about it in an issue of Family Fun Magazine. It really helped to get a routine going.

  14. Amanda from Faith, Food and Family says:

    I love this! I need to get better about having chores for the kids. Love the whole high 5 thing though. I am going to try this!
    God bless,
    Amanda

  15. My son is about to turn four and he is already showing himself capable of doing things like getting his own juice and putting his dishes away. He also takes care of brushing his own teeth and can certainly pick up his toys (though I haven't seen it happen!)
    I think it is about time to start some kind of chore routine like this. Thanks for the ideas!

  16. The "high-five" sounds like a great idea! I'll have to try it once my daughter gets older

  17. My daughter thrives in routine. Therefore, I have a chore chart. Each time she does a job, she gets a sticker. Each sticker is worth 5 cents. At the end of the week she gets paid (1/2 goes in savings and 1/2 she gets to spend).

    She was also very stressed out about getting things done in time in the morning. So, I made a checklist of her chores. She is in charge of her chores and I am in charge of the clock. It teaches her responsibility but it also builds trust between us. She knows, I will never let her be late and so, mornings are much more peaceful:-)

  18. Love this! My kids are so into High 5'n, this should be a real hit! I'm so excited! Making my 'signs' tomorrow.

  19. LOVE it!!! I am definitely going to implement this!!!

  20. My son’s only 2.5 but we have small chore routines. For example he knows that after dinner he needs to put him plate on the counter and wash up, if he spills there’s a dish towel at his level to clean it up. (This goes for every meal) After dinner we put pj’s on and pick up toys so we can read stories. Oddly enough he loves this part. He’ll actually pick up his toys randomly and then ask for a story. He associates picking up his things with something he loves. He also knows that when we come in from outside we take off our coats, shoes and hats..he’ll remind you if you forget. On a good day I’ll let him help with laundry or hand me canned goods when I put away groceries. The more I let him help the more he learns and I don’t have to wonder what he’s up to for a little while.

  21. Kathleen Feller says:

    I like the High 5 idea. I’m gonna try that with my kids (ages 6.5,4.5, and 14 months).

  22. I just did this with my 4 yr. old twins and my 3 yr. old son and they loved doing it! I think it is a great idea! Thanks for posting!

  23. Hi there! I recently saw a photo of your High Five charts on Pinterest, and am delighted to have ‘discovered’ your lovely blog that way. You’ve inspired me to try this with my toddlers – you can read my post about our version of your charts here: http://joyfulmamasplace.blogspot.com/2011/07/making-it-fun-to-get-things-done.html

    Greetings from Sunny South Africa!

  24. Just came across your website because of pinterest. I love this high five plan. It is so easy for kids of any age to use and I can’t wait to start using it with our daily routine with my 4 yr. old. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Thanks for this AWESOME idea!!! I found this on Pinterst last week and we’ve been doing it for a few days. I also turned it into a contest! The first kid done with their High 5s get to paint their hand and put a ‘High 5′ on a poster. Each kid has their own color, and the kid with the most hand prints at the end of the month gets a date night with Mom and Dad.
    They LOVE it! Instead of stomping and whining about their am/pm duties, now they race around and can’t wait to get started on them! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Michele says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this…I LOVE IT!!!! We do the exact chores on your high five chart so it won’t be much of a change =)

  27. This is a really helpful article, thank you! My son has regular chores he is expected to do, but other than making his bed and opening his curtains in the morning, (and brushing his teeth, obviously!) they mostly aren’t assigned a specific time of day. I think I may adopt a more specific approach and expect certain things in the morning and certain things before bedtime.

    But I also so recognise the need for the parental discipline as well. Our tasks often fall by the wayside too, and I know that’s something I need to work on. I really appreciate you sharing that you’re the same (this makes me feel much better about needing to work on it too) :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] for my everyday. See what I mean about OCD? Can’t help it. I like to tell myself what to do. (The Morning and Evening High Fives are lists of chores for the kids to complete, but I have to remember to follow [...]

  2. [...] Having a basic routine at home will make it less difficult for your child to adjust to the routine at school. Most children do well when they know what to expect. Don’t be afraid to “mix things up” occasionally, though… flexibility is an important trait to have too! [...]

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