Chores & Kids: What Can You Ask of Them?

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Got kids? Are you including them in the workings of the household and teaching them important life skills?

Chores and Kids: What can you ask of them - Got kids? Are you including them in the workings of the household and teaching them important life skills?

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When I was a kid, chores were a part of life. We didn’t always do them. But, they were there, and our parents often asked us to do stuff around the house or yard. Washing dishes, pulling weeds, chopping fire wood, milking cows, that sort of thing.

Okay I lied on a few counts there, but you get the drift.

Implied in my lie is the truth that things have changed for most households in the last generation or two. Chopping fire wood and milking cows was very real for my dad, a man born and bred on a Minnesota farm. It’s a foreign concept for me.

Likewise, there are some things my kids just don’t have to do that their father or I once did when we were kids. Our life circumstances are different than our parents.

For instance, we rent a house in Southern California. It’s nice and big and the owners live in Australia. Since they don’t want to worry about tenants letting things go, a gardening service is included in our lease. While we have a lawnmower, it sits dormant in the garage. My kids haven’t pulled weeds in five years since the gardener takes care of that.

I’d be happy to teach them about weeds and yard work, but it’s really not necessary right now. (And honestly, I’ve got enough fires to fight!)

I need help. And you do, too.

You know that I’m kinda of a freak of nature. I somehow end up with lots of things on my plate. I couldn’t homeschool and write cookbooks and publish blogs if my kids didn’t help out around the house.

Well, I suppose I could…. but I’d be worn pretty thin… or the house would be declared a disaster zone. I have to get help with the housework or I think I would die.

Gimme a high five.

For years when we had only littles, we focused on the high five concept as a way to add routine and cleanliness to our home. If you don’t have them yet, download the Morning High Five and Afternoon High Five printables. (There are customizable forms for Morning and Evening High Five available in Organizing Life as MOM.)

The concept of five tasks in the morning, five in the afternoon, and five before bed, is easy for kids to grasp, gives them a sense of accomplishment, and adds routine and stability to the day. But what do you choose as those special five (or more)? Little kids get simpler things. Big kids get to do more because they can. Don’t be afraid to ask a little farther than they can do well. They will rise to the challenge.

Kids can keep house (mostly).

So, my kids (ages 5 to 17) help, particularly since they are the ones that make a lot of the messes. 

Here’s how it is working currently:

Personal space

Two kids share each of three bedrooms. They are responsible to change the sheets and vacuum on a weekly basis as well as keep things mostly ship shape. I don’t freak out (too much) that there’s junk on the floors, but at least once a week, they need to get it put back together.

This is the goal — for at least fifteen minutes once a week. (Let’s be real.)

Chores and Kids: What can you ask of them - Got kids? Are you including them in the workings of the household and teaching them important life skills?


Over the last year I decided that my kids could do their own laundry. It has made life so much easier to wash them in separate loads instead of trying to corral everyone for a big laundry folding party. I wash sheets, towels, and parent clothing — though FishPapa has taken to washing his own as well.

I added a few more tweaks to the system, like writing directions and a written schedule ON THE WASHING MACHINE with a sharpie and buying laundry soap sheets. Love those! Laundry is not the dreaded monster it once was.

Personal items

If a child takes out a project or box of Lego or dress-up, he or she is responsible to put it away. Most big boxes of toys (Playmobil, dolls, Lego, etc) are stored in big tubs in the garage. They get pulled in for play and then returned when we’re done with them.

Now that they are venturing into cooking independently, they are responsible for cleaning up after themselves. (We are still working on this part.)

Chores and Kids: What can you ask of them - Got kids? Are you including them in the workings of the household and teaching them important life skills?


There are four FULL bathrooms in our home: the master bath, one in the girls’ room, one between the boys’ rooms, and one downstairs. This means there are four toilets and showers and SIX sinks. Heavens! We’ve divided them to conquer them. I take care of the master bath; the girls clean their bathroom, one pair of boys does the upstairs bath; the other pair of boys is in charge of the downstairs bath.

Every once in awhile, I give each bath a deeper clean than the kids do, but they do a pretty good job. It helps that one boy in each pair is pretty fastidious about cleaning.

Grab these FREE Bathroom Bingo and Checklist printables to help your kids help you keep the bathrooms clean.


We’ve divided the house into zones: entryway, living room, family room, hallway, and school room. When a parent says, “Time to pick up the zones,” the kids call dibs and get to work. (The girls double up.) Vacuuming happens at least once a week these days, but my ideal is daily. We haven’t reached my ideal in about a year. But, as soon as I typed that sentence, I went and asked the kids, who were doing zones, do vacuum while they’re at it. Ha!

In the early days, I really had to spell out what needed to be done in the zones. It makes me laugh that the living room cleaning list mentions “Take dirty clothes to the laundry room.” Yes, my children have been known to undress in the living room! Oy!

Chores and Kids: What can you ask of them - Got kids? Are you including them in the workings of the household and teaching them important life skills?


Each child has a kitchen job that he’s responsible for three times a day: loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, clearing and wiping the tables, clearing and wiping the counters, and sweeping/mopping the floor. The girls double up again. FishPapa and I help out, but the kids know how to do it themselves.

See: Kitchen Chores for Kids

This probably looks like a ton of work, but honestly it’s not. If the neighbor kids every wonder why my kids take so long to clean, it’s because they dawdle, not because they have too much work. We are constantly looking for ways to streamline our home and make it easier for them to play, study, and work. Zone Defense is part of that.

I want my kids to know how to do. Regular chores are part of that.


What chores do you ask of your kids?

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  1. My kids (14,10, & 8) are pretty good about helping without too much complaining. We had years where I gave them the “the whole family works together” explanation and thought that would never change. 🙂 We’re still working on the self-motivation!

  2. How old are the girls now? My oldest two (boys) are 8 and 6. Wondering about them being able to do their laundry…

  3. We don’t have milking cows so that isn’t a chore my kids have, but they do help us gather firewood and work in the garden. One of my regrets as a parent is not having them do enough chores, more for the sake of learning to perform that skill rather than being a help to me. I still need to work on having them help in the kitchen more so they have more experience when they need it later. I like the idea of the high fives and the directions for the laundry. I might need to try those tips in my home. Thanks for the post!

    1. Yep. Guilty as charged. Since a lot of my cooking is for work, they don’t get to do it as much as they would like. The cobbler’s kids won’t know how to make shoes?! Oy!

  4. Was wondering about this – being summer and that phrase ” I am bored” just around the corner. My little guy just turned 5. He has been doing some basic stuff since he was 3 like making his bed, feeding the cat, and dressing himself/picking up his jammies off the floor afterwards. But not much else. Totally going to add vacuuming and some other things to this list. Your daughter in the picture looks about the same size as him. It would sure help to have another set of hands helping since my hubby works tons of hours. Thanks for posting about this…..

    1. I think you’d be suprised what your guy can do. We’ve had kids even younger able to unload the nonbreakables from the dishwasher, load dirty dishes, clear the table, etc. We even had an electric sweeper for awhile that allowed them to sweep the floor themselves.

      1. I started my son emptying the silverware from the dishwasher at 3, then when his younger brother turned 3, my oldest started emptying the rest of dishwasher (he was now 5) I always did a check of sharp things / breakables. He also made a (hopefully small) pile of things he didn’t know where to put away.

        1. I recently ditched all our plastic plates. I was tired of looking at them. I moved the china dishes down to a lower cabinet and the girls set the table pretty easily. It’s worked out well. We’ve broken a few, but I love the atmosphere so much more. 🙂

  5. What perfect timing! My kids have been complaining that they’d rather go back to school because I’m making them do too many chores. I made a temporary list of daily, weekly, and monthly chores and told them to choose one from each. But I don’t think it’s going to last. I’m going to try your printables and see how it goes. Thanks so much for sharing!!

    1. I think that if there is a distinct, tangible, positive consequence for the chores (ie more time to play, a nicer house, more free time), they will come on board. I think we have to teach them the positive aspects of a clean house. THAT is what we’re working on here.