Kitchen Chores for Kids

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Participating in kitchen clean-up is good for kids and for parents. Here’s how it works at our house.

Kitchen Chores for Kids

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I remember when my eldest child was just five years old. We gave him the job of busboy. I bought a small plastic dishpan. After each meal, he would load it up with the dishes and take it to the kitchen. We had a veritable dining room in those days, so it was helpful to have his assistance in hauling things back to the kitchen.

Ever since then our kids have had what we call “kitchen jobs”. We’ve rotated chores in a variety of ways over the years. Currently, chores are assigned for a month at a time and then we rotate.

Other families rotate on a daily or weekly basis. We’ve tried that in different seasons. I’ve found that for us, it’s better to have a significant amount of time on a job so that one can really learn how to do. Frequent switching means that there lots of relearning to do.

Some kids are better at some jobs than others. It’s tempting to just leave each kid to his strength. But, how do you get better if you don’t get practice? So, I bite the bullet each month when it’s time for someone to get better at his assigned task.

It’s easier in some respects just to do it yourself. But, it’s good for kids to learn life skills and to contribute to the running of the household. And you’d be surprised to know that it’s not always the oldest kids who are the strongest in certain skills.

Here are the tasks that our family assigns for kitchen jobs:

Clear the table and wipe it.

This is the easiest job, one that even the youngest of the kids can do. It rarely goes through the rotation since it’s just easier to leave the easy job to the little ones. Our daughters, 4 and 6, take care of the table: setting, clearing, and wiping.

Special tools: dust pan, wash cloth, vinegar spray, though they wish we also had fancy tablecloths and napkins, which we don’t.

Load the dishwasher and wash the pots.

We’re blessed to have an automatic dishwasher. Each of the boys, ages 9, 10, 12, and 15, know how to rinse the dishes, load the machines, and wash any hand-washables like pots and knives.

FishPapa often does this job for them, just to be nice. I don’t. He’s the good cop. I’m the bad one. Ha! Just kidding. Believe me I have my fair share of dishpan hands. I typically take care of this during freezer cooking or recipe testing. But, for regular meals, it’s a kid job.

Our four- and six-year old daughter can do this job with supervision, so FishPapa often does this one with helpers.

The dishwasher man is also responsible for letting me know when we’re running low on dishwashing detergent and Lemi-Shine. I’m going to need to tell you about Lemi-Shine sometime. Can’t live without it.

Special tools: rubber gloves, scrubby sponge, dishsoap, dishwashing detergent, Lemi-Shine

Kitchen Chores for Kids

Unload the dishwasher and dish drainer.

Another of the boys takes care of putting away the dishes. This can get tricky if they don’t nest the dishes in the cupboards. My head starts to spin around when I open a cupboard bursting at the seams because the dishes aren’t stacked, but shoved in haphazardly.

The younger kids (4 and 6) can do most of this job, but not all. Glasses are stored in a higher cupboard, so an older person does that. They help sometimes with the silverware and the plastics.

Special tools: careful attention to detail

Sweep and mop the floor.

Three times a day the floor is to be swept. Ideally the floor is mopped weekly. Notice that I say ideally. Ahem.

All the boys can do this job, with varying degrees of success. The youngest guy needs help with the mopping.

Special tools: broom, hand broom, dustpan, mop

Wipe down the counters and appliances.

This is probably the second easiest job, but it’s also one that is neglected the most often, unfortunately. I think that’s because it’s the last in the lineup. Folks are ready to move on to other activities, and so the counter man gives it a quick swipe and escapes.

Unless I catch him and make him do it again.

Special tools: dust pan, wash cloth, vinegar spray.

Take out the papers and the trash.

Since taking out the trash and recycling are unpredictable in when they are needed, those tasks are assigned as needed. I find the youngest person capable of doing it and start singing. Yakkety-yak.

That’s it for us. We spend so much time in our kitchen, either cooking or eating, that there’s a rare moment when it’s all clean and sparkling. It’s nice to have help. And all the kids are learning how nice it is to have things clean.

They also know that it’s not done by some fairy with a magic wand.ย A girl can still dream, though, right?

How do you handle kitchen jobs at your house?

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  1. Thank you for such great ideas and wisdom. Exactly what I needed as I try to get more of a daily schedule for the fall. You are so right about rotating chores, regardless of skill. Thanks you for sharing. And I love the busboy idea with a pan. I’m getting one this week for my 3 year old. It will make things much less frustrating. =)

  2. 5 & 7 y/o’s always took plates to the sink and helped to set and clear the table. 7 y/o wipes surfaces down and tosses dining linens in the laundry basket upstairs.

  3. I plan to do 1 month rotations too – eventually when the kids are all at ages that we can actually do that with kitchen (and other) chores in the house. Any more frequent than that, and it’s hard for ME to remember to change the chore charts around….which I plan to have someday on my wall ๐Ÿ™‚ Right now, I have to divide it all up by age but there are varying levels of who does what ๐Ÿ™‚ Breakfast and lunch dishes are mostly plastic, and no big pots/pans heavy scrub dishes to do – so that job is actually in the hands of the 6 yr old who asked last year if she could learn to wash dishes. What better way than a couple of 10 minute (for the 10 yr old) times a day and it frees up the 10 yr old from dish washing. The 5 yr old dry’s dishes at this time – because again, they are all mostly plastic. He’s (nor the 6 yr old) are allowed to dry the glass dishes, just plastic ones and pots and pans they can’t break if they drop! Breakfast and lunch dishes are handled by these two, with the 10 yr old putting away everything that is too high for them to reach. And yes, they use stools to stand on while doing the dishes – though, they are getting taller!

    Dinner dishes are run a little differently: Oldest washes, 5 yr old starts drying while 6 yr old clears off table mats and sprays/wipes down the table. Then the 6 yr old takes over drying, while the 5 yr old sweeps under the table (while the chairs are still pushed out). If there is not a lot of dishes to dry and the 5 yr old gets it all done before the 6 yr old (who sometimes dawdles) gets wiping done – then the 6 yr old also gets to sweep. The 10 yr old checks the trash and takes it out if needed (while one of the middle two grabs the liner to line the trash cans.) She also wipes down the stove and is supposed to wipe down the counters ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a work in progress. The only one not in the rotation yet is the almost 3.5 yr old….she clears her own plate (they really all clear their own plates, with some clearing of Mom and Dad’s plates too from who ever is available to do so first). If I cook or bake throughout the day, I might have them washing a little more frequently – but if I’m in no rush, I have no problem letting the 6 yr old (who wants to do it by the way) wash the bigger bowls and things – to practice learning ๐Ÿ™‚

    Trash bags are taken out by oldest, with bathroom trash cans being emptied by my middle two kids, and liners being put in by the middle two as well. Oldest takes cans to curbs (with help from the middles) and brings them back in the next day.

    Many things fall on my oldest shoulders, being 3.5 yrs older than the next one, but she is taking on more older kids responsibilities these days – and the middle two are starting to do more things without her. When the littlest one gets old enough, she’ll join in on the party too. One things that is going on, at lunch time with dishes – while my middle two handle that – my oldest is picking up dog poop. She’d rather do that than dishes, everyone is happy with their jobs right now but as we get older we will need to rotate. I don’t have as many problems with the kids and chores right now – mostly because someone else is always helping with them. It seems to stop lots of the squbbles because there is someone to share the burden with.

  4. We have 7 children 5 boys then 2 girls. Each have set chores to do each day. My oldest 4 empty the dishwasher, but i am not ready to let them do the dishes. I have issues with how things are done. Lol. They do the laundry for me though.

  5. The plastic dishpan for the โ€œbusboyโ€ is a great idea. Iโ€™m adding that to my bag of tricks. My oldest is two years old. She cleans up her toys and has other small tasks like carrying my lunch bag. I praise her for taking care of her responsibility. She seems proud.

  6. Fun wee tip: save a bundle by buying plain citric acid, the active ingredient in Lemi-Shine. Promise! It’s also good for replacing Fruit Fresh or whatever it’s called that keeps apples from turning brown.

    Thanks for the reminder; our kids definately need to pitch in more and this post will definately start me in the right direction.

  7. I would but Lemi-Shine by the case if I could! It is the only thing that keeps our dishes from being permanently etched by the hard water around here. It is a great product and I don’t run the dishwasher without it.

    Thank you for more ideas for putting my little one to work in the kitchen.

  8. Thanks for this. I think it’s time to get my kids involved in more kitchen chores. ๐Ÿ™‚

    One other question–how do you keep your home relatively clean while homeschooling? I’ll be homeschooling for the first time next year (mine are 9, 4, and 3). I don’t want total chaos all day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Well, honestly, some days it’s a total wreck. We have a planned clean up at 3 every afternoon. If we go to bed with everything tidy, we wake up with tidy, and that helps our day immensely. It just takes a bedtime push from me, which I don’t always have. Also, the mess is commensurate with the activity of my 4yo. She leaves messes in her wake.