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Ask the Pediatrician: What household chores are appropriate for children and teens?

Shelly Flais, MD, FAAP, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Age-appropriate chores and responsibilities are an important part of a child's development.

Young children are naturally eager helpers. Take advantage of this and develop a culture of teamwork in your home. Most preschool age kids can start pitching in with some simple household tasks. This teaches them life skills and how to cooperate with a group (in this case, your family).

Helping to keep the home running smoothly boosts a child's self-esteem. Just don't expect perfection; this is a learning process, and children will develop their skills over time. Praise your child's effort in each task, not the outcome. Small accomplishments lead to bigger ones. Kids can take on more responsibilities as they move through their school years and adolescence.

Some age-appropriate chores for kids:

5-7 years old: Make their own beds, set and clear the table for mealtimes, weed and rake leaves, make and pack school lunches, dust, put toys away, neaten bookshelves, put dirty clothes in a hamper, fill pet's food dish, empty wastebaskets, sweep floors, sort laundry, bring in mail/newspaper, water flowers, and wash plastic dishes in the sink.

8-10 years old: All of the above, plus vacuum, help make dinner, make their own snacks, take a pet for walk, put away their own laundry and put away groceries.

11-12 years old: All of the above, as well as clean the kitchen, change bedsheets, unload the dishwasher, do and fold laundry, scrub toilets and clean the bathroom, wash the car, cook a simple meal with supervision, and watch younger siblings with an adult present at home.

As your child enters their adolescent and teen years, household chores still play an important part in their growth. Chores contribute to the busy household and develop important life skills. Caring for shared spaces within the home also nurtures the concept of shared teamwork that will last into adulthood.

 

In addition to chores child did as a younger kid, some great chores for teens include vacuuming shared spaces, such as living room, hallways, stairs, furniture; washing and vacuuming the car, especially if they have car privileges; mowing the yard, spreading mulch and weeding; and clearing walkways and the driveway of snow. Teens who have a driver’s license can also help with grocery shopping. They can clean the kitchen after meal prep; feed, groom and take care of pets; and help care for younger siblings.

Wondering if your teen can perform some of the household tasks that need to be done? Just remember, if your teen can operate a smartphone, they can figure out how to use a washing machine, an oven and a dishwasher.

If your teen is swamped with too many extracurriculars, consider the big picture. Many of our teenagers are overscheduled. However, baseball practice doesn't make anyone "too busy" to take out the garbage without reminders from a parent.

After the age of 16 years, many teens take on part-time work or a summer job, which is fantastic. But it's not a reason to stop contributing to home chores. Can you imagine if as parents we didn't keep up with household jobs because we "had to go to work?" Make sure your teen knows that the work within the home is as valuable as the work outside the home.

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About Dr. Flais

Shelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified practicing pediatrician and mother of 4 children. An instructor of clinical pediatrics with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, she is the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics books, "Nurturing Boys to Be Better Men: Gender Equality Starts at Home"" and Raising Twins." Dr. Flais is also a contributor for "Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know." She has shared her reality-based parenting approach with national and local television, radio, online, and print news outlets.


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