This week we’re celebrating “Make your Bed Day”. As I sat down to write this blog, I began thinking about making my bed, how I learned to do it, did I ever do “chores” when I was a child, is it really necessary for a child to do chores? My head filled with questions about “chores” and what the “right” answer was for each question.

You all know I’m not here to tell you the right and wrong way to do things.  I’m merely here to offer my professional and at times personal opinions regarding developmental topics that we all encounter at one point or another. So today instead of speaking only about learning to make a bed, I’m going to touch upon chore charts and why completing chores can positively contribute to your child’s social emotional development.

In addition to learning independence, responsibility and a sense of importance and being needed, chores can contribute to the creation of a wonderful work ethic that will help build your child’s character as they grow up. I know what you’re thinking…do I really need to have them clear their plate in order to ensure they will grow up to be a good worker? Ultimately the answer is no, you don’t have to. However, teaching your child early in life that they are not entitled to have absolutely everything done for them and given to them can only positively impact the development of their character as an adult.

This is where a chore chart can come in handy. I’m not talking about making elaborate charts and posters that have 5+ activities listed that each child must complete each day in order to ultimately earn that oh so important toy that you have chosen to give as a reward. First things first…keep it SIMPLE.

Start with ONE chore…make a table that lists the days of the week across the top and has one chore listed down the side. (see example below)

Let’s say you have a 2 year old and you want to start a chore chart. An appropriate “chore” for your 2 year old might be “Clean up/pick up toys before bedtime”. Every night, as part of your bedtime routine, you discuss whether or not this chore was completed. If it was, a sticker/check mark/happy face gets placed in the box for the day. If they didn’t complete the chore, the box gets left empty. If I’ve learned anything in my 10+ years of being a practitioner, I’ve learned that stickers are VERY important to children, and often times, the simple reward of a sticker is enough.

As your child gets the hang of this chore and grows, you can begin to add chores, one at a time. I would wait a good 2 months before adding a new chore.  Allow the first chore to become more of a habit before adding a new task.

Below is a list of age appropriate chores:

For 2-3 year olds:

  • Clean up/pick up toys
  • Help make their bed
  • Fill pet’s water bowl
  • Help carry their dish to the sink when done eating

For 4-5 year olds:

  • Get dressed with minimal parental help
  • Make their bed with minimal parental help
  • Help set/clear the table with supervision
  • Help parent carry things to/from the car
  • Brush their teeth morning and night with parental help
  • Clean their room with parental help
  • Feed the pet and fill the pet’s water bowl

For 6-7 year olds:

  • Make their bed every day
  • Brush their teeth
  • Comb their hair
  • Choose their outfit for the day and dress themselves

If you don’t feel crafty enough to make your own chore chart there are plenty of ready-made charts out there such as the Melissa & Doug Responsibility Chart or the Chore Chart – 6-Pack Dry Erase Reward Chart for Kids. You can probably even Google “Chore Chart” and your child’s age and print one off.

The bottom line is early childhood is a great time to begin to introduce some responsibility to your child. Don’t make too many demands to select activities that are not developmentally appropriate and are instead too difficult for them to handle. You want them to be successful so that the chores become more habitual than an activity that your child dreads completing every day.

And remember, they’re not working toward a Ferrari! The simpler the reward the better. Stickers and pennies work as well if not better than very expensive toys/treats that your child will interact with once and then forget. 🙂