We’ve all seen those charts with chores for kids. The ones where each section shows you exactly what a two-year-old might do, next to a color coded section for your slightly more reliable eight-year-old. And another section still should you have a tween at home.

But as a mom of four kids, I want to tell you something: you don’t need that chart.

All kids can do all the chores.

How Even Small Kids Can Do Any Chore

True, my six-year-old doesn’t fold all the laundry and put it away like my eleven-year-old. BUT she sifts through and finds all the towels, kitchen rags and dish towels. She folds those and sets them back where they came from. Clean and fresh.

Now I don’t have to spend a bunch of time figuring out which child has the dexterity to do each job, and when they’ve grown to suit a new task. Everyone’s in the mix, all the time.

Two game changers for chores have been:

  1. Giving really clear instructions. Usually involving a live demo. Sometimes more than once.
  2. Adjusting expectations for each child’s age, and therefore ability.

Let’s go back to the laundry room (as it always seems to in life, anyway). When we rotate chores and I get a bigger kid on laundry again, I’ll tweak the job description.

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Chores for Kids of All Ages

These are the chores we’ve asked our kids do over the years. Sometimes rotating. Sometimes daily for months until we rotate again.

  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Set the table
  • Clear the table
  • Fold laundry
  • Feed animals (dogs & chickens)
  • Vacuum
  • Take out the recycling
  • Take out the compost
  • Clean the common bathrooms

I really just thought of all the jobs that take up most of my time, and started divvying them up. Not because I want the kids to “do all the work”. But it’s really important that they pitch in for two reasons.

  1. It’s good for their hearts. We are a family. A team. Everyone needs to have some skin in the game.
  2. It’s good for their skill sets. Someday they will be adults and need to know how to do all these things.
  3. It’s good for their futures. Chores are actually proven to help kids become successful adults.
  4. It’s genuinely helpful. Once kids get up and running, you’ll have a little more time than when you did everything yourself.

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How to Set Up a Chore System that Works for Kids

We have tried lots of different systems and I’m sure we’ll keep evolving as we go. These have worked best for us:

  1. Popsicle Sticks

How it works: Each day, each child picks 2 (or more) Popsicle sticks from a jar. One job is written in Sharpie on each stick. Those are the assigned jobs for the day.

Pros: Variety, perceived fairness

Cons: You have to supervise the picking (and the doing) daily, plus my kids tended to lose the sticks or get wily in trying to pluck a favored job over another

You could certainly make your own but for a quick and easy start, this is the highest rated stick system on Amazon with a promising review below.

Promising review: “5.0 out of 5 stars Chores now with NO COMPLAINING from the kids! My kids, who are ambivalent towards chores, suddenly enjoy doing chores they normally don’t, thanks to these sticks! No more complaining. Since my kids’ schoolteachers use sticks like these in their classes, my kids are very accepting of whatever “chore” is on the stick without complaint. I went through the sticks to remove ones that aren’t relevant or age-appropriate for my kids, but that only took out 3 total. They send plenty of blank sticks for parents to write chores down that are specific to your family’s needs, which is really nice as well. LOVE these!”

2. Job Charts

How it works: Each child has their name written on a chart, along with designated jobs and often a check mark. Jobs can stick with kids for a week, a month, a season or indefinitely.

Pros: Kids get good at the task and eventually fall into a rhythm

Cons: If one kid is stuck with a job they don’t like, it’s a lot of drama for a long time

Mine is a version of this with a super simple setup.

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Again, it’s possible to write out your own chores but this magnetic chore chart board from Amazon has almost 4,0000 5-star ratings and one of my favorite reviews of all time below.

Promising review: 5.0 out of 5 stars Magically turn your naughty rugrats into obedient, self-sufficient children overnight. They pretend to be hard of hearing. They may run and hide. They might just take after their father and be complacently lazy without a care for cleanliness or responsibility. No matter what the case may be for you, this magnetic chore chart has magically transformed my little hellions into Grade A worker bees who, through the power of reward and shame, are now pulling their weight around the house and achieving cleaner rooms, cleaner dishes, and a future of promise. Highly recommended.”

One-offs are also really common. We recently made a deal with the kids for clearing the table: put EVERYTHING away and they can play again before bed. Usually, roller skating in the garage.

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Are Chores Good for Kids?

There are two things that I always suggest to friends who are struggling with kids’ attitudes or their own (very well earned) burnout.

  1. Send your kids to bed earlier.
  2. Give those rascals chores.

I’ll talk more about number one soon and it’s definitely related to food. Trust me.

But for the second, this is vital. No kids are too busy for chores. Some of these jobs take five minutes. MAX. (See burnout above.)

And having a “pitch-in” attitude is not only useful in a household but also beneficial for kids to develop in the long run. Maybe the single most important factor in achieving success according to some research.

Kids will complain. Count on it.

Some kids will get right on it.

It’ll be like everything else. You’ll have to ask them, maybe more than once. You’ll have to inspect their work.

But it’s so worth it. Even for preschoolers. And just keep going from there.

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When Our Kids Do Their Chores

Aside from the expectation to keep their rooms clean — or tidy up before dinner — each of our kids has two daily jobs. Some of the jobs are required in the morning before school starts. These are chores like feeding dogs and chickens or emptying the dishwasher.

For the second job, the rule is simple: both of your chores need to be done by dinner. If you have vacuuming as a chore now, you need to find a rug before 5:30pm.

It’s simple and easy.

When the kids go back to school and resume activities like dance and sports, we’ll probably need to tweak the timing again.

Chore systems are like anything in parenting, they’re evolving. You wouldn’t feed a ten-year-old baby food right? I never feel bad about adjusting our systems or modifying as needed. It doesn’t make you flaky, just smart enough to know when you need to pivot.

  • 5 Meals Kids Can Make Themselves
  • You Won’t Always Like Dinner, And Other Life Lessons I Want My Kids to Learn
  • How We Cut Fights and Made Mealtimes More Peaceful Too

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