Getting your children to clean up around the house can be challenging, but assigning them chores is one of the most important things you can do to help them learn responsibility and important life skills, starting from a young age.

“I think it’s great for kids as young as age 3 to have as many daily, little chores as they are years old,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “So, a 4-year-old would have four little chores. A 7-year-old gets to do seven little chores.”

Age-appropriate chores help instill good habits. They help children build self-reliance, confidence and a positive work ethic, starting as young as preschool.

“For example, a 3-year-old might pick up toys, help put their clothes away or clear their plate from the table. A 7-year-old can have increased responsibility, like helping to feed the family pet.”

Encouraging kids to do their chores
The reason kids don’t like doing chores is the same reason adults don’t like doing them—household chores typically lack the fun factor. Here are practical steps you can take to get your kids to engage in their tasks:

  • Little kids like to do what big people do, so use their natural enthusiasm to encourage them to pitch in. Give them a task that is appropriate with their skill level to avoid them becoming disappointed or frustrated.
  • Turn on some music and sing as you work.
  • Be OK with imperfection. Assign a chore but avoid micromanaging every step of the task or criticizing their work.
  • Work side-by-side with your child. You’ll be more successful by showing your kids that it’s a family effort.
  • Set a timer and see if you can get your work done together before the timer goes off, so it’s more of a competition than a task.
  • Be sure to recognize their hard work and thank them for their effort. High-fives and verbal praise go a long way.

Offering your child incentives
Reward systems are a good way to motivate children to do chores. While sticker charts work well for younger kids, a token economy system may be more effective for older children. Designed to help improve a child’s behavior, a token economy system can also be effective in encouraging your child to complete tasks. It allows kids to earn tokens as they finish their chores. Then, tokens can be exchanged for bigger rewards.

There is debate among parents over whether allowance should be tied to chores, or whether children should be expected to pitch in simply because they are a member of the family. Regardless of which side you’re on, allowance is a great opportunity to teach your child financial responsibility. Learn more here.

Dr. Bradshaw believes that chores are an important building block in helping ensure that, as your children grow, they are building skills that they will need when they are living on their own.

“I think chores should be a daily thing. All of us have things we have to do every day, and we may not love all of them, but we get through them. It’s just something we do.”