#43: What kinds of chores can kids do during quarantine?

April 23, 2020

So you’re stuck at home and you’re running around getting everything done. It’s exhausting!

As a parent it’s easy to get caught up in the daily chores necessary to get through the day. You walk around the house doing everything that needs to be done and you sometimes don’t even stop to think about it! You’re on auto-pilot. I am writing this to tell you to STOP! Stop trying to be superman/woman. Stop doing it all. Trying to do everything only leads to resentment and anger…and quite frankly exhaustion.

Engage even your smallest of children in your day to day chores. Small children as young as 3 can help with sorting laundry,  put their dirty dishes in the sink, put their dirty clothes in the hamper and sort of make their beds. By four and five, children can absolutely begin to set the table, help with cleaning up after eating and make their beds. Creating good habits such as cleaning up after play should really begin very early. Encouraging them to take those extra 2-3 minutes that is needed after play to just clean up! (pointer: Don’t criticize what they do, even if the bed or playroom isn’t perfect, try to thank them for helping. Criticizing how kids make their beds or clean up is the perfect way to get them to not want to do it again!) If you give positive feedback they will be willing to do it again tomorrow! If you think they need some help, try helping them out the first few times and then encourage them to do it alone. 

By 6-7 years, kids can begin helping to organize a playroom, begin putting their clothes away after being washed and they can even begin helping to wash dishes! You can even start to teach kids this age some cooking basics. It’s never too early to learn to crack an egg, mix batter and prepare a salad.  It’s wonderful to see a child’s face light up when they successfully crack that first egg! It can also be a fun way to enjoy some time with your child and help them to feel like a contributing member of the family. Try looking for fun, easy recipes and make something new every week!  

Between 8-10 years old, children can be extremely helpful! They can absolutely begin to help with cooking, organizing their closet, replacing toilet paper rolls, putting away groceries, making their beds, preparing a simple lunch or dinner and writing out a to-go list for the following day. This is a great age to start learning about time management and getting things done. Give them a voice. Let them have some say in what they want to wear, eat (with guidance of course!), etc. If they have an idea, encourage them to send an email to the teacher and share their ideas. This is the beginning of “independence”…..children can really do a lot of  things for themselves with guidance. (and they love to learn!)

In the tween years, teach kids some of the basics such as cooking some meals, learning to do laundry, making a bed, helping with dishes, folding clothes, sewing a button,  taking out the garbage, etc. These are just some of the many things that tweens can do!

By the time your kids reach their teens, it is important to look ahead to the future and begin thinking about the skills your child will need that are NOT taught in the classroom. The truth is that by 18 or 19 years old many kids are living on their own and sometimes find themselves lost because their parents have done everything for them! Now is the perfect time to teach them some of these life skills! Consider teaching your child  about money management. Talk about insurance, house expenses, everyday expenses, etc. Get into details. Go over the amount of money you need to earn in order to buy the things they want and need. Consider getting them a bank account so they can start saving some of the money they may earn from doing jobs here and there. Now is a great time to talk a little about the stock market and begin looking at making possible predictions about what will happen in the market. It is also a great time to sit down with your teens and talk about investing. 

Teach them about time management. Help them write down short and long term goals and create a plan for how to get there. This will serve them well in all aspects of their life and will help them resist being “bored” and wasting hours and hours playing video games or scrolling through social media. Make sure that chores are a priority in your house. Most responsibilities do not take much time and it is really about time management and team work. 

Now that we are in quarantine, there is no reason that your teens can’t help around the house! Remember once your children go off on their own they really should be able to:

  1. Cook some meals 
  2. Do laundry 
  3. Self-hygiene (very important!) 
  4. Time management skills (writing down goals and weekly to-do lists) -Figuring out a system that works for them. Try Google calendar to start. It’s free and it syncs automatically with their phone. They can learn to set up reminders and alerts about important events and/or meetings. 
  5. Make a bed 
  6. Basic cleaning skills- cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming, mopping, and washing dishes
  7. Sew a button 
  8. Iron a shirt
  9. Learn how to shop for groceries with a budget
  10. Money Management

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start. Start thinking about all the skills they will need beyond academics once they live on their own.  Parents often want to do everything for their kids. What they don’t realize is that kids are more capable than most parents give them credit for! 

I’ve seen that in many affluent families most of the household responsibilities are outsourced. This leaves very few chores (if any) for the kids to do. Now that we are in quarantine, and maybe you don’t have as much help as you used to, it’s the perfect time to get started on teaching some of these skills! Consider that making the extra effort to teach kids some of these skills is worth it!  Any skill that a child learns will help them in the future!

The opposite is also true, with poverty comes need and I have seen that in families with less wealth the children are taught early on that they need to help in the home with basic chores and household duties.  They help out of necessity but grow up with more basic skills than those than never help around the house. 

Regardless of your background or means, kids are kids and kids will grow up to be adults. As parents our job is to raise them to be contributing members of society, that are self-sufficient, hard-working, and kind. Helping around the house can teach all of these skills and also bring you closer. So parents, please stop trying to do it all! Ask for a hand and enjoy the extra time that you have to share a special experience with your child instead of spending all day cooking and cleaning up alone! Trust me!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P.

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