When I first taught my children to do morning chores (the bathroom bench and the breakfast dishes) I took 1 month of training. The children were areound 3-4years old (I had 2 children).  This was my process:

Week 1:

Jessica:  Breakfast dishes. I left Jess in the kitchen with minimum skill, knowing I would have to mop up and finish up but she could give it a shot.

Joshua: My focus was with Josh in the bathroom. His task was to wipe down the bathroom sink and bench top. The first day I showed him but I did most of the work, the second day he did most of the work though I guided his hands, the next day he did the work with me standing by correcting and encouraging as we went, each day he did more and I said less though I was still present.

When I finished with Josh each day I would go and finish off with Jess though there was no real training going on there. She did what she could and I did the rest.

Week 2:

Joshua was able to do the bathroom bench and hand basin by himself. He needed to report back to me and I needed to inspect it. If it failed inspection he had to do it again. But he had the skill – now he had to choose to do it well.

Jessica was still in the kitchen though this week was her training week. I did it much like I did with Josh – I did it the first day with her help and then day by day stepping back as she became more able.  Jess was very adept at chores and was easy to train her – some kids just like to clean!

Week 3:

Swap over

Joshua was in the Kitchen doing the best he could with instruction but no training.

Jessica was in the bathroom  for her training week, same process as I trained Josh a few weeks before.

Week 4:

Joshua: training in the kitchen

Jessica: working in the bathroom on her own – reporting back for inspection.

Keep Chores Going

The next month both children were able to do the dishes and clean the bathroom basin/bench without my involvement (other than inspections which continued for some time, as did having to do things over if they weren’t done well in the first place). Once they had the skill we kept a rotating roster – week about – where they continued with these two chores.

Once Nomi was ready for these chores she was trained over a month period just the same way.  One week of training, and One week of practicing.   In order to have 3 kids on the chore roster I added a third chore to their repertoire. The 3rd chore I introduced was emptying the bins and looking after the food scraps (this didn’t need so much training, but plenty of inspection!).

At this point we had three kids doing chores, and three chores rotating week about.

Then Daniel joined the ranks so a fourth task – helping in the laundry – was added and more training was needed. We often froze the rotation when someone needed training so they got the training/practice week and then the week where they were responsible.  Once they had it the rotations began again.

When we train our children in anything there are four phases:

  • Model –
  • Teach/instruct –
  • Practice –
  • Expect.

This outline that I’ve given here is simply the Teach/Instruct phase.  After this we go through months of practice, practice, practice.  Each day the children need to report back to me and I go and inspect their efforts.  If they have done it well, I encourage them for a job well done.  If they have been sloppy or lazy I continue the training by expecting them to do it again.  Sometimes I may even stay with them while they redo their tasks, but I always inspect it and they are not done till I can encourage them with a job well done.  This practising process takes many many months. Read more about these four stages of training.

Once they have the basics down pat, I will instruct them in a finer detail – like maybe wiping down the bench in the kitchen, or polishing the sink, or wiping down the stove.  These things aren’t a part of doing the kitchen initially but eventually the children need to know these things need doing too.  So it is a process – start with the basic task – model, teach/instruct, practice, expect – and then raise the standard a little and start the process again.

My children are now quite competent around the house – between the four of them they are largely responsible for the daily upkeep of our home. At the time of writing this my kids are 17, 16, 13, 11.  And though most people consider that our kids have some great independent living skills (and they do) the main motivation for me in the training of my children in these chores and that is that they now have the skills necessary in order to bless other people.  Read more about the idea of independent children and whether that should really be our goal or not.

Updated thoughts

It is now 2017 and I’m revisiting this old post – and looking back there are a few notes I’d like to add

  • Our Chore Roster covered the daily and eventually weekly cleaning chores around the house.  The kids did other things as well that weren’t on this roster.
  • They were responsible for picking up and putting away any toys, games or activity they were involved in.
  • They were responsible for their own bedroom and clothes.  Which meant they made their beds every day, and when young, they helped me with changing sheets.  At about 3-5 years old, they learnt to dust wipe finger prints off their walls.  By 7-8 they were vacuuming their floor.  By 10ish they were cleaning cobwebs, fans and aircons.  This way they learnt deeper cleaning skills in their bedroom instead of the whole house.
  • They also put their clothes away into their drawers etc. – this eventually led to them ironing anything that needed ironing by the time they were 10-12years old.
  • The evening dishes was not a part of the daily roster – For the time they were under 10 they all pitched in and got it done.  After about 10 they started cooking more, and the person who cooked didn’t do dishes.
  • We had 3 chore times through the day so as their chore list grew they would do one chore after breakfast, one after lunch, and another before dinner.
  • We would often call “Blitz” where everyone, regardless of what they were doing or what their roster was – we would all pitch in and pick up and tidy up as things had got a little out of hand.

Though this is a bit of a brain dump – I am writing as if I was talking to you – I hope you can revisit this post as you work through the process of teaching your kids to do chores.

If you have any questions – please leave them in the comments section. My kids doing chores has been so central to their life skills, to our functioning as a family and being hospitable to others.

Further Reading:

5 Tips for Organising Household Chores in your Family: The thinking behind my chore system

How to get your Kids to do their Chores: We need to give our children an understanding of the value of the household chores that need to be done, as well as an appreciation that chores are a part of responsible living.

Top 10 Household Chores to give your Preschooler:  Our kids are far more able than we give them credit to be.

Chores teach our Kids Character: Character is not head-knowledge; it is a life of making wise choices. Chore time gives children an opportunity to make those choices and to grow in character.

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Chores are a part of family life but our children need to be taught to do them well. This is how I taught my kids to do chores when they were young.

Chores are a part of family life but our children need to be taught to do them well. This is how I taught my kids to do chores when they were young.

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