The Developmental Benefits of Chores
by Kristen Henderson, M.S., OTR/L
Kids Place West Pediatric Occupational Therapist

For many of us, chores are a normal part of childhood. What you may not realize is that common household chores can help children develop a variety of executive functioning skills that are beneficial later in life. Executive functioning skills are cognitive skills that we use to organize and regulate all areas of our life. Having your child complete chores at home is a simple way to encourage development of these necessary executive functioning skills.

When we complete a household chore, we first have to find the intrinsic motivation to begin the chore. This executive functioning skill is also known as task initiation. In order to complete the task, we must also have adequate goal persistence. At first, your child may not have the intrinsic motivation to start and complete a chore such as cleaning their room. Your child will rely on you for the extrinsic motivation to begin. As they progress with the task, you can say things to your child like “I am so proud of you for starting something hard” and “You should be so proud of yourself for cleaning your room even though it was hard and not very fun.”  Phrases like this will help your child develop the intrinsic motivation required for adequate goal persistence. It will also help them feel a sense of accomplishment after completing the task.

To complete a large task such as cleaning a room, we typically have to break down the task or organize it into smaller sections. Breaking down large tasks helps them to feel more manageable. Organizing tasks also helps your child develop the executive functioning skills of flexibility, time management, and of course, organization. When introducing chores to your child, you can help them with time management and organization by breaking down the tasks for them. You can do this by drawing pictures of each step, or writing out the steps if your child is able to read.

Wondering where to start with introducing chores?

Here is a short list of developmentally appropriate chores by grade level to help get you started:

Preschool

    • Clean bedroom with assistance
    • Picking up dirty laundry
    • Setting the table and/or clearing dishes after a meal
    • Sort laundry (whites, colors, etc.)
    • Fill a pet’s food and water bowls with supervision

Kindergarten – 2nd Grade

    • Making their bed
    • Vacuum their room
    • Fold laundry with assistance
    • Take out the trash

3rd Grade – 5th Grade

    • Be responsible to keep track of their belongings
    • Be responsible for homework with assistance as needed
    • Put laundry away, change laundry from washer to dryer
    • Help with meal preparation