Debbie Granick is a parent/childbirth educator and freelance writer. She received a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Public Health, specializing in Maternal and Child Health, from the University of North Carolina. Her previous work includes counseling adolescents and their families in a substance abuse prevention program, teaching tobacco education and reproductive health in a school setting, and consulting with local child care staff on toddler discipline strategies.

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Dear Debbie,

Help me end the mess in our crazy house! Any ideas?
—Drowning in dust bunnies

Dear dust bunny victim:

YES! Put your kids to work. A research study by Marty Rossman from the University of Minnesota found that the biggest predictor of young adult “success” (meaning they had completed some higher education, were on a career path, and were not addicted to drugs) was early involvement with household chores! Involvement by age 3 or 4 was more important than IQ in predicting their future success! The author noted that the chores should not be tied to allowance. Children should understand that being responsible family members is expected, not something special they do for pay.

You do them an enormous favor when you give them an opportunity to do their share. You help them feel capable, responsible, and empowered. You also teach them that nothing in life is free; possessions must be cared for; and that they are a respected, necessary part of their family.

Kids know what to say to get out of chores. They just had soccer or dancing and want to rest. They just got home from school and need a break. And you may not have seen them all day and don’t want any negative interactions.

But if you don’t share the load, you’re left with too much to do. You get frustrated, vent it on them and then feel guilty. Sound familiar? You’d have done better to get them off the couch in the first place.

So keep your kids off drugs and put them to work. Tell them research says its best for them!

There are many sample chore charts on the internet. Here’s ideas to get started. Have your own creative ways of getting your little ones to get things done? Write about them on our todaysmama forums!


  • Put dirty clothes in hamper
  • Put grocery items in the cart and on the check-out counter
  • Clean with a dust rag or spray bottle (filled with water)
  • Water plants
  • Collect trash or toys from the lawn
  • Place trash or recyclables in bin
  • Put clothes in the washer or dryer
3 – 4 years
  • Sort laundry by color and pour in detergent
  • Put toys in specific bins or spots
  • Take dishes to the sink and return table items to the refrigerator
  • Carry groceries in from car
  • Make neat stacks of books on a shelf
  • Pick up food from floor after eating
  • Make bed
  • Use a hand vacuum to clean spills
  • Feed a pet
  • Draw thank you notes and occasion cards for friends/family
  • Bring in newspaper and mail
  • Carry in items from the car
4 – 6 years
  • Bring dirty clothes to the washing machine
  • Return clean clothes to drawers
  • Sweep floor
  • Spray/wipe table after meals
  • Pick up common areas in house
  • Set the table
  • Straighten shoes, pantry, bookshelves, drawers
  • Read a chore chart with symbols or colors
  • Sort silverware
  • Make simple snacks, pour drinks, and clean up
  • Keep room neat
  • Collect trash from trash cans
  • Pick up dog poop and change a fish bowl

6 – 8 years
  • Make school lunch
  • Vacuum or shake rugs
  • Hang up clothes in the closet; fold household linens
  • Gather wood for the fireplace
  • Clean inside of car
  • Put grocery items away
  • Use a household cleaner safely and appropriately
  • Wake to an alarm clock and get ready for school independently
  • Keep bathroom counter and sink clean
  • Shower/bathe independently
  • Follow lists of things to do
  • Weed, plant, rake leaves
  • Sort small toys into containers
  • Organize Tupperware or pots and pans
  • Pack for trips or overnights using a list
8+ years
  • Complete responsibility for room (bed made, clothes put away, surfaces cleaned, floors swept or vacuumed)
  • Write thank-you notes
  • Polish silverware, shoes, etc.
  • Clean patio furniture
  • Change sheets and put dirty sheets in laundry
  • Help with grocery shopping –finding the best valued items
  • Taking responsibility for money – saving, donating, using for personal hobbies
  • Vacuum floor and furniture
  • Organize Tupperware or pots and pans
  • Walk the dog
  • Sweep and organize the garage
  • Clean mirrors and windows
  • Load and unload the dishwasher




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