Can chores make our family’s summer better?

Article at-a-glance:

  • Long summer days can mean extended veg-out sessions and messy houses
  • Without structure, summer break can become frustrating for parent and kids
  • Consider a schedule of chores to help structure the day, build skills, and increase bonding

The beginning of summer vacation can be a time for celebration—and for dread. On the one hand, families have a lot of fun together without the demands of the school day getting in the way. On the other hand, parents are left with kids who have just transitioned from a highly structured environment to one with little to no structure at all. That can often result in a prolonged summer “veg-out” period, where kids languish around the house doing nothing (except staring at screens). What’s more, kids at home make a lot more messes than they do during the school year. As summer days stretch into weeks, your house may start to feel more like a wasteland for empty cups and wet bathing suits than a home. Creating a summer chores schedule is crucial for keeping the house in order.

Summer—The Perfect Time for Chores Training

While they’re a chore (pun intended), household tasks are a non-negotiable part of being an adult. Imagine if you skipped laundry for several weeks and never cleaned any dishes! Fostering a good work ethic and reinforcing healthy habits early on by making children do chores can ensure they’re able to stand up to the demands of adult life. Plus, chores get little bodies moving when the strongest urge may be to sit still and play video games for hours on end.

The summer months are a great opportunity to teach skills that might not be feasible during other seasons. There’s no shortage of summer-specific tasks that can be enriching, and even fun, for kids. Teachable moments in the sunshine abound. Weeding and tending a small vegetable or herb garden, starting to compost, learning to trim and care for plants, or even mowing the lawn (for tweens) are all tasks that can help kids appreciate the season as they contribute to the household. Another classic summer chore which kids really get into is washing the car. Properly supervised, kids of any age can participate—and play in the water hose, of course.

Benefits of Chores for Kids

The benefits of mandatory chores for kids aren’t just limited to good dishwasher loading technique and freshly made beds. Here are some ways that kids can benefit from helping around the house:

  • Kids feel valued as contributing members of the family.
  • Chores build the mental “muscle” that we use to see tasks through, sometimes called “grit.”
  • Kids get the satisfaction of a job well done (something they may miss when school’s out).
  • Chores present teachable moments and opportunities for positive reinforcement.
  • Merging chores with a weekly allowance creates opportunities to discuss spending and saving.

How Chores Can Help Families Connect

Busy schedules and ever-present screens increasingly isolate family members from one another but participating in household tasks can bring people together. Helping to prepare a favorite meal or teaming up on laundry aren’t just activities that produce a beneficial result—they’re also opportunities to connect, talk, and get a break from constant media bombardment.

What If My Kids Won’t Cooperate?

If you’re frustrated with the managerial side of having kids help out (especially if it’s starting to feel like wrangling cats) it might be time to “rebrand” chores. If you frame what they’re doing as “helping mom” they may be more receptive than if they feel like they’ve been “assigned” something. Shana, a mother of three young children, knows the value of collaboration: “Kids might make a lot of messes and slow down your work when they “help” you do the dishes. But they’re training in the skill and gaining confidence from working side-by-side with you. Stay positive, and one day you’ll be able to ask your son to clean the kitchen—and he’ll just do it!”  Also consider whether you might be overloading your kids. Having a single chore for every day of the week (or a few small chores) can keep children from getting overwhelmed.

Keep It Fun, with Printable Chores Cards

Download our free, printable chores chart and color-coded flashcards below. This printable PDF features developmentally-appropriate options for kids. Cut out the cards to help kids (even pre-readers) remember tasks. Note that older kids can still be given tasks assigned to younger age groups—but will perform them with increasing mastery.

There are lots of ways to make this fun and make it your own:

  • Use the blank cards to write in your own tasks.
  • Consider using cards to “assign” a chore that’s just become relevant—like cleaning up a spill.
  • Let kids draw chores from a hat or negotiate with each other to trade chores.
  • Pin completed chores to a “reward board” so small kids can feel accomplished.

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