Kids benefit when they're expected to help around the house. Read on for age-by-age advice and a printable job chart to motivate your little helper.

By Rory Halperin

Even children as young as 2 can help out around the house. The secret? "Parents should present chores in a way that makes little ones feel they're contributing to the family," says Robert Billingham, Ph.D., a human development specialist at Indiana University in Bloomington. By setting the dinner table, for example, kids see that they are important and needed -- both of which help build their self-esteem. "Chores also help children develop a sense of responsibility," says Dr. Billingham. Another plus: Daily or weekly chores teach children skills they'll use throughout their lives, such as setting priorities. Finally, the earlier kids learn to incorporate domestic duties into their everyday routine, the more likely they are to continue helping out when they hit their teen years.

When selecting chores, keep in mind your child's age and physical and mental maturity. Also expect mistakes, says Dr. Billingham. It's part of the learning process. As kids grow older, they'll need less supervision and reminders. To help you get started, here are some suggestions for age-appropriate chores:

Two- to 4-year-olds can put away their toys, carry dirty clothes to the laundry basket or hamper, sort clean socks from the laundry, place napkins on the dinner table, and fill the pet dish with food.

Five- to 7-year olds can make their bed, keep the bathroom neat, water plants, set the dinner table, put clothes away in drawers, and keep their rooms clean.

Eight- and 9-year olds can prepare after-school snacks, help Mom and Dad cook dinner, wash dishes or load the dishwasher, and take out the garbage.

Ten-year-olds and up can do all of the above. In addition, they can fold clean laundry, vacuum, give the dog a bath, wash the car, and help with yard work.

Kids' Chore Chart

A weekly chore chart can help children stay motivated and on track. We've created three versions -- for 2- to 4-year-olds, 5- to 9-year-olds, and 10-year-olds and older. Print out the one you want and post it on the refrigerator or a bulletin board. Cross out chores you don't need and fill in ones that are unique to your family in the available blank spaces. The charts will help kids remember what chores need to be done during the week. Once your child completes her task for a specific day, place a sticker in the correct box or let her check it off. We've also created fun shapes that can be printed out on sticker paper (sold at office supply stores) and used on the chart..



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