Mom, I’m Bored: 24 Chores to Teach Your Kids This Summer

My kids are pretty good about chores, and I’m pretty good about assigning them. However, I’m as guilty as the next mom of sometimes deciding it’ll just be quicker to do it myself, or to think “oh, that’s something they’ll be able to do when they’re older.”

The thing is, they’re older now, if you see what I mean. They’re older than they were last summer, last month, last week. They are always growing and becoming more capable. One of the best things about participating in Girl Scouts with my daughters has been discovering, together, how incredibly capable my daughters really are. This year my older daughters built things with tools, learned to cook foods from around the world, and learned how to do CPR. But here’s a much more basic example: When Girl Scouts camp, every girl does her own dishes. Every. Girl. Even the youngest Daisies.

At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, a hundred years ago, kids were doing all kinds of chores around the farm and house that we’d never consider our own children capable of today. Why is that? Sure, we may not have a farm to run and we may not need to do the laundry with a washing board, but there’s still plenty of stuff to do around here. Participating in the work that goes on to make a household run makes children feel like they’re an important part of our family.

Those chores are also life skills. Some day, God willing, your children will grow up and move out of your house. They will become (fingers crossed) functional members of society. Boys and girls should know how to do a load of wash, how to cook a meal, how to mow the lawn, how to put together an IKEA shelf.

My kids are doing a fair amount this summer: between the four of them, we have one in an extended school year program for autistic kids, three kids in swim lessons,  and two continuing music lessons. My two older girls just took the Red Cross babysitting class and will be helping out some moms this summer. Plus they have school work and reading to do this summer.

But all four will still have plenty of time to do just be kids: playing, swimming, making up weird new sports in the backyard, blowing bubbles, and staring at the clouds. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing watermelon spitting contests, because apparently no one grows that kind of watermelon anymore? Ugh.

One of the regular kid things they’ll also be doing is chores. Considering that they’re all moving up a grade in school, they’ll all also be stepping it up a notch with their chores and learning new skills. Kids that used to set the table will now learn to make a salad. The kids that used to make the salad will learn how to cook a meal.

If you’d like to help your kids take on more responsibility, check out my suggestions for 24 chores to teach your kids. Yes, you’ll have to teach them, and yes, it will take longer to teach them how to do it than to do it yourself. And you’re just going to have to suck it up at first, when they don’t do it as well as you can. No matter how OCD you are, resist the temptation to do it for them, fix it, or tell them they’re doing it wrong.

  • No one will ever say, "Mom, I’m bored" again. 1 of 26

    Click the arrows to scroll through 24 ideas for chores for kids of a range of ages! As a bonus, if you make it through all the slides, there's a little something special at the end for you!

  • 1. Make a rotating chore chart. 2 of 26

    Give your kids a list of chores that need to be done, and have them work together to create a rotating chore chart. We use a  blank pad of weekly calendar paper that I got for a buck at a craft store, but you could also print out calendars, or have them draw up a calendar themselves.

    Giving them some say in which chores they do, and when, will ensure less whining and more responsibility when it comes time to actually do the chores.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 2. Do a load of wash from start to finish. 3 of 26

    Preschoolers can help throw laundry into the washing machine, learn how to fold dishtowels, and carry stacks of clean laundry up to their rooms. By the time they're in elementary school, there's really no reason they can't learn how to use the washing machine and dryer, fold the clothes, and put them in piles for family members to put away.

    Special note for parents of boys: Be sure to teach them how to do their own wash, specifically their own sheets, before they hit puberty. It's important.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 3. Mow the lawn. 4 of 26

    Every time a family with kids over the age of 10 hires a lawn service, a garden gnome cries. Am I hallucinating or did kids mow lawns all over the neighborhood to make money when we were kids? Teach your daughters and sons how to use the lawn mower safely, and put them to work. Littler kids can pick up sticks before the lawn is mowed, or rake afterward, and everyone can help with things like weeding.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 4. Clean the bathroom. 5 of 26

    Gahhhhhh let's face it, the kids make most of the mess in there, right? I mean, I'm certainly not the one leaving that ring in the tub. And when I use the toilet, I never miss.

    Put some rubber gloves on that kid, and show him or her how to use a scrub brush, a toilet brush, and some Comet. Give him or her a spray bottle of glass cleaner and some rags or a roll of paper towels, and have them wipe everything down. Stand there and wonder why you never made them do this before.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 5. Learn to use a kitchen appliance. 6 of 26

    Kitchen appliances are sooooo fun! The amount of supervision required will obviously depend on age and experience, but there's tons of fun to be had. Teach them how to use the blender to make smoothies or milk shakes, how to use the microwave to make popcorn or reheat pizza, how to make toast in the toaster, and how to use a hand-held mixer to make homemade whipped cream or cookie dough. Little kids will need hand-over-hand help, but most school aged kids should be able to do this stuff pretty well on their own.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 6. Learn to make something in the oven besides cookies. 7 of 26

    For some reason, moms are pre-programmed to think we're supposed to bake cookies with our kids. That's fine (and delicious), but our kids aren't going to grow up and survive on cookies. Even little kids can help make a homemade pizza (or unwrap a frozen pizza).

    Speaking of frozen foods, don't feel like you have to teach them to cook everything from scratch if that's not how your family eats. Teaching them how to read the back of the frozen lasagna, and how to safely put things in the oven and take them out, is just as helpful!

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 7. Plan a week’s worth of meals together and make a grocery list. 8 of 26

    Teach your kids that making a grocery list isn't the same thing as writing "Doritos" ten times on a piece of paper. Show them how you look to see what you have in the house and figure out what you'll need. Using a weekly store circular, show them what's on sale. If you clip coupons, have your kids help with that. Kids who learn about planning, budgeting, and smart shopping now will become adults who don't drown in credit card debt later.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 8. Teach a younger sibling how to do a chore. 9 of 26

    If you've got more than one kid, think about a process of handing down chores. As your oldest is ready to learn new skills, younger kids can "inherit" age-appropriate jobs. An older kid who has mastered the art of peeling potatoes, shucking corn, dusting the molding, or loading the dishwasher, can pass that knowledge down to the next kid. This works well on multiple levels, including the fact that sometimes our kids are more patient than we are.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 9. Everyone can do the dishes. 10 of 26

    I'm not saying your three-year-old should wash your fine china, but he or she can definitely learn how to wash plastic or other unbreakable dishes. Don't expect a preschooler to wash a whole sinkload, but it's definitely appropriate for them to wash their own dishes from lunch.

    Older kids can learn how to load the dishwasher, what the different settings are for, and if there are certain things that must be washed by hand.

    Have your kids to do the process start-to-finish: wash, dry, put away.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 9. Take out the papers and the trash. 11 of 26

    Put on the old Coasters song and have your kids haul the garbage and recycling to the curb. Don't forget to have them complete the task by bringing the bins back in after pick-up! 

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 11. Organize one area of your home. 12 of 26

    Have each child pick one area of the home that needs to be organized, and have them organize it in a way that makes sense to them. A good one for little kids is to match and line up the shoes that tend to accumulate by your back door. (Although don't have them line them up on the stairs like in this stock photo, that's just stupid.)

    Older kids could tackle the stuff that accumulates on the stairs, the cabinet where you keep the DVDs, the bin of craft supplies, or the coat closet.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 12. Make the beds…to the extreme. 13 of 26

    Really little kids can pull the sheet and comforter up to kind of smooth things out, but older kids should learn how to strip the bed, wash the sheets, and put clean sheets on. This is especially helpful if you have bunk beds, because that top bunk is a pain in the neck to change: much better to have your agile kids scamper up there and do it.

    Kids' skinny bodies, scrawny arms, and nonarthritic backs are also much more suited to finding things under the bed, so have them do that while they're at it.

    Bonus: Go full-out and freak them out by explaining what dust mites are, and teach them to bleach and wash the mattress pad and vacuum the mattress.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 13. Do a home improvement project like painting. 14 of 26

    Scraping and painting outdoor fences, railings, and trim is a fairly fun and quick project suited for kid help. Mistakes won't show as much as they would on an indoor matte wall, and if they drip paint on the grass, it's no big deal. They will feel so proud every time they look at that freshly-painted whatever! 

    Other home-improvement projects kids can help with are checking outdoor play equipment for loose screws, checking indoor floorboards for popped nail heads, changing lightbulbs, oiling creaky gates, and changing vacuum belts and bags. 

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 14. Dust all the things. 15 of 26

    Dusting is awesome. There is the immediate satisfaction of seeing your results, and there are essentially no skills involved. Little kids can dust the low stuff like molding and chair rungs; older kids can learn how to use a ladder properly and dust ceiling fan blades. (Elementary school aged kids probably need an adult spotter while they're on the ladder.)

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)


  • 15. Learn how to do something grown-up and tedious, like filling out a bank deposit slip. 16 of 26

    Kids who are old enough to read and write can fill out a bank deposit slip. I know that most paychecks these days are direct deposited, but this is the kind of thing that people still need to learn how to do. Show your kids how you pay bills: do you do it online or do you write out checks? Explain where the money comes from (not from a magic money machine). Also, for physical paper bills, have them put your return address and stamps on the envelopes.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 16. Scrub a floor. 17 of 26

    Yeah, those Swiffery things are awesome and all, but sometimes you kind of have to get down and scrub. After my kids read Pippi Longstocking, they decided that scrubbing the floor was awesome. My 7-year-old and 9-year-old actually volunteer for this one. By the end of it, they're soaked, and the floor may not be perfect, but whatever. They got some exercise, and the floor is certainly cleaner than it was before!

    This one is great as a team project, by the way. Put on music and have kids take turns with each song, or just buy enough scrub brushes for everyone to work at the same time.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 17. Wash the car (and clean out all the junk inside). 18 of 26

    Everybody loves washing the car. Teach your kids that part of the job is emptying all the crud out of the car (juice boxes, Lego guys, papers full of tic-tac-toe games, Cheerio crumbs). Then put on bathing suits (or do it when you get home from the pool), and slap a sponge around. Everyone gets a turn with the hose! Whee!

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 18. Put out the mail and get the mail. 19 of 26

    This can be a seriously exciting part of the day for kids. Younger kids can put the mail in the mailbox and put the flag up, or drop letters in that big blue mailbox outside the grocery store. Older kids can learn how to buy stamps and mail packages at the Post Office. If you live within safe walking distance to your town's Post Office, in fact, that's a great errand to send tweens and teens on independently.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 19. Put away the toys. 20 of 26

    Look, no one likes to put away toys. Your kid is probably not going to do a dance of joy when it's time to do this. But, the thing is, they are your kid's toys, not yours. He's the one who spilled them all out. He's the one that needs to put them away. Here are my tips for making this chore go as smoothly as possible:

    • Put on music.
    • We've had the most consistent success with labeled bins. For kids that don't read yet, use a picture to label each bin.
    • For LEGOs and basically every annnoying small toy, I can't say enough good things about the Lay-n-Go bags.
    • Choose your timing wisely: "we can't go to the pool until the stuffed animals are put away" is more effective than "you're not going to bed until the stuffed animals are put away."

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)


  • 20. Wash the windows. 21 of 26

    Washing the windows is a great task for kids -- it's not hard to do, and you see immediate results. Older kids and younger kids can team up to do the high and low panes.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 21. Help with gardening. 22 of 26

    Planting, pulling weeds, watering and harvesting are all things that kids can do. As a bonus, kids who normally don't love to eat vegetables may be more willing to try the ones they grew themselves.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 22. Pack a bag. 23 of 26

    Whether you're taking a week-long vacation, or a quick trip to the pool, let your kids help pack. My daughters pack their own bags for the pool. Twice in one week, my 9-year-old daughter forgot to bring clothes to change into. She rode home in a wet bathing suit, which she hates.

    It's hard not to correct them sometimes; I knew perfectly well that she had left her bag in the kitchen. But after that, she remembered. 

    Teaching kids to pack and carry their own bags is also key to longer trips. For more smart, mom-tested travel tips for road trips with kids, click here.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

  • 23. Make lunch. 24 of 26

    Making lunch is infinitely more manageable than making breakfast (when everyone's cranky) or making dinner (when everyone's cranky again). Sandwiches are easy enough for even really young kids to help with, and for school-aged kids to make on their own.

    And just look how happy this little girl is at the thought of a sandwich! She is so ready to use that knife.


    (Photo Credit: Beer and Stupidity)

  • 24. Step it up with taking care of family pets. 25 of 26

    There is absolutely no reason your school-aged kid can't clean up after your family pets. The fact that it's gross just makes it more kid-appropriate. Kids love gross stuff!

    For 8 pet care activities to teach your kid, click over to Babble Pets.

    (Photo Credits: iStockphoto)


    Hey, you made it through all the slides! Here's the all-time most incredibly whack stock photo image I've ever seen. I was looking for photos to illustrate families doing chores together, and this came up.

    What the hell is this photo for? Exactly what kind of article would I have to be writing to need this photo? What the actual hell is going on here?

    Some possibilities:

    • A centaur mated with Scott Baio from Charles in Charge.
    • Low-budget interpretation of Animal Farm.
    • A horse is a horse, of course, of course. And no one can talk to a horse, of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Ironing Mr. Ed.
    • It's a really creepy threat for your kids: "Do your chores or the terrifying ironing horse man will come."

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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