Most kids dislike chores, and parents expect that. Most adults don’t either, so we can understand their moaning and groaning when we say it’s time to sweep the floors and scrub the toilets, right? But chores are a necessary part of life. Children must learn and appreciate the responsibility of helping around the house. Plus, someday, they will fly the coop and need to know how to do their own laundry.
Experts agree that raising children who perform regular chores at home is a vital part of our job as parents because we equip our children with the skills to function independently outside the home. But we aren’t just teaching them life skills like folding their laundry and cleaning the litter box. According to The Center for Parenting Education, we also help their self-esteem and overall self-worth.1
It’s Not Easy to Get Kids to Do Their Chores
Parents know that while it’s easy to agree with the value of chores, getting our kids on board is not always easy. Little kids are easily distracted, and older kids whine and roll their eyes with annoyance. Many children will do almost anything, regardless of age, to avoid dusting their room or taking out the trash.
So here are a few tricks to make chores fun for kids that you might want to try to get them to buy into this often mundane but vital part of life.
12 Ways to Make Chores Fun for Kids
1. Let Them Make a Chore Playlist
Spend a few minutes compiling some fun, upbeat songs into a Spotify playlist that you can blast throughout the house. Let your kids pick different songs they love that keep them motivated to move. In our house, we love musicals, so “Hamilton” or “Six” are usually our “cleaning music” playlists of choice.
2. Make It a Game or Contest
Most parents will agree that once you make something a game or a contest with a winner or a prize, your kids’ willingness to participate goes up tenfold. You can do this in lots of ways. For example, the first person to finish their chores wins $5, or whoever has the cleanest room picks the movie for the night. Or fill a bag with a secret prize like candy, cookies, or maybe a small toy, and don’t tell them what’s in it. Once you’ve established your contest rules, let them know the winner will get whatever is inside. You’ll see motivation and effort as you’ve never seen before.
3. Use the Dice Method
This one is fun. You grab one of the dice from your kids’ board games and assign a chore to each number. Number one might be “clean the bathroom.” Number two could be emptying the dishwasher. You get the idea. The kids roll the die, and now they know their chores.
Or, if you’re looking to tie in a craft to your household chores, these super clever DIY Chore Dice from HGTV might be just what you need:
The best part about using dice to determine chores is the kids can’t argue with you because they rolled it!
4. Set a Timer
If you’re expecting company and need a quick clean, set a timer for a 10-minute cleanup. If you’ve locked in the family for an all-day Saturday clean, set the timer for longer. But your kids will know they have a finite amount of time to get their job done, so they need to hop to it. This also helps them know these boring jobs won’t last forever, and once the timer goes off, the task should be complete, and then they can have some fun.
5. Offer a Reward or Incentive
How about telling the kids, “If everyone works hard today on chores, we can go out for ice cream this afternoon.” I don’t know about you, but my kids are super motivated if ice cream is on the table. Or, especially for older kids, try this one: “You can have the Wi-Fi password as soon as your chores are complete.” You’ll never see your tweens and teens work harder.
6. Let Them Have a Say
This one seems like common sense, but far too often, parents are so busy that they forget to let their kids weigh in on household decisions. You could try allowing them to choose their chores or the days they do which jobs. Or they can pick the order they do them in. Let them divide the tasks and work out their system if you have multiple kids. Allowing our children to participate in the planning and decision-making can significantly impact their willingness to work hard because they feel like they’ve been seen and validated.
7. Use an App or Online Tool
Let’s face it; our kids are more tech-savvy than we are (at least mine are!). Having them use an app on their phone or tablet to keep track of their household jobs and responsibilities is a great way to keep them motivated and help them take some ownership, too. You and your kids can try BusyKid, which includes a way to pay them for their work:
8. Pay Them
We all know our kids will be far more cooperative and have a lot more fun doing chores if they know they’ll end up with cash in their pockets afterward. My kids don’t get cash for their allowance (because who has cash anymore?), but they keep track of their earned money and then get to buy something they’ve been wanting or saving up for online. It’s amazing how scrubbing toilets seems less bothersome when a pack of Pokémon cards is on the horizon.
9. Hide Treasures for Them to Find
Parents everywhere will love this idea! You hide pennies, stickers, tiny pieces of candy, or any other treasures you know your kids would love under items around the house. As they clean, dust, and put things away, they’ll find these surprises, and just like that, you made doing chores 100 times better!
10. Make It a Family Event
Kids are often grumpy if they feel like they are the only ones doing the dirty work, so making it a family affair can make chores fun for kids. Saturdays are often all-family chore days in our house since we are so busy during the week. Everyone has a list of jobs, we blast fun music, and it seems far more bearable knowing (and seeing) that all of us are pitching in and doing our part. This is when we often borrow one of Grandma’s most well-known sayings: “If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot.”
11. Assign Your Kids Special Jobs
Kids like to feel special and important, and often, we can help them feel this way by just tweaking our wording. Rather than saying, “Please go water the plants,” how about, “Guess what? I have a very special job for you. This one is only for a child who is super responsible and trustworthy. Can you handle it?” And then hand them the watering can. Once you’ve built your child up with compliments, they’ll be more likely to take their chores seriously, do their best, and enjoy the experience of being a “big” kid who is “responsible” and can be trusted for the “most important” jobs, like keeping the plants alive.
12. Give Them Special Supplies
Along with assigning them the most important, special jobs, you can also give them special supplies for these essential tasks. Maybe they get their own apron or a cleaning bucket with their name on it. Dig into the back of your pile of dust cloths and tell them this specific dust rag is your favorite because it does the best job. Again, if we present the idea of chores as something for our kids to excel at and instill a sense of pride, we’ll see the impact on their self-worth. (And your house will be cleaner.)
Setting the expectation that our kids participate in household chores—mowing the lawn, vacuuming the carpet, or picking up their toys—is a good thing for everyone. We get help around the house, and our kids learn the value of contributing to the family, how to perform basic tasks they’ll need to do for the rest of their lives, and come away with the job feeling accomplished and maybe even rewarded.
Household work doesn’t have to be a miserable experience, and you can even make chores fun for kids. All you need to add is a little flair, whether fun music, a trendy new app, or hiding a couple of bucks around the house. If you can make it fun for them, you’ll see a lot more cooperation and maybe even get a volunteer now and then if you play your cards right. Good luck!