For parents, it might seem easier to just do the dishes, put away the laundry and wipe down the bathroom counters by themselves. While they could delegate those chores to their kids, they know that it’s done — and done right.
But when parents don’t assign household tasks to their kids, they’re missing out on teaching some important lessons, said , a family doctor and author of Teach Resilience — Raising Kids Who Can Launch. While vacuuming or unloading the dishwasher, kids are learning the skills that will help them eventually become self-sufficient adults and good roommates. They also see that they aren’t just loved and wanted in their family but needed too. “Those are the reasons to make your kids do chores,” she said.
Gilboa, who has four boys ages 12, 14, 16 and 18, said neurotypical kids as young as 18 months can start helping around the house. When assigning chores, she recommends considering what skills a child is developing and taking advantage of those.
So, an 18-month-old can match shoes by the door. A two-year-old can pull dirty towels down in the kitchen and bathroom and put them in the hamper. When Gilboa’s kids each turned 7, they start doing the laundry for the family. (At age 8, one of her sons teaching college students how to do their laundry.)
As kids get older — and busier with schoolwork and activities — chore assignments can slack off in some households. But those busy tween and teen years are not the time to back down on chores, Gilboa said. If kids start understanding that their soccer practice is more important than helping around the house, that can result in some entitled kids, she said.
“It’s great to show your kids some compassion when they have a big test or a big event or a birthday,” she said. “We help each other, not because it’s my responsibility and you’re helping me, but because we kick in for each other.”
If a paper to-do list stuck on your refrigerator or a family Google calendar isn’t working, apps can help manage chores and household responsibilities. Parents can enter what needs to be done and when. Kids can follow along, typically on their own device or on a shared device like an iPad. They can check off that their bed is made and move on to the next activity.
If you’re hoping that a chores app will be that magic bullet that ends all the nagging required to get your kids to make their bed already, know that they do come with some pros and cons. That’s the takeaway from Christine Elgersma, senior editor of social media and learning resources for , which reviews apps for kids. They can take some time to set up and maintain as kids age or parents add new responsibilities, she said. And some kids might simply rush through the chore to check the digital box that it’s done.
“These apps shouldn’t take the place of communication,” Elgersma said. “It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it situation for the most part. It’s another tool in our parenting toolbox.”
Here are five popular chore apps for families.
comes with a host of features aimed at making family life easier. A color-coded family calendar clearly spells out what each family member is doing at any given time. The to-do list feature lets you set up a list of chores for your kids —- and a separate list for your spouse or partner. You can even set up shopping lists and store favorite family recipes.
Cozi is available for and . There is a free version. But, for $29.99 a year, offers some additional features, including a month view of appointments on mobile, calendar searches, change notifications, and no ads.
OurHome aims to motivate kids to unload the dishwasher by assigning points for specific tasks. You can assign chores to different family members, schedule when they need to get jobs done and add a step for adult approval to ensure kids put away their laundry (and didn’t stuff it all in one drawer). And it gamifies these household responsibilities by linking tasks to some kind of incentive as points are earned — whether it’s more screen time, dinner out, allowance or a family vacation. It also offers a family calendar and shopping list.
Brili claims to “calm the chaos” of family life. With it, parents can set up custom daily routines for each of their kids. In the “kid mode” version of the app, children can see their tasks displayed as a game. Visual timers and audible prompts help them stay on task. In real time, parents can watch on their own devices to make sure chores and tasks are completed. They can reward their kids with stars or points when items are checked off.
Habitica gamifies chores and transforms boring old tasks into “monsters” that you must conquer. The more tasks you complete, the better you do in the game and the more gear you earn. “It gamifies it in a way that will make it feel familiar to tweens and teens,” said Elgersma, who recommends it for those age groups.
For families, the gives parents more direct control and interaction with their kids’ tasks, along with access to fancy gear and other benefits available through the subscription bundle, according to Habitica. A group plan is $9 per month plus $3 per member. But if you’d rather not spend money, families can still create a so-called , take on the quests together and create task lists that kids can join through all for free.
If getting your kids to help keep the house clean is your main problem, there’s . It’s another app that gamifies dusting and, well, sweeping, among all the other household jobs. With it, parents can prioritize tasks, delegate responsibilities and generate daily cleaning schedules. For motivation, as family members watch their progress as they finish each chore, they also can compete for the top spot in the leaderboard. “For a particularly competitive family, this might be a good one to try to egg each other on,” Elgersma said.