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5 Surprising Developmental Benefits of Chores for Kids

Mar 12th, 2024 | by Whitney Renfroe, OTD, OTR/L

Whitney Renfroe, OTD, OTR/L

March 12th, 2024

In the busyness of caring for a child with a disability, assigning chores may be the last thing on your mind. There are doctor’s appointments, specialist appointments, school days, play dates, and therapy appointments. On top of that, your therapist probably gives you activities you are “supposed” to complete at home. Where are chores for kids supposed to fit into all that?

Chores Are Beneficial for Kids of All Abilities

As an OT, I still advocate for chores, and here is why: Chores teach basic developmental skills (that likely incorporate some of the skills your therapist wants you to work on anyway) and are a valuable way to incorporate quality time and improve your child’s self-efficacy. Below are five reasons why chores are great for a child’s development.

5 Ways Chores Benefit Your Child’s Development

1. Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning refers to a variety of skills that we need to complete everyday tasks. It includes such skills as planning, sequencing, organizing, and regulating our behavior. Children start to develop executive functioning skills from a very early age. For example, telling your child, “First, go put your toy away. Then, you can eat a snack,” is teaching executive functioning. You are teaching sequencing skills. Over time, these skills may develop into more complex instructions such as a to-do list with multiple items.Chores for kids can promote executive functioning skills. Learn about surprising developmental benefits of chores for kids in this blog post!

Examples of Chores to Promote Executive Functioning Skills:

Below are some examples of sample chore activities and how they connect to an executive functioning skill:

  • Putting away a toy (organizing)
  • Taking laundry from upstairs to downstairs (planning)
  • Following a simple recipe (sequencing)
  • Finishing a given task and ignoring distractions (regulating)

2. Self-Regulation

Chores for kids can promote self regulation. Learn about surprising developmental benefits of chores for kids in this blog post!

If your child seeks sensory input or struggles with sustained attention, chores are a great way to meet your child’s needs for movement. Lifting, pushing, pulling, etc., also known as heavy work, tends to have a regulating effect on the body, resulting in improved attention and elevated mood. By incorporating chores into your child’s daily routine, you are incorporating short doses of heavy work which can have an overall positive effect on their behavior and emotions.

3. Quality Time Together

Chores for kids can be a great way to spend quality time together. Learn about developmental benefits of chores for kids in this blog post by an occupational therapist!

Chores don’t have to be done in isolation. Dishes, making dinner, folding laundry, cleaning up the living room – these can all be a great opportunity to spend quality time with your child (and even the whole family!). Quality time spent together will also benefit your child’s emotional development. Will having your child help you slow the process down? Yes, particularly as your child is learning how to complete the task. In this situation, just pick one chore intentionally. Have a dedicated chore that you and your child do together and do the rest at your own time and pace. Be patient. Have fun.

4. Self-Efficacy

Chores for kids can promote self-efficacy. Learn about surprising developmental benefits of chores for kids in this blog post!

Successfully completing a challenging activity, like a chore, is a great way to build your child’s self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, in simple terms, is a person’s confidence in their ability to succeed at a given task. In his research on the topic, psychologist Albert Bandura found a person’s self-efficacy helps predict if they will succeed in completing new tasks, and furthermore, one way to develop self-efficacy is by succeeding in other, similar tasks. (You can look up his work! For bonus points, you can find his original article from 1977 online titled “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.”) Once they have completed the task once, they will be more confident that they can complete it in the future. Chores can be complex and multi-layered.

When a child succeeds in completing one chore, it will breed the child’s confidence in completing similar tasks.

5. Independence

Chores are fundamental parts of any independent individual’s life. Even if your child may not be looking at a completely independent lifestyle in adulthood, household chores are a great way to help make sure they have as many skills as possible to care for themselves. In the long run, this will make your life as a parent or caregiver easier! For example, if your child learns to make a simple meal or snack for themselves and then clean up their dishes, that’s one less thing you as a caregiver will worry about doing later. The same goes for laundry. If a child learns to fold and put away their own laundry, that makes more time for you as the caregiver to focus on other needs your child may have, or just be available for more fun and quality time together!

Chores for Kids: Practical Tips and Activities

Start Small

Chores don’t have to be extravagant or big. Choose tasks that are relevant to your child’s age and current developmental level.

  • For example, if your child is in elementary school, start with having your child put their clothes in their laundry basket when they need washing or laying out their outfit for school the next day.
  • If your child is in middle school or high school, maybe have the child plan a snack and prepare it for themselves and any siblings. If your child does not have independent mobility, you can set them up for success by helping them into the proper seating at a workstation of whatever form fits the task (e.g. seated in a supportive chair by the table and scraping food scraps into a bin or sorting clothes at the table).

Start with where your child is and not where you want them to be

If you aren’t sure what might be an appropriate task for your child’s age and development, talk to your occupational therapist! They could give you great ideas on how to incorporate tasks into your child’s daily routine that fit their skill level.

About the Author

Whitney is an occupational therapist who believes that “occupations,” the little and big things that occupy our time in our day, have incredible importance in helping us live meaningful lives. When not occupying her time as a therapist having fun with kids, Whitney spends her time cooking, dancing, drinking coffee with friends, and dreaming up trips to faraway places.

About NAPA Center

NAPA Center is a leader in pediatric therapy, providing innovative therapies to children of all abilities at our multiple clinics worldwide. We strive to help children reach their full potential through intensive and weekly physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy programs.

TAGS: Blogs, OT
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