Of course, everything is kid and family specific, but Maguire suggests at around three or four you start introducing the idea of being a helper—not necessarily the idea of chores. “Start building in the idea of helping: you’re gonna do the laundry, do you want to push the button? Do you want to walk with me as I take the garbage out?,” she says. “It’s all building toward the idea of collaboration.”
As for next steps, chores should start with things that they do for themselves: “Good initial chores have to do with self care. For example: make your bed and you put your clothes in your hamper,” she says. “It’s how you become self sufficient.” Once they’ve mastered those, they can start doing things around the house or family-related.
“Collaborate with them,” says Maguire. “Create a list of things that need to get done around the house and ask them what they are most interested in doing and start with there. Collaborate with other siblings, too, if you have multiple kids.”
And the thing is: Encouraging kids to take part in your family and community may make them happier in the long run, too. “We think that happiness comes about because you get things for yourself,” according to Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Rochester says in this article about raising joyful kids. But “it turns out that…giving gets you more.”