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Things Your Kids Can Start Doing Themselves

Last year, I read the book Hunt, Gather, Parent, and it opened my eyes to all the things that kids can be doing to contribute to their household. Here are some things I changed last year…

a cool vinyl backpack diy... / via oh joy!

Last year, I read the book Hunt, Gather, Parent, and it opened my eyes to all the things that kids can be doing to contribute to their household. These are often things that Americans call “chores” but other cultures simply consider those tasks part of everyday life and how we can all contribute to the family. My kids are both elementary school age where they are old enough to do lots of things, and it made me reconsider the things I do for them that they can be doing for themselves, instead. I’ll give you a couple examples of things I changed last year:

Picking out clothes for school
Part of my evening routine was to get out their clothes for school the next day to help make the hectic school day mornings easier. And then I realized, “Why am I doing this?” This was an easy task to hand over to them because they were already having stronger opinions about their clothes anyway, so it was easy to make it their responsibility to pull clothes for the next day. In the transition, I initially had to constantly remind them before bedtime to prep their clothes for the next day, and now it’s become a daily habit for them.

Packing snacks and lunch for school
I hate packing lunches. I wish I was one of those parents who makes those super cute bento box lunches that look like characters, but I’m not! I never knew what to make or what to put in those lunch boxes to make it new and exciting. I always packed the same few options. Packing snacks weren’t a painful, but last year I turned both things over to the kids. Surprisingly, they loved the idea of getting to do it themselves. My kids do a mix of lunch at school and packed lunches, so it feels like a fun mix for them. They know they can’t pack a lunch or snack full of sugar, and they do a decent job mixing in things that are healthy with some fun things. I let them decide what lunch ingredients we buy at the grocery store so they have the things they need to pack their lunches when needed. Every night, after dinner, lunch or snack packing is now part of their routine.

Packing and unpacking for sleepovers, overnight trips, and vacations
When it came to vacations, I always found myself responsible for packing for three (mine plus the two kids), and my husband would handle his own stuff. Travel felt more stressful for me always because of the weight I put on myself to be responsible for 3/4 of my family’s stuff! So, now when it’s time for a trip, I give my kids a list of what to bring (it lists the types of clothes they need and quantity for each), and I give them a deadline of when it needs to be done. Depending on the trip (usually new places or longer trips), I might check their suitcase before we go. But often, if it’s short and casual, I leave it up to them to make sure they packed what they needed.

The same goes for unpacking. The day we arrive home from a trip, they have to unpack their suitcase before they go to bed that night—all dirty clothes in the hamper, all unused clothes go back where they belong, and overnight bags or suitcases get stored away in their closet.

I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been to hand over these tasks to them. I’ve positioned all of these things as giving them the freedom to choose the things they want to bring/wear/pack, and it doesn’t make it seem like a some terrible chore they have to do.

Once you decide to hand over something to your kids to do that you normally do, you’ll be surprised how much better they do it than you expected, and how nice it is (for you) to have one less thing to do!


  1. Yes to all of this! Have you read “How to Raise an Adult,” by Julie Lythcott-Haimes? It is life changing and has a similar methodology. The Pandemic kicked my kids into gear when we all had to pitch in to keep everything going.

  2. Those aren’t really even chores. They are just the basics of self care, like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc. Most school-age kids can do these tasks independently or with a bit of support, as well as things like doing their own laundry.

    “Chores” that are age-appropriate for elementary school kids include things like taking out the trash, feeding/caring for pets, vacuuming and mopping, folding towels, and filling/emptying at least some of the dishwasher. To me, the very definition of a chore is something that you do as part of a family unit. We all use the house, the dishes, etc., so we all pitch in to take care of things.

  3. I implemented a checklist. Which includes them emptying their lunch bag when getting home, setting the table for dinner and sweeping, clearing dishes at the end of the meal, ipad time and homework. My oldest is 7 and he loves the checklist, it just lets him know what his routine is. My three year old is a hit or miss, some days she’s amazing at her chores and some days she’s not but I think she’ll catch on soon. They all pick their clothes and get dressed on their own in the morning. My 3 y.o has gone to school in her Halloween costume many daus or in outfits that have definitely turned heads but I just remind myself that I’m teaching her to make own decisions and be confident about them.


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