Requiring your child to help around the house leads to more than a tidy living space. Children who feel they are making a contribution to their household tend to feel good about themselves, according to child development experts.

Requiring your child to help around the house leads to more than a tidy living space. Children who feel they are making a contribution to their household tend to feel good about themselves, according to child development experts.

They also develop good habits for the future.

"There's no doubt there are layers of value,'' said Yvonne Gustafson, a parenting expert at Riverside Methodist Hospital. "A sense of self competence contributes to self esteem."

It's important to consider the child's age when assigning tasks, Gustafson said. She suggests starting kids when they are about 3 years old. She also recommends that parents refrain from calling the assignments "chores" or "work." Present them as the child's role in family operations, she said.

That's how Shanna Cote treats chores at her home. The mother of seven said assigning chores makes the household run more smoothly. "I definitely need the extra hands to help around here,'' said the Blacklick resident. "I just think it helps them to become more responsible, more disciplined.''

Cote, 33, recently discovered a website that helps her create charts and track whether the work is getting done. The site, www.handipoints.com, also allows kids to earn rewards and the chance to play online games. She said the website has been a great motivator for her children.

Professional organizer Jamie Posgai suggests assigning kids tasks that will make a meaningful impact on the household. The distribution of work lightens the load for parents and gives children the skills to manage their own household when they grow up, said the former teacher.

"It's all about creating habits,'' said Posgai, whose Powell company is called Just Be Clutter Free. "If we start early enough and add a little bit at a time, our kids can learn these lifelong skills.''

Posgai and Gustafson offered the following 20 suggestions on how kids of all ages can help around the house.

Start at the bottom. Remove the middle extension from the dust mop handle and let children clean up the floors. Suck it up. Purchase a small handheld vacuum and allow youngsters to clean up under the table after meals. Bathtub clean-up. Fill a spray bottle with water - never allow preschoolers access to cleaning fluids - and ask young children to spray and wipe down the tub after baths. Make it a game. Find fun ways to put toys away. Try racing your child to the toy box, creating sorting and matching games as you clean up toys, or singing songs while you work. No clothes on the floor. Give your child a hamper or basket and require him or her to put dirty clothes in the basket at bedtime. Chase dust bunnies. Put socks on their hands and let little ones dust tables and furniture. Set the table. Give children age-appropriate tasks to set or clear the table. Dishwasher duty. If you have more than one child, create a schedule for them to load or unload the dishwasher. Bathroom helper. Give older children cleaning wipes and ask them to wipe down the sink and counter. Garbage collector. Make the child responsible for collecting trash bags from the bathrooms and bedrooms on garbage days. Living room inspector. This person must tidy the living room at the end of the day by taking dishes to the kitchen, folding blankets and putting remote controls in a centralized location. . Pet caregiver. Allow children to change the pet's water or fill its food dish. Pantry organizer. Have kids put away groceries and organize canned goods by item. Also, ask them to check the use- by dates and create a space for food that's nearing its expiration date. Last one warning. Enlist the kids' help in making a grocery list by asking them to let you know when they eat the last yogurt. Consider posting a grocery list where they can add items themselves. Recycle helper. Require children to collect recyclables from the kitchen counter or bathrooms and put them in recycling bins. Teach them to keep the space tidy. Laundry helper. Introduce kids to laundry by asking them to sort dirty clothes. Later, you can teach them to fold and put away clothes. Eventually, they can learn to do their own laundry. Change the sheets. Create a schedule for kids to remove their old sheets and replace them with clean ones. Contribute to the family calendar. Put a calendar in the kitchen and ask kids to write down sports practices, school projects or other commitments. Food prep. Find age-appropriate cooking tasks - everything from tearing lettuce and mixing sauces to measuring ingredients. Yard work. Take kids outside with you and have them help rake leaves, pull weeds or plant flowers.
Melissa Kossler Dutton has worked as a reporter for more than a decade. Shes a frequent contributor to a variety of Ohio publications. She lives in Bexley with her husband and two sons.