The Chore Game

Chore time often brings grumbles from every room of the house. Children complain about siblings who don’t do their fair share of the work. Parents complain about children who don’t want to help and expect Mom and Dad to do it all. Tempers fray, voices raise and household disorder reigns supreme.

Few people, adults and kids alike, actually enjoy doing chores, but they’re a necessity we can’t avoid. What can make things easier is doing a chore you like instead of the one you dread. Try using the chore game as a way to make what has to be done a little easier.

First set up the game.

Walk through your entire house and make a list of all chores. Don’t forget outside, too. Add chores for mom and dad so the kids can see that running a household takes total cooperation. Next to each chore list materials needed to accomplish it, and any special instructions.

Write each chore on an index card. Be specific, not general. Clean the living room is too general for kids. (And sometimes too overwhelming for moms and dads.) Break it down into units like dust, vacuum, pick-up clutter, etc.

After listing each chore on its own card, write the directions and supplies that go with the chore on the back of the card. Next, gather the family around the table and you’re ready to play.

How to play the game:

Deal the cards out one at a time to each member of the household until all the cards are gone. Each player looks at their cards, and separates them into those they want to keep and those they want to discard.

The youngest person goes first. They place a discard in the middle of the table and ask for a trade. Any one can offer a trade, and the player can either accept a new chore or decide to keep the one they already have. Play continues around the table as long as necessary until all the chores have been settled.

Some trades are worth more to one kid then another. Loading and unloading the dishwasher every day may appeal to one child more than dusting once a week. Another child might think that vacuuming is too hard but that cleaning the bathroom is fun. If the kids are both happy with the assignments, don’t get involved with what YOU think will make it fair. When people begin to get bored with their chores, it’s time to play again.

The chore game is a great way to show that there are no “girl” chores or “boy” chores. There are just generic responsibilities necessary to keep our life running smoothly. But the best part about the chore game, is that no matter how often you play it, everyone in the family is a winner.


1. Each chore in a room does not have to be done by the same person. This is a good way to get siblings to work together.

2. When having younger children do chores, take time the first time to show them exactly what you want them to do.

3. Lower your standards a little. The chore might not be done exactly the way you would do it, but resist the urge to do it over. You defeat the whole purpose of the game and damage your child’s self-esteem in the process.

This article and other various versions of it have been previously published in:Family Times, Parenting Plus, My Village-Online, SF Peninsula Parent, Bay Area Parent, and San Diego Family Press.
Please contact me for permission to reproduce this or any of my other articles.