Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
One of our jobs as parents is to teach our kids to be responsible. Yet we often struggle to achieve this goal. When it comes to teaching household responsibilities, I propose a simple method called Chore Wardens.
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What Is a Chore Warden?
A warden is a guardian who has the care or charge of something. As I developed this method of teaching our children household responsibility, we had just finished listening to Andrew Peterson read aloud the first two books of his Wingfeather Saga. In these books the Throne Warden had a great responsibility, and from this I knew that my children would understand the significance that came with being wardens.
Just as the Throne Warden is both a title and a duty, each chore warden is a title and a set of responsibilities. Though less regal than Throne Warden, the individual chore wardens have quickly become a part of our family culture. Our chore wardens currently include the following titles.
- Bathroom Warden
- Window Warden
- Floor Warden
- Trash Warden
- Dust & Dirt Warden
- Toy Warden
- Kitchen Warden
- Yard Warden
- Laundry Warden
How Do Chore Wardens Work?
Think of a chore warden as a short-term apprenticeship that repeats on a regular basis. We have four kids, so we rotate chore wardens between them each week. Although some chore wardens are only suitable for our older children, our youngest is still able to help with the simpler ones. Our older children receive multiple chore wardens each week while our youngest child receives just one.
We usually rotate chore wardens on Sunday evenings during our family meeting. We make sure that each child receives chore wardens that can be accomplished either alone or with moderate help from us.
Each chore warden has daily and weekly responsibilities. The chore warden is also on call to help with additional tasks that fall within the scope his/her responsibilities. For example, the Window Warden may need to rewash a window that is once again covered in fingerprints even though washing the windows is only required once a week.
Why Does The Chore Warden Method Work?
Creating chore wardens for our family simplified our chore system. Now that we know who is responsible for a task, we know whose help to request. Previously, we relied too heavily on our oldest children and didn’t ask enough of our youngest children.
Our kids appreciate that their chore wardens are rotated on a regular basis. They have a particular chore warden long enough to practice the required skills but not so long that more difficult wardens become unbearable. The chore warden method helps our kids continuously hone their skills and take on more responsibility around the house.
Does This Method Always Work?
No. As an apprenticeship-style teaching tool, chore wardens only work if the parent checks the child’s work and demonstrates proper technique.
If your kids are like mine, they prefer the least amount of work as possible that still gets the job done. Unless we show them our expectations for a job well done and teach them how to do it, they will often fall short. They also usually need prompting to do their weekly duties as these can often be postponed to the last day and sometimes even forgotten. As the parent, you must keep them accountable to fulfill their chore warden responsibilities. Without accountability, the chore warden method will fail.
Are Chore Wardens Customizable?
Absolutely. Each home decides which chore wardens to create and how to define them. You get to decide when your child has mastered a given task or responsibility. This also means that you get to set the standard for your household. If you prefer that your living room is vacuumed every day, make that a daily responsibility for the Floor Warden.
The chore wardens I created for our family came from the list of tasks my husband and I were tired of managing largely on our own. Up to that point our kids had some chores, but they were not yet helping enough to truly relieve a significant amount of the burden.
How Do You Teach Chore Warden Responsibilities?
In our household, we’re taking the apprenticeship approach to chore warden training. We demonstrate and assist with chore warden duties as needed. We also correct technique if we see room for improvement. This allows us to assign chore wardens to children who haven’t yet mastered all the responsibilities.
Alternatively, you can train your child to master all responsibilities for a given chore warden before he can have that title. This may be especially necessary for more dangerous tasks like mowing the lawn.
What If You Only Have One Child at Home?
We have a lot of chore wardens for our home, and this number is sure to fluctuate over the years as new wardens are added and others are removed. Since we have four children, it isn’t difficult to divide many tasks so that each child has a reasonable workload.
But what if you only have one child at home? In that case, you’ll probably need to take turns shouldering the responsibility of the chore wardens too. This is a great way to foster camaraderie with your child. You can joke about how terrible the responsibilities of the Kitchen Warden and Floor Warden are as these are the ones our children complain about most.
Even if you have multiple children who can take over all the responsibilities of the chore wardens, you can still choose to help with those activities at times. My kids see and appreciate that I’m willing to pitch in even when it’s not my responsibility. And I’m more amenable to lending a hand when I know that they are taking their wardens seriously.
Example Chore Wardens
The following Chore Wardens are merely examples. Your family dynamic, house, and cleaning routine may look different than ours. I printed our chore warden cards on plain paper and laminated them so that our kids can take them with them as needed. The individual cards also make it easy to reassign wardens each week.
- Wipe sinks and counters
- Wipe toilet seats
- Restock toilet paper as needed
- Refill soap dispensers as needed
- Wash mirrors
- Scrub toilets
- Wipe vanity, walls, switches
- Wipe down tub
- The Floor Warden and the Trash Warden will take care of the other bathroom needs.
Note that the bathroom warden is only responsible for the kids’ bathroom and the half bath on our main level. We do not ask that our kids keep our master bathroom clean as that is our responsibility. We’re teaching our children teamwork by sharing the workload.
- Open blinds in the morning
- Close blinds at night
- Dust blinds
- Wash windows and glass doors
- Wipe down doorknobs
- As Needed:
- Wipe down doors
The Window Warden usually rotates between our two oldest children. They are big enough to open and close the blinds every day, and they can more easily reach the higher window panes.
- Sweep kitchen, entry way/hall, and laundry room
- Sweep all floors
- Mop all floors
- Vacuum all floors
The Floor Warden is also currently reserved for our oldest two children as our younger children cannot handle the mopping and vacuuming yet. Although the weekly work is substantial, this task can be spread out over multiple days.
- Empty small trashcans into kitchen trash
- Empty kitchen trash when full
- Take out recycling
- Help Dad take out trash and recycling on Thursdays
- Bring trash/recycling cans back from street on Fridays
All of our kids are capable of being the trash warden, but our youngest two children do need help with most of the tasks. This is an example of a warden that, while more appropriate for an older child, can still be assigned to a younger child as long as someone is available to help.
Dust & Dirt Warden
- Tidy shoes in laundry room
- Air out shoe bin
- Dust all horizontal surfaces
- Living Room
- Family Room
- Kid bedrooms
- Dust all horizontal surfaces
This chore warden was made for younger children. They need ways like this that they can contribute to the family without being overwhelmed.
- Assist siblings with putting away toys
- Return lost/found pieces to sets
- Tidy up the loft (siblings who created the mess will help)
- Suggest removal of specific toys that are no longer needed
The Toy Warden is also a chore warden that is great for younger kids. Notice that if one of our kids makes a mess of toys, that child has to help with the cleanup and can’t just leave it all to the toy warden.
- Unload dishwasher
- Rinse dishes/load dishwasher
- Wipe down table and counters after meals
- Wipe down cabinets
- Check fridge for old items
The Kitchen Warden is one of the chore wardens currently reserved for our two oldest children. We’ll eventually add washing dishes to this warden’s responsibilities, but by keeping it simple, it’s easier for kids of multiple ages to handle.
- Put away outside toys
- Wipe down tables/chairs
- Sweep dirt from deck
- Sweep dirt from porch & steps
The Yard Warden is one of the few chore wardens that we assign to our youngest child. He definitely needs assistance with the weekly duties, but he’s still able to learn and help out with this warden.
- Sort kids’ clothes from hamper
- As Needed:
- Assist Mom with running/folding laundry
- Gather wet items from bathroom after showers/baths
The Laundry Warden is a great example of an apprentice-style chore warden. I have a hard time relinquishing control of this chore. Thus, our kids will help me complete this task with greater amounts of responsibility over time. I’ll be able to ensure that they’ve mastered each part of the laundry process before asking them to do it independently.
In addition, all of my kids are able to help me to some degree. My toddler loves putting the clothes in the washing machine, transferring them to the dryer, and getting them out again. When he’s Laundry Warden, he’ll come running if he hears me working on the laundry.
The chore warden method is a great tool for teaching kids household responsibility. It won’t solve all of your parenting problems, but I hope it helps your family just as it has helped ours.