Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Doing more jobs around the house may help kids succeed at school

Susie O’Brien, June 14, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

Print Article

Griffin, 6, helps his mum Caitlin Williams unpack the dishwasher, as a new study suggests household chores may give kids’ brains a boost. Picture: Nicki Connolly media_cameraGriffin, 6, helps his mum Caitlin Williams unpack the dishwasher, as a new study suggests household chores may give kids’ brains a boost. Picture: Nicki Connolly

humanities

Reading level: orange

Kids can boost their brainpower by cooking, gardening and cleaning around the house, according to new research from La Trobe University.

A study of 207 Victorian children found regular household tasks – like making meals and caring for plants – are associated with better planning, self-regulation* and remembering instructions.

Grandmother and grandson in the garden media_cameraThe study found that regular household tasks like caring for plants might improve executive functions like planning and memory. Picture: iStock

Lead researcher and PhD candidate Deanna Tepper said the study’s results suggest household chores could have benefits for children’s executive functioning*.

Collected from children aged five to 13 in mid-2020, the results show 86 per cent of kids put their laundry in a hamper and clean up after playing, but only 59 per cent make their own bed and only 26 per cent sort laundry.

Older children are more likely to do chores than younger ones and girls do more chores than boys.

For example, only 49 per cent of boys but 70 per cent of girls make their own bed.

Dave Fraser with his wife Amanda and their children sort out the washing at their home in Bondi, Sydney. Men are doing more traditionally female chores, but despite their growing role in the workplace, women still do more household work than their partners. media_cameraMen might be doing more housework these days, but the study reveals that girls are still doing more chores than boys. Picture: file image

Loading the dishwasher is a job for 55 per cent of children, including 50 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls.

Only 34 per cent of five to seven-year-olds do this task, rising to 64 per cent of those aged 11 to 13.

“Parents may be able to use age- and ability-appropriate chores to facilitate* the development of executive functions,” Ms Tepper said.

Chores for Kids media_cameraFewer five to seven-year-olds load the dishwasher, but Griffin, 6, helps his mum Caitlin Williams unpack it safely. Picture: Nicki Connolly

“Children who cook a family meal or weed the garden on a regular basis may be more likely to excel in other aspects of life – like schoolwork or problem solving.”

Ms Tepper said making a meal or cooking for others was linked to better working memory and the ability to think before acting.

“Typically, these skills begin to develop in early childhood and continue to develop into late adolescence* and early adulthood,” Ms Tepper said.

Pre-teen boy making a cake in the kitchen mixing cake mix, smiling, close up media_cameraChildren who make a meal or cook on a regular basis may excel in other aspects of life like schoolwork and problem solving, lead researcher Deanna Tepper said. Picture: iStock

“Impairments* or delays in executive functioning development can lead to difficulties in the ability to self-regulate, plan and problem solve as adults, having implications* later in life on reading performance and mathematical ability, as well as predicting overall academic achievement in later childhood.”

The study was conducted during Covid lockdowns, with half of parents reporting that their child was doing the same amount of chores as before the pandemic and 37 per cent saying their child was doing more.

GLOSSARY

  • self-regulation: ability to understand and manage your own behaviour, feelings and reactions
  • executive functioning: mental processes that help us plan, pay attention, remember, multi-task
  • facilitate: help, assist, make something easier
  • adolescence: important phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19
  • impairment: damage, negative impact, not functioning fully or properly
  • implications: effect that an action or decision will have on something else in the future

EXTRA READING

Traffic noise spells trouble for school learning

Pocket money gender gap

Play influences kids’ career choices

QUICK QUIZ

  1. The housework habits of how many kids were measured in the study?
  2. What percentage of surveyed children make their own bed?
  3. Poor executive function has implications in later life for what?
  4. Does age seem to be a factor in which kids load the dishwasher?
  5. Cooking a family meal is linked to what effect?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Weekly job chart
Taking into account the jobs suggested in the article, write out a weekly job chart for the children in your family. Make sure tasks are manageable and age appropriate for each member of your family. Write out your chart as a weekly roster, with the first column titled JOBS and each subsequent column headed by a child’s name until all siblings are included.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Apart from the positives outlined in the article on why it is good for children to do jobs and responsibilities around the house, what do you think is fair for children to receive in return?

Write a short letter to your parents outlining your jobs and responsibilities and what you would like in return (it could be things like pocket money, lifts to sport and hobbies etc.)

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Wow word recycle
There are plenty of wow words (ambitious pieces of vocabulary) being used in the article. Some are in the glossary, but there might be extra ones from the article that you think are exceptional as well.

Identify all the words in the article that you think are not common words, and particularly good choices for the writer to have chosen.

Select three words you have highlighted to recycle into your own sentences.

If any of the words you identified are not in the glossary, write up your own glossary for them.

Extra Reading in humanities