One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to start teaching your kids how to be responsible at an early age. One way to do this is by giving them age appropriate chores. Not only will this help them learn important life skills, but it will also give you a little break! Let’s discuss the benefits of giving your kids chores, what the different ages of kids can reasonably do, and how to set up a chore chart system that will work for your family.
Kids Chores Age 2-3
Toddlers want to help so badly! Have you ever tried to make cookies with an enthusiastic 3-year-old? It’s a challenging adventure. The good news is, they want to help. Ease them into chores by giving them simple tasks to do such as picking up their toys, putting away their dishes, or helping you water the plants. Here’s a few chores to start your toddler on:
- Help make their bed.
- Pick up dirty clothes from the floor.
- Help move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
- Help clean dirty dishes off from the table.
- Fill up a pet’s food or water.
- Wipe up messes they make.
- Dust baseboards.
- Stack books.
Kids Chores Age 4-5
Preschoolers are so fun! Not only are they starting to become more capable of helping around the house, they still want to help! Where a toddler may struggle with accomplishing tasks unsupervised, kids age 4-5 can do a lot more on their own. You can add the following to the list of tasks they can do:
- Make their bed by themselves.
- Set and clear the table.
- Match socks in the laundry.
- Help bring groceries inside from the car.
- Wash unbreakable dishes.
- Put away utensil’s.
- Help cook a portion of a meal.
- Sort laundry into whites, lights, and colors.
- Water flowers and pull weeds.
- Vacuum (if the vacuum is light enough for them to move).
Kids Chores Age 6-8
You may find that your elementary-school-aged children are not as willing to help with chores. However, they are becoming more capable helpers and will want to exercise as much independence as possible. Use that to your advantage. Here are some chores your child can reasonably do at this age:
- Sweep the floor.
- Help make their own bagged lunch for school.
- Empty the trash.
- Mop the floor.
- Wipe the table and/or countertops.
- Make snacks and breakfast for themselves.
- Help take care of pets.
- Fold and put away laundry.
- Empty the the dishwasher.
- Clean bedroom with a bit of supervision.
Kids Chores Age 9-13
Pre-teens should be able to complete many tasks you might have done for them when they were younger. At this age, you can add the following tasks to your child’s chore chart:
- Wash dishes or load the dishwasher without supervision.
- Prepare simple meals.
- Clean the bathroom.
- Rake leaves or shovel snow with help.
- Help wash the car.
- Use the washer and dryer.
- Move trash bin to the curb.
- Take out trash to the bin.
- Take pets for a walk.
- Change bed sheets.
- Babysit younger siblings (with parents in the home).
- Wash windows.
- Clean the kitchen.
- Iron clothes.
Kids Chores Age 14+
As long as you’ve taught your teenagers how to do basic chores, they should be able to complete most household tasks on their own. However, teenagers tend to have more responsibilities outside the home than younger kids. While it’s important to include them in household chores, be careful not to pile too many chores onto an already over-scheduled teenager. Teenagers should be able to complete the following types of chores:
- Clean oven or refrigerator.
- Deep clean bathrooms and kitchens.
- Mow lawn.
- Trim hedges.
- Wash windows and exterior of the house.
- Change light bulbs/fans/covers.
- Clean out gutters.
- Do laundry.
- Prepare meals.
- Grocery planning and shopping with help.
- Minor mending and sewing on buttons.
- Help with simple home or auto repair.
- Care for pets independently.
- Babysit younger siblings independently.
Tips for helping your kids be chore-successful at any age
When you’ve been doing certain chores your whole life, it’s easy to forget that kids have not. They won’t automatically know how to complete certain tasks. Take the time to teach them! Even if it seems mundane or obvious, teaching your kids basic tasks (sometimes many times) is the best recipe for success!
Do chores with them!
Until your kids are competent in a chore, plan on doing that chore with them. Not only will that ensure they learn to do it correctly, but they are much more likely to complete the chore. Once they know how, and can do the chore effectively, you can start letting them do it without supervision.
Break larger chores into several smaller chores
My kids get overwhelmed when I tell them they need to complete a “big” chore on their own. Instead of working they complain or give a halfhearted effort. I’ve found that if I can break down a large chore (like cleaning the bathroom) into several smaller tasks (wipe down the counter or sweep the floor), everyone is happier. As they grow, your child will get better at taking on large tasks. Until then, try breaking down bigger chores into smaller ones.
Keep it positive
Kids want to know that their efforts are appreciated. I know that as a parent, I’m always tempted to nit-pick the work my kids do. But I’ve had to learn to keep things positive.
Praise, praise, praise
Along with keeping feedback positive, it’s essential to offer a lot of positive feedback. One nice comment when they finish won’t ever be as motivating as consistent positive feedback throughout the process. It might feel excessive, but heap on the praise for a job well done.
Keep it simple
It’s so important to keep things simple and concrete. You don’t want to add any pressure, and you also want them to be successful in their chores right? So give them a limited number of tasks at first, especially if they’re young or new to the process. Until they’ve really got the hang of things, don’t give them anything too complicated.
Make it a family affair
In our house, we have a rule that everyone helps out with cleaning up. It’s not just the kids’ responsibility– Mom and Dad pitch in too (even if it sometimes feels like more work for us!) Having everyone do their part makes it feel more like a team effort.
Make it fun
If you can make chores into a game or competition, your kids will be more likely to want to help out. Try giving them a sticker chart and awarding stickers for every task they complete. Or have a family movie night once all of the chores are done.
As much as we wish they would, our children are not going to automatically do chores by themselves, every time, without any encouragement. Instead, you will need to consistently remind, encourage, and insist they help out. That consistency will breed expectation, and after some time, those chores will become a habit.
Need more consistency? Read: Create a Positive Morning Routine for Kids
Start when they are young
Many parents are afraid to give their kids chores too soon. As a result, we expect far too little, for far too long. And then wonder why our kids struggle or don’t want to help. I’ve been there too. So let me tell you, start your kids on chores when they are little and want to help. Make it a regular part of their life as soon as they are 2-3 years old. Before you know it, they’ll be asking to help. And everyone will be happier as a result!
How to make a chore chart
Once you’ve decided which chores are age appropriate for your kids, it’s time to make a chore chart. A chore chart is simply a list of the tasks each member of your family will be responsible for. It can take many different forms and doesn’t have to be fancy! My daughter would love the chore chart below!
This chore chart seems pretty neutral, which would probably go over better with my boys. 😉
In our house we’ve had young kids who struggle to read, so I’ve tried to keep our chores on cards with pictures (my lucky kids get to see my excellent drawing skills…). But, I like this option where it’s already done for you. Bonus–no one can make fun of your drawings.
It doesn’t really matter if you have a white board, store bought charts, or handmade drawings. The important thing is to make sure each person knows which tasks are their responsibility.
Here’s a quick guide on how to get started:
- List the chores that need to be done.
- Assign each chore to a specific person.
- Set a schedule for when the chores need to be done (daily, weekly, monthly).
- Give kids a fun way to “mark” off when they finish a chore. It could be stickers, magnets, or even a white/erase board.
- Follow up with each family member at least once a week to re-evaluate chores.
Having your kids help you with age-appropriate chores is a sanity saver for you, and a great opportunity for your kids to learn responsibility.