Chores For Kids: Appropriate Chores For Every Age
You want to show your kids the right way to do things, teach them important life lessons, and make sure they can one day take care of themselves. Some days it feels like an impossible dream, right? A great way to get started is by having them do chores at home. Chores teach kids so many excellent lessons. They teach your kids the importance of personal responsibility, how to set a goal and reach it, and how to do things that will definitely improve their life as they get older.
First off, while we refer to them as “chores,” I prefer to think of them as home responsibilities. Chores can come across just as they sound – like a “chore” – something that is to be dreaded, and that takes them away from their fun. But a responsibility is just something that they do as part of the family. Not to be dreaded, just part of the daily routine.
Below are some age-appropriate chores you can try with your kids, from toddlers to teenagers and every age in between. This list may seem overwhelming and likely only the very rare child will tackle ALL the chores for age, but it’s a good place to start. The idea isn’t to eventually hand off all household responsibilities to your kids, but to have them become contributing members of the household. Start with one or two chores and work on that one until it’s part of your routine.
Tips For Getting Kids to do Chores
Before looking into the different chores your kids can do at various ages, let’s talk about getting your kids to do their chores in the first place. This is likely going to be a challenge. Pick your battles, but remember to keep trying and not give up, as one of these methods is going to help your child understand that chores are part of their personal responsibility (and not just something mom or dad will do if no one else does). And the work you put in now will also help to make your life a bit easier later.
One of the most important things to remember when you want your kids to do their chores, is to remain consistent. Don’t do the cleaning up for them if they take too long or don’t want to do it. If you told your pre-teen daughter to put her folded laundry away, leave it there until she does it. If you have rules about consequences of not doing chores, see them through. Your kids will soon learn mom means business and they need to keep up with these responsibilities.
Start Chores at a Young Age
A common mistake many people make because they aren’t aware of what kids can do at certain ages is waiting too long to have kids do chores. Even kids as young as 2 or 3 can do certain things that will get them used to the practice of doing chores. Start them young, and it will be easier to get them to do chores as they get older.
Don’t Worry About Being Perfect
Your child is not going to do the chores perfect every time, but it is the effort that is most important. You can supervise some of these tasks so that you know if something needs to be re-done when they leave the room, such as a kid doing dishes and not cleaning something all the way. However, with things like folding laundry and making the bed, don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. If they feel judged or criticized, they may lose all motivation to keep doing chores.
Make them part of your routine
Work their chores into your daily routine where possible, instead of making them stand out in the day. Before dinner, have them clear off and set the table. After dinner, clear the dishes. Responsibilities that happen as part of an existing routine are more likely to become habit, and met with less resistance.
Keep Praising Your Child
Make sure your kids know that they are doing a good job. Children really want to do well and it really means a lot when you recognize their efforts. Every time they do a chore on their own without being asked, or do it well, let them know they did a good job.
Consider Offering an Allowance
This is an individual choice, but many parents find that giving their kids an allowance works great. Some parents do feel that this is teaching kids they will get a reward every time they do something that should already be expected, while others believe it teaches them good work ethic for the future. This is your choice, but you might want to consider an allowance, at least for older children and teens. But think about how you will respond if they do not keep up with their chores that week, and whether or not you will withhold the allowance. Again, be consistent and follow through.
Consider a Chore Chart
Some kids respond really well to charts as an incentive, getting check marks or stickers every time they complete a task. The trick is for you to be consistent and remember always track the chores. If you forget, the chart becomes meaningless, so make sure you are able to keep up with it. For some families it’s more work to maintain the chart than it’s worth.
Chores For Younger Children
When your child reaches about 2 or 3 years old, they are usually old enough to do some smaller chores. This is a good age to get started so they can begin learning personal responsibility. Keep in mind they won’t be able to do everything themselves, but it is a great age to have them help you with things.
Two and Three Year-Olds
You can have your younger children start helping to pick up their toys and blocks when they’re done playing. If they’re in preschool or daycare, they may already be familiar with “clean-up time.” There may even be a song that goes with it! Get them to help you make their bed. They won’t be able to do the task fully on their own, but let them assist you while you make it. Kids at this age should also be able to help with spills, feed the pets with your supervision (if your pets eat dry food – wet food can get messy), and put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
Four and Five Year-Olds
When they get a little older, they can start doing more things on their own. This includes doing more of making the bed, being responsible for picking up things in the living room and bedroom, and getting dressed on their own. Children of this age should also be able to help with some things in the kitchen, such as stirring or putting dishes in the dishwasher. They can help outdoors by watering plants, raking leaves and putting them into bags, putting away groceries, and taking dirty dishes from the table and putting them in the sink.
What School-Aged Children Can Do
By the time your child reaches first or second grade, they should already be comfortable with doing chores and on their way to being capable of doing even more around the house. This includes chores they have already started doing, but now can do without supervision.
Six and Seven Year-Olds
Your children should now be able to make their own beds without supervision. It is okay if it isn’t perfect, but this is a good age to stop helping them. Here is a list of other tasks and chores kids at this age can handle:
- Writing thank-you notes
- Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping
- Taking out the trash, with your supervision
- Folding and putting away laundry
- More food prep, with your supervision
- Cleaning up their room
This is a great age because your kid is starting to become more independent. They are choosing their own clothes, helping with laundry and dishes, and hopefully making their bed and cleaning their room. You can also add a few more chores, including preparing easy meals completely on their own, washing the car, and cleaning their bathroom.
Chores For Your Pre-Teen
By the time your child reaches their pre-teen stage, which is between 11 and 12 years old, they are doing many things on their own. This is the age where you should expect your son and daughter to start doing their own laundry. You can still supervise them to make sure they use the right amount of soap and select the right setting, but for the most part, it is a chore they can handle on their own.
Pre-teens can also do the following things themselves:
- Dust wood furniture
- Vacuum and mop all rooms
- Change light bulbs
- Change their bed sheets
- Do more yard work, such as pulling weeds or mowing the lawn
- Preparing simple family meals
- Cleaning windows and mirrors
- Doing the dishes without help
Teenager Chore Responsibilities
When you have teenagers in your home, you are starting to prepare them for adulthood. You want to teach them as many basic skills as you can before they reach 18, so that by the time they go to college or move out on their own, they know how to take care of themselves and their home properly. This is done through various chores around the house.
For 13 year-olds, you want to start introducing them to life skills, in addition to the chores they have already been doing. Of course keep having them make their bed each morning, do the dishes, and continue working on their own laundry. However, they should also start doing some things they will need to handle on their own as an adult, such as replacing the bag in the vacuum cleaner, ironing their clothes, mowing the lawn, and possibly even doing some minor repairs around the house. Aside from changing a light bulb, a 13 year-old can also help with things like hammering nails, as long as they have supervision.
14 and 15 Year-Olds
Continuing with these type of lessons, have your 14 and 15 year-olds do more home chores as well. For example, you can have your son start preparing more elaborate meals from recipes he finds and have him do the grocery shopping for ingredients. You can let your daughter start babysitting for neighbour kids or wash the outdoor windows in your home. These are life skills that help your teens take care of themselves.
16 and Up
By the time your teens reach 16 or 17 years old, they should be doing everything you are doing. This includes being able to clean out the refrigerator, do any housework or yard work, wash cars, make a grocery list and shop on their own, and do deep cleaning around the house. This is also a good age to start teaching your teens about financial budgeting.
Continue introducing new chores to your kids each month. They shouldn’t be doing all household duties, but helping out so they can learn how to do things on their own. By the time your teens move out of the house, you feel confident they know what they are doing…at least around the house!