The ultimate parent conundrum: Do you dole out chores to the kiddos or not? And if you do assign chores, what, when, and how many are appropriate for children? The truth is that when you assign household chores, you also get the chance to teach independence and valuable life lessons. But the chores need to be balanced with the carefree joy of childhood. In this guide, we’ll discuss the value of assigned tasks, detail a list of age-appropriate chores, and give some tips to make chores fun!
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Benefits of Chores for Children
Assigning simple chores to children is beneficial for the whole family. Obviously, having a task to complete for a supervisor teaches children about the work power structure, the importance of time management, and proper work ethic. Often, it’s an exercise in problem-solving that forces their little brains to figure out the most efficient way to complete the task.
Doing chores also contributes to family bonding when the idea that “we are all in this together” is reinforced. Being trusted with tasks can give children a sense of autonomy and responsibility and can also allow them to feel like they are helping adult family members keep the house running efficiently.
Lastly, it’s a chance for them to learn how to fend for themselves. There are far too many college students out there who buy new underwear every month because they have no idea how to wash their own laundry. Performing small chores around the house teaches important life skills that will only benefit them in the future.
The Ultimate List of Age-Appropriate Chores
When assigning household tasks for your family, it’s important to consider the child’s age. First of all, you don’t want any injuries. Secondly, the goal is to teach them to be autonomous, not to stress them out. And lastly, you really don’t want to come back into the room to an even larger mess. In this section, we’ll detail a few chores for each age group and highlight why they are the best options.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
By the time your child can walk and talk, they are cognitively able to begin picking up after themselves. Obviously, their chores should cater to their very short attention span, their inability to multi-task, and their tendency to get overwhelmed by too many stimuli.
1. Pick up toys.
From the ages of 1 to 2 years old, most children are obsessed with sorting. They will repeatedly put all their toys in a bucket, dump them out, and do it all over again. Use their obsession to clean up the living room floor.
If you just tell them to pick up, they will get overwhelmed and not know where to start. You’re going to have to guide them. When it’s time to clean up, get on the floor with them. You hold the bucket and point out toys for them to retrieve and place in the bucket. Once it’s full, take the bucket away, and put it in its place. As they get to older preschool age, they will usually begin to go through the process without guidance if you’re consistent. Prepare for the occasional tantrum!
2. Match socks.
Matching games are appropriate play for preschool-aged children. Instead of the picture cards, dump out a basket of socks, and have your preschooler match them. When they find a match, they bring them to you to fold.
3. Pick up dirty clothes.
While they may be too young to do laundry, they can put their dirty clothes in the basket. They can also help gather dirty clothes that older siblings or their fathers have left on the floor. Make it a scavenger hunt. You’ve probably already noted where your family has left their clothes—challenge your preschooler to find them and bring them to the laundry room.
4. Get your own diaper.
When it’s time to change your toddler’s diaper, have them retrieve the diaper for themselves. It’s an easy chore that makes them feel big.
5. Stock the snack drawer.
Young children can help with putting away groceries in cabinets or shelves that are on their level. For instance, if you keep the yogurt in the lowest refrigerator drawer, they can unload it. If you keep the Little Debbies in a low drawer, they can dump them in.
6. Wipe the baseboards.
They’re crawling around on the floor anyway. You might as well put that fact to use! Unlike you, they won’t have sore knees for three days after cleaning the baseboards. Obviously, they aren’t going to wear gloves and handle bleach products, but if you have a microfiber cloth, set them to work. Tell them it’s a car and the baseboard is a race track. Then have them race around the room for the win!
7. Sort the whites.
Children begin learning colors at a young age. Sorting the laundry is a great time to practice! Once all the dirty laundry is gathered, have them gather all the white ones and bring them to you while you’re getting the washer ready.
8. Pick up sticks.
Make yard work a family chore! Before the older kids mow the lawn, younger children can pick up sticks and toys out of the yard to make it safe for mowing.
9. Help with cooking.
While they sometimes aren’t much help and messes will be made, starting children out in the kitchen at a young age is valuable on several levels. It allows them to master fine motor skills by learning to whisk, stir, pour with coordination, and hold utensils properly. They learn measurements and what happens when completely different textures and states of matter combine to form new compounds. They also feel really big and important when they serve up their creation to their big siblings.
Pop your 3-year-old on the counter, far away from the stove, and guide them through the process. Little ones love to dump the veggies into the pot of water, stir the potatoes, or put in the spices. You can allow them to taste, touch, and smell the ingredients for some extra tactile stimulation. Turn up the magic by turning on a fun playlist while you cook together!
Grade School Children
Once the kids start school, you can turn up the volume on chores. Grade school is a broad category, we know. Children vary vastly in ability and maturity levels in this section, so more than any other age group, you’ll need to adjust these to your individual children. There’s a lot of difference between a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old.
1. Wash the dishes.
Smaller grade-school children may need a stool, but they can all help wash dishes. If you’re one of those people who has a conniption when the dishwasher is not loaded perfectly, you’re going to get a lesson in flexibility. The good part about teaching young children is that they don’t have bad habits. They might be easier to train than your spouse.
2. Strip the bed sheets.
Even if you don’t trust them to run the washing machine yet, they can gather dirty sheets and towels!
3. Dust the blinds.
Children actually enjoy the Swiffer duster. It’s like a sword or a lightsaber. Give them a feather duster, and set them free on the blinds.
4. Cook simple meals.
Older elementary school kids can absolutely cook simple meals. One night a week, make it “cook for mom” or “fend for yourself” night. After some stove safety instructions, children can make macaroni and cheese, steam veggies, bake their own chicken nuggets, or make pizza.
5. Put away clean clothes.
If you wash it and fold it, it’s only fair that they put it away.
6. Rake leaves.
Raking leaves or yard clippings is a perfect chore for children 7 years old or above. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a session of jumping in the leaf pile while on break!
7. Fold laundry, and wash clothes.
Even very young children can help fold towels and washcloths. Usually around the age of 7 or 8, children are perfectly capable of doing laundry. Take some time to teach them the process of sorting and the rules of water temperature. They can read at this point, so make them an easy checklist on the wall, and set them to it.
8. Clear and set the table.
If your house is like most houses, the dining table (if you even use it to eat) will need to be cleared of the day’s junk! That’s the perfect job for your grade schooler.
9. Feed pets.
Elementary children are old enough to be in charge of their own pets, and it’s a good daily chore. They can clean cages and feed and bathe the animals with ease. They might just need a little reminder.
There’s something soothing about vacuuming. If you’ve got a stressed kiddo or one that needs an attitude adjustment, send them to their room to vacuum.
Sweeping takes a bit more coordination, especially when using the dustpan. Older grade school kids can pull it off, though, and younger kids can master it, too, but they do better with a smaller broom.
12. Clean the bathroom.
The cleaning products can be a bit harsh, but everyone can pitch in for a clean bathroom. You might want to save the bathtub scrubbing for tweens. Once grade schoolers can master gloves and understand the hazards, then they can clean the toilets. Younger kids can help by shaking out rugs, restocking toilet paper, and picking up dirty towels.
You might not want to set your first grader free on the trinkets with a duster, but older elementary kids are totally capable. With younger ones, turn it into an I-Spy game: “I spy with my little eye, something purple that needs to be cleaned.”
14. Clean their room.
As children get older, their room is their haven. They can be responsible for keeping it clean. Doing it all at once can be overwhelming. To avoid the disaster, make a chore chart, and have them do one thing in their room each day to keep it tidy.
15. Unload groceries.
If they can reach the shelves, they can unload the groceries. Everyone can help get them from the car to the house, and older kids can unload and put them away.
16. Take out the trash.
As soon as they understand germs and the importance of hand washing, they can become responsible for the trash. Make it a family affair, with each family member responsible for the trash in one room.
17. Shred papers.
We all have that box of office papers under the desk that we never seem to get to. It makes a great kid chore.
18. Organize closets.
Older kids often enjoy organizing. It’s more like a game of Tetris than cleaning.
Chores for Teenagers
Now we get to the toughest crowd. Teens are notoriously cranky. If you started early, they will be used to the daily chores and probably stay on board. However, if you’re just starting to implement chores for your children, you’ll probably have to wade through a little backlash. Teens do still go for incentives, though, whether it’s money or getting to go out with friends once chores are done.
1. Mow and weedeat.
Even older children will need some guidance and teaching before operating mowers and weedeaters, but with proper safety gear and some instructions, they can totally handle the yard.
2. Babysit younger siblings.
It’s a right of passage for older siblings to babysit younger ones. You don’t want to make them feel responsible for rearing their siblings and breed resentment, though. Sell it as a chance to be a mentor and bond with their younger siblings, who look up to them. Challenge them to make it fun!
3. Power wash outside.
Like vacuuming, there’s just something very satisfying about power washing. Your teen will probably love it.
4. Clean the gutters.
Let’s be frank—their balance is far better than yours. They’re probably safer on the ladder than you are.
5. Organize the garage.
Organizing the garage is a chore best left to older kids since there’s a plethora of power tools and sharp things there.
6. Clean the pool.
If you have a swimming pool, have the kids clean it before or while they take a swim. Older kids can also be in charge of keeping the pool pH correct. It’s a chore and chemistry lesson all in one!
7. Weed the flower beds.
This job stinks, and you’ll likely need to bribe them with allowance.
8. Take on refrigerator duty.
Your teen is no doubt a pro at cleaning out the fridge. While they’re devouring everything on the shelves, have them wipe them down with some disinfectant.
9. Mop up.
Mopping with young children is a disaster waiting to happen. Save it for the older kiddos.
10. Clean the car.
If they want to drive your car this weekend, they can clean out the french fries from the floor. Whether they do it by hand or drive to the car wash, using the car equals cleaning the car.
11. Burn brush.
If you live in an area where burning leaves or brush is legal, your teenager can handle that with proper instruction.
12. Run errands.
Once your teen can drive, they can help with errands. Send them to the grocery store with a list. Have them drop off the water bill. They can also get gas, pick up their siblings, drop off the Amazon returns, and learn to make bank deposits. All of these little things help you out, yes, but more than that, they teach your teen to operate in an adult world.
Making Chores Fun
Nobody wants to do chores. You don’t want to do them, so it’s unlikely your children will, either. The chores they do want to complete are probably the ones you wish they didn’t. You will likely need to incorporate games, incentives, and instruction. Making daily chores work in a household takes flexibility on both sides. You’ll have to learn to let go of perfection (if that’s a struggle for you). You’ll also need to convince your kids that you’re not trying to punish them but that caring for your possessions and your family is part of life. It’s often easier just to do it yourself, but that doesn’t benefit anyone. It’s harder at first, but in the long run, it pays off!
Many parents also struggle with the idea of “making children work.” However, chores are a chance for kids to learn valuable skills. They really do help with physical coordination, mental planning, multitasking, and responsibility. Sending them out into an adult world with absolutely no skills and no sense of duty isn’t healthy for them or beneficial. You’re not punishing or using your child as labor. You’re teaching them to play their part and give their best to the whole to keep the community working at max efficiency. They have a role to play in the home and in the community at large, and it’s never too early to learn!
That’s it, guys! There’s your ultimate list of age-appropriate chores. Grab a few of these, and start a chore chart for your crew! Running a household is difficult. It takes a lot of work, and everybody has to play their part for it to run with ease. Get the kiddos on board early. Create good habits, and every chance you get, make it fun!
For more ideas on getting your kids to cooperate with chores, check out “11 Ways to Make Chores Fun!”
As we’ve discussed, daily tasks are a great way to teach life skills. Take a look at “24 Life Skills to Teach Kids (And Fun Ways to Teach Them!)”
Frequently Asked Questions
Teenagers should have chores if for no other reason than to learn life skills. At 18, they’ll soon be on their own, and the skills they learn by caring for the home and family will come in handy!