As parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children the value of work – this makes them more responsible as they grow up. Experts in child psychology recommend an early start with children as young as 2 years but they advise that you remain mindful of the kind of tasks that you dish out to them since some tasks are best for particular ages. That’s where this post comes in handy! You will find a list of chore ideas by age to include in your kid’s chore chart!
A great place to start is with household cleaning tasks! Personally, I carried out my own research to find out different recommended age-appropriate cleaning chores for kids at home and then refined them to suit my children, so I will share with you what I know to be tried and tested. But first, there are a few things to keep in mind before you give your kids chores.
Things to keep in mind when choosing chores for kids
- Chores are not a job so do not try to make your kid earn their keep
- Supervise, do not micromanage
- Kids respond more to praise and encouragement than criticism and scolding
- Chores can be fun if the kids get to choose what they do
- Consistency is important
Age and Chores
It is a fact that a kid’s ability to perform different tasks is going to be affected based on their age. Their brain is developing, muscles are growing and their ability to reason is steadily improving so the tasks they can perform will change gradually but steadily. With my kids, I was surprised by how fast they made progress in doing their chores and sometimes the younger ones would be motivated to try other tasks that they see the older ones performing.
As mothers, our instinct may be to discourage the younger kids from doing certain tasks because we think they are too young or they may make a mess of things, but child psychologists say if the child is not putting their safety or that of other people at risk, we should give them the chance! We simply need to show them the right way to do it so that they do not make a mess and applaud them for the initiative they are taking. This will help in getting them ready for another level of chores.
I remember, one of my sons at the age of 3. He really wanted to help with vacuuming, but the vacuum was too big for him… so we hunted for a smaller and lighter handheld vacuum and we would let him vacuum crumbs off the floor and even if he wouldn’t do a perfect job, he was learning gradually. Now he is an expert at only 9 years old. He is able to vacuum without any supervision and he enjoys it.
Okay so you probably are more interested in knowing which chores are best for kids of particular ages so let us cut straight to that for now.
Appropriate chores by age group
I think I should first point out that not all kids are the same and so some may be able to perform tasks a level higher than recommended while others may linger on a lower level. This is therefore simply a guide that can be adjusted to suit individual kids. For example, kids today seem to learn how to operate a smartphone better than their parents as early as 4 years and such a kid can probably help with setting the washing machine or dishwasher to a particular setting.
At this age, a lot of supervision and encouragement will be needed so many of the chores will involve 1 or 2 steps and do not expect perfection. Here are some of the chores they can perform.
- Arranging the living room after playtime (putting away toys)
- Picking up clothes off the floor and putting them in the laundry basket
- Wiping spills on the table or floor
- Taking shoes to the shoe stand
- If you have a pet, they can help fill the bowl
At this level, the child is more stable on their feet and has a bit more concentration so the chores they performed when they were 3 can be done better and then the following can also be added.
- Getting dressed on their own
- Emptying the wastebaskets in different rooms in the house
- Making their own beds with minimal supervision
- Setting the table for dinner
- Passing on messages say from mum in the kitchen to their siblings in their room
- Answering the phone
- Getting the mail
- Simple vacuuming tasks with a handheld vacuum
- Watering potted plants
- Helping to wash the dog, if you have one
- Drying forks and spoons and anything else that will not break
- Replacing batteries in the remote
At this age kids enjoy technology and like running about. You can trust them to be more careful and break fewer things. They are also aware of their height limitations but know that if they climbed on a chair, they can reach higher. The chores they can perform include.
- Tidy and clean their rooms better than they did a year ago
- Help rake leaves in the compound as well as water the plants using a hose (they tend to get carried away and begin playing as they do this so supervise them)
- Wash their dishes at the sink
- Sort the laundry according to colors
- Change the roll of toilet paper
- Pick out their own outfits to wear
- Load the dishwasher and empty it
At this age they have become more responsible and like to have a certain degree of freedom. Chores may not seem so appealing to them since they enjoy playing a lot more. Encouragement may be needed and the use of a chore chat is highly recommended to make them have a sense of duty. The chores they can perform include.
- Vacuuming the house
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Doing the dishes
- Helping to fix dinner and their own snacks
- Looking out for younger siblings
- Folding laundry and putting them in the drawers
- Help washing the car
- Helping fix minor problems like oiling squeaky door or tightening screws
- Fetching grocery from the car and putting them in the right place
- Cleaning the fridge
They are no longer kids as adolescence sets in, but they still need to do chores. By now you may not need to supervise them much. At this age however it may be a lot harder to get them to do their chores and you may need some incentives. It is not a bad idea to give them a bit of money for each time they take the initiative and do a bit more around the house. They are able to do just about anything at this stage and you may need to motivate them to do that. I, however, do not consider taking care of their room as taking the initiative. My kids know that this is something they have to do for their own good, but if they go the extra mile to do more than is indicated on the chore chart, I show appreciation with a bit more pocket money.
14 and above
These are able to do anything and you simply need to get them to follow the chart. It is also advisable to let them get to know the difference between chores and employment so encourage them to find a part-time job outside the home that will help them earn extra money to take care of themselves or to save.
How to get kids to do chores
Now you have a list of age-appropriate cleaning chores for the kids but you may end up disappointed that the kids do not seem to be embracing this as easily as you had expected. Well here are a few tips you could employ.
Start while they are young:
I touched on this earlier so this is just adding more to it. A child is never too young to be introduced to chores, from the time they start mimicking your actions, you should go ahead to encourage them to help out. If you are sorting laundry, allow the child to sit in the pile and pick up whatever they please and then you can show them where to put it. This will get it into their head that chores are something everyone does in the home.
Do not rush it:
There is a tendency for some parents to want their children to start doing chores as quickly as possible, this is not the right approach, you need to ease into the chore. You will have to show them first how to do it, and then you will slowly encourage them to help you do the chore before you can make it their responsibility. Even after you have shown them, your input may still be necessary, supervision and instruction will help them but like I said before, you do not want to micromanage so learn to strike the balance.
I found it a bit hard to consistently engage my kids, especially when they were still very young in doing chores, this for a time made them believe that chores do not have to be done regularly. It is not until I started using a chart, that consistency set in. A chart helps to show that every day, there is something expected of each one of us in the home which means we need to start the day with that in mind.
Let them choose what they want to do:
This can be a bit of a challenge since you may have an overenthusiastic child who may want to do the chores that they are not ready to do or one who would rather do the least amount of chores. All the same, it is best if the child enjoys the chores they are doing because there is a higher chance that they will perform them more consistently. In doing this, you will need to follow this next tip.
Do not seek perfection:
You may have an overenthusiastic child who would like to do something they may not be ready for. You may have a 3-year-old who may want to do the vacuuming. Just like I did with my son, find a way of letting them do it, but do not expect them to do it like you and do not criticise them for not doing a perfect job. Thank them for the effort and then tie up the loose ends they may have left. With encouragement and instruction, they will get better at what they are doing and it will not be a hard thing for them to do.
Have a time frame for completion:
While you do not want to be a micromanager, it is still important that the tasks are completed within a particular time, for example the pet cannot go without food for too long so it is important that whoever is supposed to feed the pet knows that by a certain time, the pet should have eaten, you can leave it up to them to decide when exactly, but there should be a time frame. This will also teach the kid how to manage their time and be more responsible.
Why you should let kids do chores
Some parents may think it may be an unnecessary burden on their kids to have them do chores or they just find it much easier to do it themselves since they would do it right. Child psychologists, however, point out that chores are important for child development. They teach a child to be more responsible and they can acquire skills that will help them in future.
Having your kids also participate in the cleaning will help you as a parent because it will mean less work for you around the home. If everyone is putting in their fair share of work, the house will be cleaner faster and more often.
What chores do your kids do around the home?