Need a helping hand around the house? Tired of running around morning to night doing this, that, and everything in between? If you have children, they could be your biggest asset to solving this problem. That is why we've put together the ultimate guide to kid's chores by age.
The biggest problem that most parents face today is how to make their children more productive at home. This does not mean you expect your children to cook and clean from the time they can walk and talk. But, it does suggest that every member of a household should and needs to do their share. That’s what a family is all about.
Managing chores and everyday tasks at home can become even more challenging for families where both parents work. In such a family dynamic, it is even more important to train your children to be more helpful and more participative around the house. Household chores can be performed by children who are as young as 2 years old. Yes, that’s right!
Moreover, child psychologists suggest that assigning tasks to our children from an early age supports their development and makes it easier for them to take responsibility when they grow older.
So for parents who feel guilty about making their children do simple house chores, it’s time you stopped beating yourself up about it. These little assignments you give to your children at an early age will help them understand the concept of doing their share and being responsible.
For example, in school, teachers always make children clean up after themselves. This is true even for children in Kindergarten.
Even after Circle Time, where children read or sing poems or talk about their day, the teacher expects each child to help. They must place the book back where it belongs, and pick up any papers, pencils, or crayons that may have been left on the carpet.
Similarly, even children in Kindergarten are made to put their bags or back packs in the cubby, manage their indoor/outdoor shoes, and put their jackets/scarves/gloves in the right place. If your children can do what the teacher asks them to do, why do you think they would not be able to follow your instructions?
We tend to believe that parents have been sent to earth to make things easy for their children. That is not true.
It is absolutely true that parents are responsible for their children and are obligated to fulfill their needs. These needs could be food, clothing, shelter, and education. It is also true your children are not royalty and should not be treated as such.
That is why before you even think about which chores would be appropriate for which child, you first have to train your mind to understand you are not a bad parent if you ask your child to participate in household chores.
Before we delve into the specific chores by age, you might want to delegate to your kids, let us see what are the dos and don’ts that the whole chore-assignment process involves.
Before you start scolding your child that whatever he or she has done is not right, remember nobody is perfect. There’s a learning curve with everything. Relax and keep going.
Furthermore, by adopting a less stiff approach to how well your kids do their chores, you will help them build their self-confidence. This will enable them to like what they are doing and make the learning process a lot easier.
After all, we’ve all learned everything we know by trial and error. Haven’t we?
The important thing is to make your child like what he or she is doing. Make them feel their presence is really making a difference and is taking the burden off your shoulders. Perfection will be achieved in time.
If you are one of those parents who think their children are too young to start sharing chores with you, you’re wrong. Even a two-year-old can lend a hand, experts say. According to Roger W. McIntyre, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, children are more capable than they may seem from a very early age.
For example, taking the dishes to the kitchen and putting them in the sink after dinner is an easy task even a 3-year-old can do. “We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse,” McIntyre says.
In short, learning by doing is the name of the game. Give them a chance to prove themselves, and you’ll be surprised.
Did your kids get the job done right? Praise them straight away! Children need reassurance, so they have the motivation to continue to do their chores.
If it’s something they’re doing for the first time, they even need praise and encouragement while the chore is in progress. After all, you wish to create a positive atmosphere for your kids.
Above all, you want to bond with your children while getting things done. As adults, we value feedback. Whether it’s from our parents, our spouse, or our employers. Children are no different.
In fact, children value feedback even more. They can alter and improve their behavior accordingly. The positive feedback and training you provide to your child at this stage can play a very important role in how they perceive feedback when they grow up.
Elizabeth Pantley, parent educator and author of the international best-seller The No-Cry Sleep Solution, says that if kids are not usually expected to follow their chores through, there’s a great likelihood they start postponing them in the hope that someone else will eventually do them in their stead. This is one mistake you should avoid.
If your children get the impression you’ve assigned them a task simply for the sake of giving them a chore and that you don’t expect them actually to complete the chore, they will become complacent. They will not take the chore seriously. You want your child to understand they are expected to follow through and they need to be consistent when performing these chores.
Parenting expert Jim Fay says that creating a list of every job that keeps the household and the family going helps not only keep track of who does what but, above all, gets the kids involved.
Detail is key when assigning tasks to your kids. For instance, “Clean your room” is vague, according to Pantley. But, “Clear the floor, put your toys in their boxes, books on the shelf, and your clothes in the closet” is a detailed and clear requirement that is more likely to be followed through.
You don’t want to give your children any reason to find an excuse for not completing a chore. For example, “You never told me I had to put the books on the bookshelf.” You may think your instructions are self-explanatory.
You need to understand that your children are still young, and they need specific guidelines. Once they become tuned in to how things work at home, your instruction-giving task should become easier.
There are some parents who find it difficult to make their children do things. And, there are some parents who expect their children to do everything in record time and in perfect rhythm. Both these extreme positions are wrong.
If your long-term goal is to make your children learn and to inculcate in them the concept of responsibility, you need to take things slow. First and foremost, you need to tell them what specific chore you want them to do. Then, show your children how the chore is done. Go step by step.
Next, let your little one(s) do it under your supervision. Finally, when they master it, they’re good to work on their own. Follow this simple procedure, and both you and your children will benefit in the long run.
The above point does not mean you become over-obsessive and too interfering. The idea is that your kids do their chores without you micromanaging them. It is true that initially you may be required to be more actively involved. But with time, you should take a step back and let them do it on their own.
Also, there is no harm in giving them a reward for a job well-done. However, this does not mean you give the impression that every time they finish a chore, they will get something in return. You need to do this smoothly.
You could utilize the ‘when/then’ technique in this scenario. You can try something like, “When you’ve taken out the garbage, then you can eat your favorite cake.”
This is a good reward. But, it does not indicate they will get a cake every time they take out the garbage. As a parent, you need to do these things smartly.
Now, that we’ve cleared the more difficult part of chore-assignment, let us tap into the specifics of our ultimate guide to kids’ chores by age.
According to Elizabeth Pantley, preschoolers are able to handle simple, one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can tackle more. It is important to keep the age factor in mind when you are in the process of determining which chore to assign to which child.
Here are a few ideas, broken down into chores by age group:
At the age of 4-5, a child can handle more complicated chores. This is especially true if you’ve already been assigning them chores when they were younger. It will then be an easy transition for them.
Here is a list of chores for four-year-olds and chores for five-year-olds. Feel free to ask your child to do any of the above combined with any and all of the following:
If your child is 6 or 7, feel free to raise the stakes and add any of the following chores to the ones above to complete your list:
Chores become more sophisticated as your kids grow older. Prepare to be amazed, as from the age of 8 you can expand your children’s chore list. Here are some ideas for chores for 8-year-olds and chores for 9-year-olds:
Now you can really say you have a helping hand around the house. By now, your child should be able to:
By now your children will be able to do the ideal chores for 12-year-olds and chores for teenagers.
Having covered all the household chores your kids could help out with, we have included chores where kids can earn money. Raising responsible kids in our tumultuous times is not easy. Teaching them to be responsible with money is essential to guiding them toward ideally lifelong financial stability.
Apart from sharing the workload of housework, chores are a way of teaching your children they need to work hard and be thrifty in order to get the things they need.
To teach your kids about money, make sure the chores you’re about to give them are age-appropriate. Additionally, don’t overload your child with chores. Gradually introduce new tasks and don’t be stingy with rewards when these are completed successfully. However, knowing what to ask of a child will vary on a family-by-family basis.
Also, you don’t want to develop a belief that everything is about money. But as a reward mechanism, it is a good training ground for them to understand if they do something good, they will get a reward for that performance.
It’s debatable whether or not having an allowance gives kids a better understanding of how money works. Doing household chores for money is a personal decision and a family-dependant variable.
Parents often struggle with which strategy to choose. Yet, one thing is clear. A set allowance teaches kids to plan their expenses and live within a fixed budget.
Rewarding chores individually may be more appealing to your children and likely motivate them more. That said, it is up to you to establish what works best for your child.
As women tend to return to work immediately after their child turns 2 or sometimes even sooner, kids are nowadays exposed to the pressures of our consumerist society. So, they pick up quite early in life how the money machine works by seeing other kids use gadgets or ‘smart’ toys.
This is where work in the form of chores comes into play. You can help your children understand that in order to get a gadget or a toy like the one that little Johnny from school has, they need to:
Between 5 and 10 years of age, children grow a lot and they start to realize the importance of money. But to get it, one needs to work. Chores are the best way to teach your children about work. Now is the best time in your child’s development to introduce monetary rewards for chores.
Don’t feel bad if you ask your child to help tidy up the basement and you pay them for it. It’s a good strategy. It’s also one that is likely to train them to know that eventually, they will have to put in some effort to be rewarded.
At this stage, blooming-into-teenage kids can really do a lot not only to help you around the house but to earn money. Apart from mowing the lawn, cleaning the car inside and out, etc., your kids are ready to tap into more sophisticated chores like:
Without claiming to be an exhaustive guide to parenting, this ultimate guide to kids’ chores by age addresses a few of the most pressing concerns of children of all ages. Now that you have it, make the most of it by assigning tasks to your kids. Teach them to be more responsible and organized. This will help them make their life and this world a little better.
From house chores to summer chores, from chores for toddlers to chores for kids to make money, this is an useful list. Every family is different. Parents can mix and blend these ideas according to their family dynamic. However, the point is that children need to understand the concept of responsibility. They need to know that if they want to make a difference in this world and in the lives of their loved ones, they will have to play a more active and a more productive role.
When we train our children to be responsible, they, in turn, will be able to demonstrate the same behavior in school, college, and in their personal relationships. Children who are taught the concept of work and responsibility at an early age tend to be more successful academically and professionally.
Household chores are part of everyone’s lives. The concept that only adults are responsible for everything and that children somehow get a free pass is wrong and can negatively affect your child’s performance at a later stage. That is why it is important to start young and to ensure that you assign your children age-appropriate chores from the very beginning so that they know what life entails and what they are expected to do.
Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.