Do you want your kids to start helping around the house? Here are some ideas for age-appropriate chores for kids from toddlers to teens!
I see chores as an opportunity for kids to contribute to daily family life.
As a single mom, I definitely have my 2 little girls help out around the house every day (out of necessity!).
Even though my kids are little, both girls surprise me at what they are capable of and how willing they are to help out (especially when I tell them that I won’t have time to play with them unless ‘XXX chore’ gets done first!).
Why should kids have chores?
Children need to learn responsibility, independence, and that daily chores are a big part of family life. Assigning age-appropriate chores is a great way to foster this.
When kids do chores they learn:
- how to work together and contribute to family life
- that they are needed
- to build a strong work ethic
- about money
- the skills of everyday living
- to have a sense of pride in their work
- how to do basic household tasks
I’ve met some families who don’t require their kids to do anything at all!
Don’t do this! Don’t do everything for your kids or they may very well grow up to be entitled and spoiled.
How to get kids started on doing chores
First, don’t assume your kids know how to do something even if they have seen you do it. You should demonstrate first and then let them do it by themselves with you watching (helping) them.
Any job that they can do alone and safely can be their chore.
A few tips to make this easier (on you!):
- Be very specific (especially when speaking to really little kids).
Instead of “Clean up the playroom”
say “Please arrange the games neatly on the shelf, put the stuffed animals in the toy box, and all the crayons in the crayon box”
Having specific instructions, helps your kids understand exactly what you want (and prevents you from getting frustrated later!)
Also, don’t overwhelm them with 10 different instructions all at once (unless they can read off of a list). Give 1-2 at a time.
- Don’t expect perfection
Kids are not going to do everything perfectly. I used to want all the toys sorted into their appropriate bins, but I learned to be happy if my girls put the toys away in a bin and the floor was clean.
- Emphasize natural consequences
I often tell my girls, “If you don’t clean those toys up, I won’t have time to play with you (read to you, etc) because I will have to take time to clean them up first.”
Or “If you want to have a playdate, you need to clean that up first.”
Since my kids are so little, I often help them along (or show them that I am also working – doing dishes or sweeping – while they are cleaning the toys.)
- Make it enjoyable
Put on some fun music or set a timer and see how many toys they can clean up in 5 minutes. Make it a contest and see if they can finish their chore before you finish yours (and let them win!)
Make sure to compliment them and let them understand how much you appreciate their help and how amazed you are at their ability and persistence, etc, etc. Most kids honestly love to help and they love knowing that you appreciate them. (Who doesn’t?)
- Have a routine
Having a schedule or routine for chores is helpful. Especially for kids who really need structure or are forgetful. Emphasize that everyone helps out around the home because you’re a family.
Related: 6 tips for organizing kids’ toys
When to start giving chores?
Start young! Toddlers love to help! They feel like big kids.
You need to know your own kids and their abilities, but, in my opinion, you can give any chores to your kids that they can do safely and by themselves (unless you want to supervise).
A few caveats:
- Remember to show them how you want it done (or how it should be done) first!
- Don’t expect them to do it absolutely perfectly.
- Take into consideration their favorite chores (yes, we all have that one chore we hate, but making sure that your kids can do at least one chore they enjoy will be helpful for overall morale.)
Age-Appropriate Chores for Kids:
Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, just some simple, basic ideas to get you started. If your kid is capable of doing a particular chore “earlier” than recommended, go for it!
Feel free to add any chores as you go along.
Here are some examples of age-appropriate chores for kids:
- put toys away
- help you cook (stir ingredients in a bowl, pour a cup of liquid in)
- put laundry in the hamper
- help put clothes in washer or dryer
- wipe up spills
Preschool chores (chores above plus):
- sort clothes (match socks, sort items)
- water plants
- help rake leaves
- bring in bags (items) from the car
- get dressed (although my 2.5-year-old could do this mostly)
- vacuum or Swiffer
- make their bed/tidy bedroom
- get their own snacks
- feed pets
Young elementary-age chores (chores above plus):
- help empty dishwasher
- pack lunches
- fold and put away laundry
- put away dishes and clear table
Older elementary (chores above plus):
- put dishes in the dishwasher
- help with making meals (cutting, making salads, putting food in bowls and on the table)
- make their own lunches
- can start doing their own laundry (learn to use washer and dryer)
- make a simple breakfast
- write “thank you” notes
- take out trash
Pre-teens (chores above plus):
- clean the bathroom
- bring the mail inside
- make dinner
- wipe counters
- vacuum the house
Teens (chores above plus):
- wash and detail car
- wash windows
- meal plan and make a full meal on a regular basis
- help grocery shop
- change lightbulbs
- iron clothes
- clean the garage, pantry, fridge, freezer
- babysit siblings
- mow the yard
Remember, if your kid can do it, you can add it to the list!
Should you pay kids to do chores?
Many families wonder if they should pay kids to do chores.
Children should learn about personal responsibility and family responsibility.
Personal responsibility: There are things they need to do to take care of themselves and their own belongings: for example, put their dirty laundry in the bin, make their own bed, clean up after themselves.
Family responsibility: There are important tasks that we need to do to help out our family: for example, feeding pets, setting the table, putting dishes in the sink.
In addition to regular personal and family chores, you can always add other chores that you will pay for.
These can be:
- “extra” chores beyond the normal family chores (things like, painting the garage, repairing an item, organizing a room, etc.)
- 1 or 2 family responsibility chores that you agree to pay them for (things like mowing the lawn, washing the car, weeding the garden)
Getting paid for “working” will help teach your kids responsibility and will contribute to them having a strong work ethic.
Just remember, they should also do chores that they don’t get paid for simply because they are part of a family.
A great book for additional reading is Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.
I always emphasize to my girls that “We are a family and we help each other out!” (I’ve said that many times!) I make sure to help them and we talk about how they need to help me. Rather than making chores seem like a punishment or a dreadful thing, statements like this frame it in the context of helping each other out because we love each other. What are your thoughts about kids having chores? What other age-appropriate chores would you add? Which ones do your kids enjoy?