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Chores for Every Age: A Guide to Growing Good Helpers

Keep it fun and age appropriate and every member of the family can help keep a clean house.

Chores—and when or whether young children should do them—are a hot topic these days. Some people insist that chores are critical to children becoming responsible adults and should thus be started early. Some insist the housework can wait until kids are little older. No matter your family’s feelings on the topic, children as young as two or three can learn the importance of being household helpers (whether or not you call the work “chores”).

There is real value in encouraging kids to pitch in, but understandably, not all of us love the way young children “help.” Sure, it’s hard to watch a young child to spill water all over the floor when “giving the doggy a drink,” but every little mishap is also a chance for young children to learn to do it themselves and build their skills.

So while it may be faster to do all the household tasks yourself, giving your child age-appropriate chores can help them learn to solve problems on their own and contribute to their family. Besides teaching responsibility, chores provide children a sense of connection to other family members, which helps them become empathetic and generous. For younger toddlers, chores like wiping down tables or carrying dishes to the sink can even help develop hand-eye coordination (and what’s not to love about that?).

Guidelines for Assigning Chores to Children

So how do you get kids in on the chores action (while also getting them to love it)? The key is in the approach. This is a learning opportunity after all, and it’s important to take time to explain. To introduce a new chore to your child, show your child how to do the chore step by step the first few tries. Second, let your child help you do the chore, even if they do it imperfectly. Then, have your child show you that they can do the chore themselves.

Don’t forget to give a lot of encouragement for your child’s efforts every step of the way, and most important, keep it fun. Take an hour on the weekend, turn up some energetic family-friendly tunes, and turn tackling household chores into a dance party!

It’s also important to have the right chores for children: Make them too difficult and he may get frustrated. 

Photo by evgenyatamanenko / iStock
Photo by evgenyatamanenko / iStock

Chores for Children Ages 2 to 3

They may just be toddling around, but kids in this age range are more than capable of doing simple, one-step chores. Have your toddler try piling up a stack of books or DVDs or putting away their own toys after bringing them all out. On laundry day, send your little scout around the house in search of clothes to put in the hamper. Is your tot starting to pour milk into their own cereal bowl or drinking glass? If there’s a spill, have your child wipe it up. 

Chores for Children Ages 4 to 5

By the preschool and kindergarten years, kids have increased their muscle control and are capable of focusing on a task longer—so it’s time to up the ante when it comes to chores! Setting and clearing the dinner table, unloading the dishwasher, and even washing dishes at the sink are all chores that kids in this age range are ready to tackle. If you have a garden, you can also introduce them to the basics of gardening with tasks like watering plants or pulling weeds.

Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Photo by David Hume Kennerly

Chores for Children Ages 6 to 7

Coordination, spatial awareness, and a growing understanding of their role in your family makes this a great age range to start giving children more advanced chores. Sweeping up and raking leaves outside are great ways to help kids continue building their coordination and muscle control. Giving them the responsibility of keeping their rooms clean throughout each week and asking them to help you make lunch or dinner can fill them with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Chores for Children Ages 8 to 9

Kids in this age group have, for the most part, mastered both gross- and fine-motor skills, and they’re also usually looking for added freedom to tackle new tasks. Enter the chores list! Vacuuming and mopping the floors, loading the dishwasher, and sorting and putting away laundry are all great options. You can also get kids this age more involved in the cooking process by showing them how to peel fruits or vegetables, or by having them help you cook something simple (like deviled eggs, for instance)—just make sure you’re the one working with the hot burners or pots.

Chores for Children Ages 10 and Older

We’ve reached the home stretch now! With the ability to remember and work through multiple-step instructions, along with a growing sense of independence and responsibility, children 10 and up are ready and empowered to tackle complex chores. Doing the laundry themselves, cleaning the bathroom or kitchen (after a discussion on safety around household cleaning chemicals), cooking meals with your assistance, washing windows, and changing their own bed sheets are all fair game.  

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