Age-Appropriate Chores for Kids: Getting Children to Help Around the House
Children benefit when they're expected to help around the house. This guide will help you assign age-appropriate chores to kids, whether they’re in preschool, elementary school, or high school.
Experts often recommend assigning chores to your children—it fosters responsibility, boosts self-esteem, and helps them feel like an important part of the family. Daily or weekly chores also teach children skills they'll use throughout their lives, such as setting priorities. The earlier kids learn to incorporate domestic duties into their everyday routine, the more likely they are to continue helping out when they hit their teen years.
But despite the benefits of chores, you can't ignore a modern-day reality: Farming out to-dos usually means redoing tasks the right way after your child has skipped off to school or to bed. And if you're stuck making the bed again anyway, what's the help in that?
The key is giving kids the right chores for their ages. "There's always a learning curve for kids, whether they're toddlers or teenagers," says Patricia Greenfield, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But the best way to encourage kids to pitch in—without making more work for yourself—is to make sure the jobs are age-appropriate." Check out these household tasks for kids of all ages.
Chores for Toddlers
The word "chore" hardly applies toddlers because they're so eager to spend time with you and love helping out, says Greenfield. Pick easy tasks that won't frustrate your toddler, and don't worry about ponying up allowance or other rewards as incentive. Just heap on the praise for a job well done.
Perhaps the best age-appropriate chore for toddlers is tidying up toys. Turn cleaning into teaching by asking your kid to gather all the orange blocks first, say, or to put their dolls to sleep on the shelf. Toddlers can also blot minor messes with paper towels, mop dust with a sock-covered hand, and place dirty laundry in the hamper.
- RELATED: 7 Great Chores for Toddlers
Chores for 4-Year-Olds
Even young children can help out around the house—and at this age, chores are a pride thing. "Kids love to show off their skills," says Greenfield. Work with this need to please by doling out more specific projects that require some independence. For example, your 4-year-old can put away their toys, sort clean socks from the laundry, and place napkins on the dinner table. Should you reward with an allowance? Up to you, but many experts suggest that it's best not to tie a pay-out to generally helping around the house at this age.
Chores for 5-Year-Olds
When selecting chores for young kids, keep in mind your child's age and physical and mental maturity. Also expect mistakes, says Robert Billingham, Ph.D., a human development specialist at Indiana University in Bloomington. It's part of the learning process. As kids grow older, they'll need less supervision and reminders. Age-appropriate chores for 5-year-olds include making the bed (pulling up the blanket and arranging the pillows), sorting recyclables, and putting clothes away in drawers.
Chores for 6-Year-Olds
By age 6, children should be able to accomplish all of the chores already listed in this article. Other age-appropriate chores include raking the leaves, sorting the mail, and setting the dinner table with non-breakable items. Also consider letting your 6-year-old water the plants; a pint-sized watering pot will ensure that they can flex their green thumbs without drowning your daisies.
Chores for 7-Year-Olds
Your grade-schooler's off on their own, gaining responsibility and independence during the school day, so don't be afraid to let them go solo on certain small-ish chores. In addition to easier assignments (like sorting mail and setting the table), 7-year-olds should be able to keep their room and bathroom tidy. They might also make their own easy breakfast, empty the dishwasher, and collect trash from wastebaskets.
Chores for 8-Year-Olds
Eight-year-olds can prepare after-school snacks, help Mom and Dad cook dinner, weed the garden, and take out the garbage. They can also feed pets and do a quick sweep of the kitchen floor. Let your child return condiments (salad dressing, ketchup) after meals or help you unload grocery bags after you get home from the supermarket.
Chores for 9-Year-Olds
Now's the time to break your child’s toss-everything-in-the-kitchen-sink habit. Have them rinse off their plate and place it (and accompanying silverware, etc.) in the dishwasher. What’s more, as your older kid becomes a reading pro, ask them to take charge of story time for younger siblings—a great alternative to TV. Finally, you can cut down on morning craziness by having your 9-year-old restock their own backpack at night by packing homework, permission slips, and other supplies.
Chores for Tweens (10-13 Years Old)
Ten-year-olds and up can do all of the above. In addition, they can fold clean laundry, vacuum, give the dog a bath, wash the car, help with yard work, wipe the counter, and clean the car. But keep in mind that while the extra help might be nice, an older kid may start whining, complaining, or "forgetting" about their chores. You may want to consider paying for their help around the house. Rather than tying the cash to specific chores, most experts agree that it's better to link payday to their overall contribution and responsibility so they won't expect a bonus every single time they pitch in.
Chores for Teens (Age 13+)
"Your teen is pretty much capable of doing any of the chores you do," says Marilee Sprenger, MEd, a professor at Aurora University in Illinois who studies brain development and memory. "The best way to motivate a child this age is to make them feel in control. Set up a chore system together, for example, or offer choices." You probably can't get away without giving out allowance at this point, but make sure your teen uses their moolah wisely.
Some age-appropriate chores for teens include decluttering rooms of the house, cooking easy dishes once or twice per month, washing their own clothes, running errands, cleaning the bathrooms, and fixing snacks for younger siblings.