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Father with daughter and son

How to assign age-appropriate chores to children

As parents, you have an endless list of tasks to do, from cleaning the bathrooms and preparing meals to taking out the garbage and unloading the dishwasher. What you may not realize, though, is that your children — even the little ones — can help you out.

Your kids can and should be counted on to help make sure the house is running smoothly and cleanly. It teaches them responsibility and it lightens your load, giving you more time to spend with your family.

Tips for parents

  • Don’t insist on perfection. No one is perfect, and it’s better to have a more relaxed approach to how well your kids do their chores. Otherwise, you might have a struggle on your hands. Or you might jump in and do it for them, which would undermine the whole point.
  • Don’t delay. You might think your child is too young, but your kids may be more capable than you think. Kids can do a lot of chores at an early age. For example, getting clothes to the laundry or cleaning up after dinner is an easy way to learn by doing.
  • Don’t be stingy with praise. Praise and encourage the child while the chore is in progress. You want to build positive momentum, especially with young kids. Don’t wait until the chore is done.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. If your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting chores off in the hope that someone else will do them.

Getting started

  • Create a list. First, check that everyone has an age-appropriate chore. List the chores, the child assigned to the task and the day of the week. A parent can mark if the job has been completed. Put the chart where everyone can see it and let everyone follow through on their own assignments.
  • Ease into chores for children. First, show your child how to do the chore step by step. Next, let your child help you do it. Then have your child do the chore as you supervise. Once your child has it mastered, he or she is ready to go solo.
  • Be specific with instructions. Be explicit by saying, “Put your clothes in the closet, books on the shelf, dishes in the kitchen, and toys in the toy box.”
  • Go easy with reminders and deadlines. You want the chore to get done without you micromanaging it. Try using the “when/then” technique. For example, say, “When the pets are fed, then you may have your dinner.”

In general, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can manage more. Here are some pointers on kids’ chores by age:

2-3 years old

  • Throw away diapers in a trash can
  • Pick up toys
  • Fold washcloths
  • Help set table

4-5 years old

  • All previous chores
  • Put away toys
  • Straighten books on a bookshelf
  • Put away clean silverware
  • Help clean bedroom
  • Sweep kitchen with small broom
  • Clean off table
  • Wipe down dirty walls
  • Fold towels

6-7 years old

  • All previous chores
  • Light cleaning of the bathroom
  • Unload dishwasher
  • Wash light loads of dishes
  • Take clothes out of the dryer
  • Put wet clothes from the washer into the dryer

8-9 years old

  • All previous chores
  • Dust
  • Wash dishes
  • Help with meal prep
  • Vacuum
  • Bring trash to curb on trash day
  • Take care of pets
  • Empty trash in house
  • Weed flowers/garden
  • Organize toy cabinets

10-12 years old

  • All previous chores
  • Mow the lawn
  • Wash basic laundry
  • Make easy meals
  • Mop floors
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Help watch younger siblings
  • Tidy the basement/garage
  • Clean out the car
  • Do a light clean of inside the refrigerator

13+ years old

  • All previous chores
  • Clean tub/shower
  • Make meals alone
  • Iron clothes