Assigning chores for kids is an important part of raising them as good, responsible individuals, and will also ensure healthy relationships as adults.
When I was young, I used to get really irritated whenever my mother asked me to help her do the laundry. However, when I grew up and had to live on my own, I was grateful that she had – laundry was a breeze for me!
I’m sure you’ve also got a similar task that you dreaded doing but were grateful for later – that’s the power of training kids young, especially when it comes to chores!
Think childhood should be all about play and that kids shouldn’t be expected to help around the home? Well, if a child can handle a computer game with complex plots and intricate details, they can most certainly run the washing machine! What’s more, chores are an integral part of growing up, and they offer multiple benefits for kids.
Why are chores for kids important?
1. Teaches responsibility – When kids are assigned chores, they learn to be responsible for a certain aspect of the home, and to do that particular task to completion.
2. Instills self-confidence – A child who completes a chore that actually has value for the household feels an immense sense of self-confidence like they have really contributed something valuable.
3. Promotes gratitude – When they do chores, children realize that they are blessed to have a home, electricity and running water, and it also promotes a sense of wellbeing.
4. Improves grades – Studies show that chores for kids promote better academic scores, and the earlier they start, the more pronounced this improvement is.
5. Teaches life skills – By doing chores, kids learn valuable life skills that come in useful when they’re on their own and have to manage their homes by themselves.
6. Improves parent-child relationships – When kids do chores around the home, parents have more time to spend on enjoyable activities with kids, and on the whole, there are more opportunities for bonding.
Should chores be tied to pocket money?
This is a question that all parents have, and it’s a little tricky to give a straightforward answer. There are two sides of the coin, both for and against paying for chores.
In our opinion, chores should be more about responsibility and learning life skills, rather than money. Especially when they’re young, children should realize that since they’re a part of the family, they are expected to contribute their efforts too, just like everyone else.
What’s more, younger kids may not really find money to be a motivation, but it’s different with older kids! What you can do is to have a certain set of chores that your kids are expected to do regardless, and another set that is out of their usual tasks and for which they can get paid.
For instance, tasks like laundry and washing dishes may be part of the regular list; deep cleaning or intense garden work may be worth paying for. This way, kids also learn some valuable lessons about money. They realize that earning money requires hard work, and they’ll also learn to value their hard-earned money more! Also, they understand that if you work, you get paid; if you don’t, you have empty pockets!
How to start assigning chores for kids
Okay, so you’re convinced about the importance of chores for kids – now how do you go about it?
Here is a four-step method you can start when introducing a new chore in your child’s routine:
- Do the chore yourself, in front of your child, explaining how to do it.
- Ask your child to help you do the same task.
- Let your child do the chore on their own, while you watch and offer any guidance required.
- Let your child do it completely on their own.
Now, how long should a chore take? We know that kids can’t focus on tasks for too long, especially young children. Here is a quick guide to how much time a child can spend doing chores, based on their age:
- 2-4 years: 5 minutes a day
- 5-7 years: 10 minutes a day
- 8-11 years: 15 minutes a day, and a larger task that takes longer per week
- 12 years+: 30 minutes a day, and multiple tasks per week
Now this is just a general guideline, and not written in stone! Please remember that every child is different, and you should be deciding on chores for kids based on their physical and cognitive ability, maturity as well as personal interest.
To make things easier, we’ve rounded up a list of age-wise chores for kids, from which you can pick and choose as appropriate for your child. Please note that every time you move up in age, the chores from the younger age groups also apply, along with the new ones.
The Ultimate List of Age-wise Chores for Kids
Toddlers love to help out, and you’ll have noticed that they try to copy whatever you do. Of course, they are not of much real help at this age, but the aim of chores for kids this age is to encourage them to start following instructions and get into a habit of doing chores. Make sure the spaces around them are safe and child-proofed, and never leave them unattended.
- Pick up toys and put them in a box
- Get dressed and undressed independently
- Put dirty clothes in the laundry hamper
- Take clean clothes to room
- Make piles of books and magazines
- Put things back on a low shelf
- Wipe down surfaces on their level
- Dust with socks on their hands
- Put trash in a dustbin
- Take the cup and plate to the kitchen sink when done
- Fill pet animal’s food dish
Like toddlers, preschoolers love helping too, and they’ve got better coordination and mobility to be useful, although they still need to be supervised. They also love rewards and praise, so be sure to be generous with them!
- Put away toys and books
- Pick up after playing with toys or making art projects
- Fold small items like their own clothes
- Put clean clothes in cupboards
- Sort whites and colors in the laundry
- Transfer clothes to the washing machine
- Match pairs of socks
- Bring in the mail or newspaper
- Help to set and clear the table
- Help wipe up messes
- Help in the kitchen, like washing vegetables
- Put small items in a dishwasher
- Water plants
- Pull weeds from the yard or garden
- Help brush and bathe pets
By now, children may not be as enthusiastic about helping out as they were in their toddler stage! However, they still do feel accomplished, especially when entrusted with slightly more challenging tasks. Chores for kids this age should ideally be about introducing new skills and activities.
- Brush hair and teeth independently
- Set out clothes for the next day
- Fold and put away clean laundry
- Hang up towels in the bathroom
- Make the bed, with assistance
- Keep bedroom tidy – put away toys, clothes and books
- Sweep floors with a small brush or broom
- Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to sweep crumbs
- Help to set and clear the table
- Help make and pack lunch
- Start using simple appliances like toaster, with assistance
- Unload unbreakable items from the dishwasher
- Pick up garbage from the car
- Weed and rake leaves
- Watch over younger siblings for a short while an adult is home
8 to 9-year-olds are quite busy, with school and friends, and may need a little more motivation to help out. They’re also going to resist change, so be sure to discuss it with them before changing their chore routines. Chores for kids this age can include consequences for not completing their tasks on time, but be sure to communicate this in advance.
- Shower independently
- Handle homework on their own
- Vacuum using a regular vacuum cleaner
- Wipe bathroom mirrors and counters
- Carry and put away groceries
- Fix simple snacks like a sandwich or bowl of cereal
- Help with meal prep, like peeling vegetables
- Load the dishwasher
- Wash unbreakable items at the sink
- Wipe the table after meals
- Collect trash from indoor dustbins and transfer it outside
- Operate the washing machine
- Rake leaves
- Help wash the car
- Take the pet for a walk
Preteens are quite agile and can handle a variety of tools with ease. They also understand responsibility better, as well as the consequence of not following through on their chores. Chores for kids of this age group can also extend to helping out neighbors or friends.
- Change bed sheets and comforters
- Do a full load of laundry
- Mop floor
- Clean windows and mirrors
- Clean the bathroom fully, including the toilets
- Change light bulbs
- Take on more meal-prepping tasks
- Set and clear the table independently
- Empty and load the dishwasher
- Wash dishes, even breakables, in the sink
- Mow the lawn, with assistance
- Care for pets completely – feeding, walking, grooming, cleaning cages
13 Years and above
Teenagers are usually able to handle most of the tasks around the home, but the problem here is that they may not have enough time, what with increased commitments at school and socially. It is important to plan out exactly what they can do and when they can do it, so there is an understanding on both sides. Chores for kids at this stage is all about preparing them for adult life when they will have to live and manage on their own.
- Iron clothes
- Repair clothes such as sewing on buttons or fixing small tears
- Babysit younger siblings
- Vacuum and clean out the vacuum cleaner bag
- Help with home maintenance tasks like plumbing repairs or painting
- Clean the fridge, oven and other appliances
- Make simple meals
- Make grocery lists and shop accordingly
- Deep clean the bathroom or kitchen
- Wash the car independently
Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to Chores for Kids
1. Take it slow. We’re not talking about starting later, we’re talking about introducing a chore one at a time. A sudden barrage of tasks will just overwhelm your child and in the end, nothing will get done!
2. Be clear. Be as specific and clear as you can when giving instructions regarding a task. Chores for kids only get done when they know exactly what to do! If there are multiple steps, go over them one by one, so it is clear.
3. Use a chart. Many parents find that chore charts are a great way to get started on chores for kids aged 8 and under. This can be a simple one you make yourself or you can download one and print it out. The chart will feature all the tasks that need to be done, and you can use stickers to mark the completed ones.
4. Use a timer. If you find yourself constantly arguing with your child about the time needed to complete something, use a timer. That way, everyone will be clear about how long a task takes, and you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
5. Be prepared. If you want your child to succeed at their chores, it is important to ensure that you have all the tools and materials required to complete that task easily and fully. Using faulty tools will only discourage kids from trying further.
6. Stay consistent. Even if your child is a toddler who is assigned just a couple of tasks it is crucial to stay consistent and make sure she’s doing those every day. That’s the only way to ensure that chores for kids become a habit and not an occasional event.
7. Praise constantly. Children thrive on our praise and encouragement, and that also applies to chores for kids! Praise kids while they are doing the chore and also once it is complete. You can also think about offering small rewards for staying consistent over a week, like game time or a movie.
1. Delay starting. If you notice, our list of chores for kids starts at 1 year – yes, that young! Kids are never too old to start learning, and they learn best by doing. The later you start, the more difficult it will be to turn it into a habit and to get them into a routine.
2. Expect perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t make any sense to expect it from anyone, least of all children! Be prepared to accept mistakes and messes, and focus on the journey and be proud of how much they are learning every day.
3. Butt in. When you watch your little one mess up a simple task again and again, it can be very tempting to just jump in and do it yourself. Don’t! This is the worst thing you can do at this stage. Chores for kids are meant to foster independence, and you doing their task will just destroy their confidence.
4. Change schedules frequently. It is okay to change schedules that are not working and rearrange a few things here and there. However, constantly adding or removing chores from your child’s list can lead to confusion and can prevent them from mastering any one skill properly.
5. Make it stressful. You’re trying to get kids to do something – of course it’s going to be stressful! But you can keep the stress to a minimum by picking your battles. Don’t give them long lectures about responsibility or yell when you discover something isn’t done. Be calm and practical and see through previously agreed-upon consequences.
6. Bribe with things. Don’t be tempted to bribe your child with material things to get them to do something. Chores for kids shouldn’t be about presents, but about commitment and the real prize should be a feeling of accomplishment. You can, however, go with rewards for consistency.