Are your children ready for chores?

Doing chores is a tradition in many families. Chores help kids learn responsibility, and sharing chores gives you help around the house.

Doing chores is a tradition in many families. Chores help kids learn responsibility, and sharing chores gives you help around the house.

Not sure your kids will go for it? Take heart! There are ways to make chores a little bit (well), less of a chore for everyone.

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.

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 stage.

Don’t be stingy with praise. Start praising right away! Don’t wait until the chore is done. Praise and encourage the child while the chore is in progress. You want to build positive momentum, especially with young kids.

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 for them.

Make a chore chart. First, check that everyone has an age appropriate chore. Then divide the chart into three columns. One is for the list of chores and whose chore it is; another is for deadlines; the last one is for making a check mark when the chore is done. Put the chart where everyone can see it and let everyone follow through on their own assignments.

You might actually find it easiest to have two charts: One for daily household chores and one for weekly household chores.

Here are two more tips:

  • Be specific with instructions. “Clean your room” is vague and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Instead, be explicit by saying, “put your clothes in the closet, books on the shelf, dishes in the kitchen and toys in the toy box.’”
  • Ease into chores for children. First, show them 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, they’re ready to go solo.
  • Go easy with reminders and deadlines. You want the chore to get done without you micromanaging it. Use the “when/then” technique. For example, say, “when the pets are fed, then you may have your dinner.”

Should your child get an allowance for chores? Usually not, says most parenting experts. Chores are partly about responsibility and partly about learning household tasks. They’re not focused on earning money. Yes, kids need to learn how to handle money, but not by doing chores they’re supposed to do anyway.

Age appropriate chores for children

Your child may be able to do more than you think.

In general, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can manage more. Chores by age:

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet’s food dish
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Put away own laundry
  • Sew buttons
  • Make their own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meals, with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Clean oven
  • Change their bed sheets

Need more information regarding parenting? Check out Michigan State University Extension’s Nurturing Parenting Program.

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