Chores for Kids of All Ages

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The more kids you have, the more there is to clean. Fortunately, more kids also means more help around the house. Don’t allow yourself to get trapped by the assumption that “if you want it done right,  do it yourself”. Teaching your kids to clean up after themselves and to contribute to household chores will give them a sense of personal responsibility that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Here are a few household tasks that children of different ages can do to help their overworked parents.

AGES 2-3

The younger you start encouraging your kids to clean up, the better. You can actually start as early as age two. Clinical psychologist Tricia Casey Byard, Psy.D, says that “studies have shown that the second year of life is when…helping during household tasks, verbalizations such as "I can do it" or "help you", indicate that young children are aware of themselves as actors who are working with others to a common end.”

If you make cleanup time a regular part of your daily activities, and if you teach by example, they will do as you do and feel a part of something.

CHORES

  • Put toys away after playtime.
  • Put dirty laundry in the hamper.
  • Help clear dishes from the table, provided those dishes are made out of plastic.

FUN TIP

Teach your kids a cleanup song – many pre-schools use this tool to rally the kids at cleanup time. If they are in preschool, have them sing their school cleanup song at home.  If not, make one up. Your kids will love it and they will get good training for future appearances on American Idol.

Next page: 4-6 year olds

AGES 4-6

In this age group, you can branch out from chores related to the child’s personal mess to general household tasks. You will still want to participate though, because as Byard says, kids this age still want to imitate and cooperate with others.

“Including your child in age-appropriate household chores will not only teach them everyday living skills, but also help your child to develop a sense of concentration, cooperation, self-discipline and self-awareness. Young children enjoy imitating other people and joining in on tasks, and they are pleased when they get recognition and praise for helping,” says Byard.

CHORES

  • Dust surfaces.
  • Help feed a pet (with close supervision, since an errant hand close to the food bowl is at risk of getting bitten).
  • Make the bed.
  • Help set the dinner table.
  • Carry in and put away some groceries - this has an added benefit of teaching kids how to find foods in the kitchen. When you feel that they are ready, they can be encouraged to prepare their own cold breakfasts or snacks at this age as well.

FUN TIP

Rewards can be very motivating for kids of this age. Make a chart that can be filled in with stickers for each accomplished chore, with a prize for every ten stickers, for example.

Or have a race to see who can clean up the fastest – you’ll be amazed at how quickly the house shapes up.

Next page: 7-9 year olds

AGES 7-9

Ongoing personal chores should be established at this age. This teaches consistency and responsibility and also allows kids a little freedom to choose when to do the chores (within a certain time frame, of course!). Every child is different, so allow kids to choose their own chores from a list.

CHORES

  • Wash the car.
  • Water and weed the garden.
  • Water interior plants.
  • Load the dishwasher.
  • Be responsible for a pet (if you feel they are mature enough).
  • Fix a simple breakfast.
  • Clear the dinner table.
  • Help younger siblings get ready for school.
  • Sweep or mop the floor.

FUN TIP

This is a great age to introduce allowance and start teaching kids about financial responsibility. Make it fun by encouraging them to save their allowance for things they really want, but that you have not committed to purchasing for them. Note that there is some controversy about allowance, so you should choose which option works best for your family.

Talk to your kids about budgeting, and if they overspend, don’t automatically bail them out. Let them experience what running out of money and going without luxury items is like. You will have already provided them with the necessities, so it will be a good lesson for them that isn't too painful.

Kids can also start earning rewards for elective chores at this age. For every elective chore, offer some video game time or something else they enjoy. Some good elective chores are seasonal ones like shoveling snow, clearing the gutters, raking leaves, and spring cleaning.

Next page: 10-13 year olds

AGES 10-13

You will likely see less enthusiasm for chores within this age group. Be sure to let them know that chores are still required of them even though they are getting older and that there are consequences for not completing them. Nobody likes to hand out punishment, but every parent should know how to make their kids know that they are serious.

CHORES

  • Change bed linens.
  • Prepare simple meals with assistance.
  • Clean the bathroom.
  • Clean their bedroom.
  • Wash dishes.
  • Babysit younger siblings. Enterprising kids as young as 9 can usually take a babysitting course, so sitting for a sibling will give them great experience. Start by being at home with them, putting them "in charge" and go from there. Their babysitting fee should be separate from their standard allowance.

FUN TIP

Your kids will be mature enough at this age to start a “gift fund” to buy presents for others throughout the year. Do this by working out a simple budget based on the friends and family members they will be buying for and then bump up their allowance to accommodate that amount. The money could be put in the bank or a piggy bank at home and should only used for buying gifts. This will be a fun way for them to feel independent while they learn about saving and budgeting, and will teach them the valuable lesson that ‘tis better to give than to receive.

Next page: 14-16 year olds

AGES 14-16

Allowance should be increased at this age. Also, in most states 14-year olds can legally get a job, but keep in mind that there are some restrictions to the type of work kids can do at this age. If this interests them (and you), they should still have chores at home, but be realistic about what their schedule can accommodate. Sometimes a little less work getting done at home is a small price to pay for your child to learn the value of a dollar.

CHORES

  • Wash windows.
  • Clean refrigerator and other kitchen appliances.
  • Cook simple meals.
  • Wash and fold laundry.

FUN TIP

Allow kids to earn something special. If you think they are ready for a slumber party and it’s not a special occasion, maybe a random party is something they can earn by doing extra chores.

Next page: 17-18 year olds

AGES 17&18

Chores should still be required of these teenagers around the age of legal adulthood – after all, they still live under your roof. But be mindful that obligations at home don’t conflict with your teen’s busy schedule. They deserve more freedoms but make sure to do your best to keep your kids grounded so they have a good sense of responsibility, money management and value of their personal possessions before they head off into the world.

CHORES

  • Drop off and pick up younger siblings (if your child has a driver’s license and enough experience behind the wheel).
  • Prepare grocery lists and go shop for groceries alone (ditto).
  • Prepare meals.
  • Run errands (dry cleaning, hardware store, etc.).

FUN TIP

Making chores worth doing is all about independence at this age. Allow them to use the car more often, provided they run a few errands while they're out. Little extras like a later curfew are a good reward for their help around the house, and even though they might act like they hate everyone, they will likely appreciate the added freedom and responsibility.

Do you have any other good ways to make your children help out around the house? Share them in our comments section below.

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