What age should children be doing chores? Everything parents need to know

There are many benefits to kids doing chores.

They can help them feel important, teach vital life skills, and they are a great way to teach responsibility and build self-esteem.

Children are far more capable than we often think and, according to a twenty-year study by the University of Minnesota, involving kids in household tasks from an early age can have a positive impact later in life.

But what tasks should you realistically expect your child to do and at what age should you start introducing them? Here’s a handy guide to help.

When children should start doing chores

Making chores an everyday part of life, starting from as young as two years old, ensures that doing chores doesn’t feel like a chore.

The key is to start your child off with small household tasks and slowly build them up to more complicated ones over time.

Kids aged two to four years are at an age where they like the idea of helping their parents around the house. Take advantage of this and while it might be quicker for you to do the task yourself, remember that you are instilling good habits.

Be mindful that you will need to supervise and don’t expect too much from them.

Here’s some examples of age appropriate chores for children…

Chores for children aged two to four:

  • Tidy toys away. Ensuring that everything has a place will hugely help with this, as will making sure that your kids are not overwhelmed with toys. A great idea is to have a declutter twice a year and to rotate the toys, so that not everything is accessible to play with all the time.
  • Set the table. Don’t worry about whether the knives and forks are the right way round but do make sure that they can easily access tablemats and cutlery – storing cutlery in a pot on the table can stop little fingers getting trapped in drawers.
  • Pair socks. If the Sock Monster hasn’t stolen any, your little one will love pairing the family’s socks and this is a great matching activity, which helps develop kids problem-solving skills.
  • Put dirty clothes in the wash basket. Giving kids their own basket means they are more likely to use it.
  • Put clean washing into piles. This is another great problem-solving activity and although you will need to do the folding, the sorting part is done for you, leaving you time for other things.
  • Sweep up. Great for developing fine and gross motor skills and enhancing spatial awareness, most under 5’s think sweeping is fun. You can find small, child-sized brooms or dustpan and brushes readily available online.

Chores for children aged five to 12:

Kids aged between five and 12 can take on much more responsibility. If kids have been used to ‘mucking in’ from the get-go, then they should continue without much resistance, but it is up to you whether you feel they need paying to do the chores expected.

Here are some examples of what you should expect them to do in addition to the previous list:

  • Make their own bed. It doesn’t matter if it is made to your standards, they will get there as they grow, just get them into the habit young, if you don’t want to nag them as they get older.
  • Make their own packed lunch/snacks/meals. This might be messy, but it’s for the greater good. Just ensure that you have shown them how to safely use any equipment and supervise if necessary. To help them pour milk onto cereal, use a small jug so there’s no crying over spilled milk and keep things within easy reach, so there is no danger of them climbing and falling.
  • Load and unload the dishwasher. Supervision for younger children is a must, but the older they get, the more you can leave them to it.
  • Fold and put away clothes. This follows on from sorting the clothes into piles. As your child gets older, they can take more responsibility by putting their own clothes away.
  • Vacuuming. This might not be easy for younger children to do straight away, but with practice they will get there, so give them plenty of encouragement and praise.
  • Use the washing machine/dryer and hang the washing. To begin with it might just be loading and unloading, but over time, they should be competent at using the machines independently. Hanging the washing might require them to be tall enough to reach the line, but once they do, give them space to figure out how best to hang everything.
  • Put the shopping away. Younger children will need supervision and won’t manage it all, but as they get older, it will be another job that you can hand over.

Teenagers can do the chores that they did when younger, but they should ideally be responsible for doing them on their own. They can also start taking on more difficult chores such as cleaning the bathroom and mowing the lawn.

All families are different, and all children are capable of different things, so do what works best for you and your family, but don’t forget to give plenty of praise and thanks for their efforts – this will ensure that they keep on helping.

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