We like to train our children from very early on to help out at home. We also train the older kids to help the younger kids, teaching them and kindly guiding them to do jobs well and completely.
I expect the older ones to give grace and not be too demanding. This helps build teamwork and leadership skills.
Working together is important. Teaching helps us learn a task completely, when students ask questions or do something differently, it expands our knowledge base.
I use some of these times to teach my older kids the difference between being a leader and being a boss.
A basic list of various household chore ideas by age.
These are what my kids are and were able to accomplish. Every child and family is different.
These are tasks my kids complete daily or weekly. And of course, each level can do the previous level work.
I have learned to not say no if my child wishes to do a chore. Even if that chore doesn’t need to be done. That window or mirror could be wiped every hour, but my son does it so cheerfully, why would I discourage him?
Toddlers (under age 3)
Model to them how to help.
Babies want to be with Mama. Mama has to do chores. I often wore my babies while doing chores too.
Babies and toddlers love it when you narrate what you’re doing. This teaches them language, relationship, and work ethic, and skills.
I began training my babies to help as soon as they were able to sit up on their own. They love helping. It’s amazing what they’re capable of doing if you let them!
We start with the lessons that we always clean up our messes and finish what we begin. We establish routine and structure to our days.
- Folding towels or napkins and helping to put them away
- Sorting laundry by colors and throwing sorted clothes in the washer
- Slicing soft fruits (use a safe knife)
- Helping to set the table
- Put toys away (with lots of guidance, encouragement, games and songs, and help)
- Push buttons to begin dishwasher or laundry cycles (my kids always begged to do that!)
- Wipe a mirror or cabinet with a cleaning cloth
Preschoolers (ages 3-5)
I love preschoolers with their “I do it!” attitude. They want to do everything themselves.
Encourage them to contribute. They love it. Even if it’s more work for you. Don’t ever let them see you go back and fix it!
I am amazed at how independent kids can be if you just allow them the freedom to try. I wish I hadn’t been so anxious with my daughters. By the time my son Alex came along, I was relaxed and loved to just sit back and watch what he would do on his own. He impresses me. He can complete multi-step commands very well!
I encourage critical thinking by asking what we need to do next rather than giving commands.
- making a bed
- cleaning up toys (with lots of encouragement, help, a game or song) – I often tell him to get started and I come around to help him finish.
- slicing fruits or vegetables (we love these knives)
- sorting laundry, helping to switch it from washer to dryer, folding and putting away
- setting the table
- sweeping the floor (they need help with the dustpan part)
- vacuuming (my kids are strong – our vacuum cleaner weighs a ton!) but we also have a small vacuum for small cleanups
- spray and wipe mirrors, cabinets, doors, doorknobs with a cleaning cloth
- help empty trashcans
- feed and water pets
Primary (ages 6-8)
This is really the golden age.
These kids are still cheerful and helpful about chores. My middle children were a beautiful thing at this age. They were compliant and agreeable and regularly came to me, asking: what more can we do to help?
My kids totally embarrassed a friend of mine when they stayed with her so Aaron and I could spend a weekend in the mountains on a marriage retreat. They cooked, cleaned (even wiped down her kitchen cabinets in and out), and were just very, very, very helpful. She now expects way more of her own kids (who are the same age as my younger three) since mine were so capable. (I’m proud!)
I encourage my kids to accept personal responsibility with words and actions. For example, if they lose a library book, they have to earn the replacement cost or late fee.
- laundry with supervision
- setting and clearing the table
- unload and load the dishwasher
- sweeping and mopping (still help with that blasted dustpan)
- helping in the kitchen with food prep
- cooking simple items with supervision
- keeping bedroom, play space, and school work neat and organized (with help)
- sorting clothes for donation, resale, or rag bin
- help with gardening or yard work
- wiping down bathrooms
- getting the mail
- putting groceries away
Tweens (ages 9-12)
This is the age when chores have lost their magic.
These kids start expecting to earn an allowance or extra privileges for doing chores they’ve done since they were in diapers. They live in my house, eat my food, use my water and electricity, and occasionally get new clothes. They must do chores. They must contribute to the common good. I teach them to make to do lists. We try to make chores fun and dance and listen to music and play games. Occasionally, they can do extra chores for pay to help learn responsibility.
- cooking simple meals
- keeping bedroom, play space, and school work neat and organized
- gardening and yard work
- cutting the grass
- cleaning the car, inside and out
- cleaning kitty litter boxes
- putting garbage cans on the curb (and bring them back to the garage)
- pet sitting or dog walking
Teens (ages 13+)
By the time kids are teens, they should be parents’ helpers.
Training should be finalized in the early teens and they should gradually become independent and capable as they approach adulthood. It’s our purpose as parents to train ourselves out of the job. Our kids should become self-sufficient. I won’t allow my kids to be like some of the friends I had as a teen and young adult who didn’t know how to make even a simple meal or sew on a button!
- meal planning (we like eMeals!)
- cook complete meals from scratch
- oil change for the car
- rotating or changing tires on the car
- running a yard sale (I love that my eldest is a whiz with customer service and money and I can just supervise)
- sewing and mending
- organizing and tidying
- elderly companion (I did that as a teen, reading and assisting a family friend)
- filing and paperwork, applications for college or jobs, tax prep help
- household management
- technology help, even VA training – We need to make sure our kids are Internet savvy and use discretion online. I monitor closely and teach.
We encourage our kids to help Daddy and learn about handyman activities.
I will say my kids are a bit advanced in the kitchen. All four of my kids are pros at making perfect scrambled eggs – without supervision at a very young age. The girls are very able to prepare to prepare simple meals with very little supervision. We all love to cook and eat together!
All the men in my and Aaron’s family were very handy and I want my kids to learn those skills. And it’s wise and frugal to know some basic handyman methods and be able to fix things yourself.
We don’t do cute little charts or lists or any of that extrinsic motivation. Chores get completed daily and weekly as needed. The kids are trained to complete a task when it’s necessary. We do zones each week. Sure, we sometimes get behind if our schedule gets crazy, but we catch up. Work before play.
I expect the younger kids to complete a task to the best of their ability. Older kids have to meet higher standards.
For instance, I expect a floor vacuumed.
The 4-year-old sweeps the vacuum across the floor 3-4 times until he is physically exhausted from the effort of that monstrosity of a vacuum. Awesome.
The 7-year-old vacuums up visible dirt around the paths made from furniture. Awesome.
The 13-year-old should move the ottoman and coffee table and vacuum under those, get that wand out and vacuum along the baseboards. Awesome.
The husband vacuums and there’s a ticker tape parade.
No, not really.
Not every time.
We used this chore chart for a while with our littles to help them.