What chores can a 5-year-old be in charge of? What about an 8-year-old? At what age should a child start chores, such as learning to do laundry? Use this list of chores as a guideline when creating age-appropriate chore charts for your children.
Keep in mind when deciding what chores your children should be doing that everyone is different and age is not the only factor when determining the right chore. Think about your child's maturity level, physical ability, and interest to help you select the appropriate chores. Note that for the older age groups, you can select chores from the younger age categories to build an appropriate list. Set your child up for success and choose an appropriate and doable amount of chores and a timeline in which to complete them.
The complexity of chores naturally varies per age. The chores a 3-year-old typically has are tiny fixes like wiping up a mess or cleaning up after themselves by putting toys away while a 4-to-5-year-old's chores may involve help with cooking dinner. By contrast, the chores a 12-year-old would be best at are more involved, such as operating appliances to cleaning entire rooms.
Ages 2 and 3
Toddlers love to help with chores and while their help may not always be as helpful as we would hope, keeping their excitement and the habit of helping alive is worth the extra effort. Lots of toddlers love to see a visual reminder of their success, so making sticker charts is a great choice. Although chores may only be completed with your help each step of the way, you are creating positive habits for children to find chores and helping others a way of life.
- Helping make the bed
- Picking up toys and books
- Putting laundry in the hamper or in the laundry room
- Helping to feed pets
- Helping to wipe up messes
- Dusting with socks on their hands
- Putting small items in a dishwasher
- Dry mopping in small areas with help to maneuver the mop
Ages 4 and 5
The great thing about preschool-aged kids is that they are still fairly motivated to help. Preschoolers also love individual time with adults. If you take some time to teach them new chores one on one, they usually love it. Many kids at this age are ready to do chores without constant supervision. They also love rewards. Try using a daily chore chart with stickers that allows them to build up to bigger rewards. For some preschoolers, tying chores to an allowance is a great choice. This can also foster independence by allowing them to choose a reward.
- Helping to clear and set the table
- Making bed independently
- Helping out to cook and prepare food
- Carrying and putting away groceries
- Sorting laundry whites and colors
- Watering plants using a small container
- Pulling garden weeds
- Washing small dishes at the sink
- Helping to clean their own room
- Putting away groceries
Ages 6 to 8
Although enthusiasm for chores may diminish for school-aged kids, they have other redeeming qualities that work well for chores. Most school-aged children have an overwhelming desire to be independent. Parents and caregivers can guide children to become self-sufficient in their chores by using chore charts to keep track of their responsibilities. Note completed tasks as this will help motivate children to continue working.
- Taking care of pets
- Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping
- Taking out the trash
- Folding and putting away laundry
- Making their own snacks, breakfast, and bagged lunches
- Emptying and loading the dishwasher
- Walking the dog with pooper-scooper supervision
- Raking leaves
Ages 9 to 12
Kids at this age will appreciate a set schedule and expectations. Throw a lot of unexpected work at them and watch them get upset. If you can create a schedule or system with a little input from them, you'll have a smooth transition. It's best to find a system that works for your family. Try not to change it without the input and support of the people it directly affects. Part of this system should address rewards and negative consequences so that these results are laid out and understood in advance.
- Helping to wash the car
- Learning to wash dishes or load an entire dishwasher
- Helping to prepare simple meals.
- Cleaning smaller areas of the bathroom
- Raking more leaves
- Operating the washer and dryer
- Taking out the garbage
- Babysitting younger siblings (11-12)
- Walking the dog and full pooper-scooper responsibility
Ages 13 to 18
Most teenagers are capable of handling nearly any chore in the home as long as they've been taught properly. One thing to be sensitive to is the cramped schedule of teenagers. Just as we get overwhelmed when we have too much to do, teenagers can find themselves struggling to maintain an unmanageable workload. Monitor your teen's schedule and school commitments; adjust activities and chores accordingly.
- Replacing light bulbs
- Cleaning bathrooms including toilets and showers
- Vacuuming, changing vacuum cleaner bags, or emptying the canister
- Doing their own (or the family's) laundry
- Washing windows
- Cleaning out the refrigerator and other kitchen appliances
- Preparing meals
- Preparing grocery lists
- Repairing clothes such as sewing on missing buttons or fixing small tears
- Ironing clothes
- Mowing the lawn
- Caring for pets completely (feeding, walking, grooming)
- Setting and clearing the table
Keep in mind that children mature at their own pace and not all kids will be capable of advanced chores at the same age. Likewise, some children may be ready for more difficult chores at a younger age. You are in the best position to supervise and evaluate your child’s needs and abilities. You can advance children through more challenging chores as they master the basic ones. It can be easy to let kids continue to perform the same chores because they're good at them, but introducing new chores at regular intervals will actually benefit them in the long term. Institute a "training period" with new chores while teaching them the ins and outs of new tasks.
What to Avoid When Making Chore Lists
The list of things to avoid when making chore lists can often be longer than the chore list itself. Consider the following when creating chore lists for kids of any age:
Do Not Start Too Late
Kids can start doing chores as early as two years old. At that point, kids love to help out parents and family members.
Do Not Make Chores Complicated
If you're in a rush, your chore list may not be clear to a child. Your handwriting may be messy or the instructions are confusing, causing a kid to zone out. The fix? Use easy-to-read picture chore cards. For example, if you are posting a vacuuming chore, print out a basic image of a vacuum and stick it on the chart.
Do Not Change Schedules Too Often
Kids thrive on consistency. They need to know what to expect from their daily lives. A consistent schedule of chores can help your child become an expert on how to handle that particular duty. It can give your child the chance to become good at a particular chore rather than trying to learn a new one every week.
Avoid Becoming a Perfectionist
Absolutely no one is perfect and that's the message you need to instill in your child. If you insist on perfectionism, your child will rebel against doing any chores. When a child finishes a chore that's less than acceptable in your eyes, simply turn it into a teaching moment and gently show them the correct way.
Do Not Use Lists to Control Kids
Chores are boring, but they are not meant to torture or control kids. The point of a chore list is to help kids learn to become accountable and responsible as they grow older. The fix? Help them become excited about chores by using small, simple rewards as an incentive to adhere to the chore chart. Large and complicated rewards will confuse kids (and yourself) so keep it super easy with coins or small rewards, such as staying up a half hour later for completing a specific chore.
Do Not Forget to Say Thanks
Giving your child a genuine smile and a verbal thank you goes a long way. It shows how much you appreciate your child's efforts. By expressing thanks to them, your kids will feel more capable when it comes to accomplishing everyday tasks, and will encourage them to be part of the family, a team, and the community.
Why should you give your kids chores?
Assigning chores to children teaches them responsibility, instills self-confidence, and helps them grow and learn how to take of themselves and the family home. Research shows it readies them for being grown-ups and on their own and has an overall positive impact on their well-being.
When is the best age to start giving chores to your kids?
Start giving them small chores when they're toddlers. Have them help put away their toys and pick up clothes. Kids at the age of two and three just love to help their parents and siblings.
Are sticker charts and chore charts a good idea?
Using sticker charts and chore charts works well in showing your kids what they've accomplished. A sticker chart is great for younger children from two to five, while a chore chart might work better for ages six to nine.
White EM, DeBoer MD, Scharf RJ. Associations Between Household Chores and Childhood Self-Competency. J Dev Behav Pediatr., no. 40, vol. 3, 2019, pp. 176-182. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000637