It’s always heartwarming watching my two kids working together around the house. My 13-year-old gently guides his younger brother and offers words of encouragement, while the 9-year-old beams with delight.
Ha, just kidding. In reality, they’re like feral animals, but crankier. And in need of way more snacks.
Getting them to willingly (and pleasantly) help with chores around the house and in the yard is a regular battle with complaining, whining, and a lot of exaggerated sighing. But, little by little, they’re becoming slightly more cooperative. The bath towels are now folded in some semblance of a square, the floors in their rooms are generally visible, and they’ve worked out a system for taking the recycling out to the bin.
While getting kids started on chores — whether they’re regular jobs like setting the table or seasonal such as raking the yard — is not always as easy as we’d like, kids can learn a lot from helping around the house. Doing chores can help children learn what they need to do to care of themselves, their home, and their family. They learn skills that will serve them into adulthood such as preparing meals, cleaning, and doing laundry. Getting the whole family involved with the household can aid with communication, independence, and cooperation (something my kids are obviously still working on!) and help children learn about responsibility.
If your kids are ready to start helping out, aim for a mix of daily and weekly chores, gradually increasing the number of jobs as they get older. Being aware of your child’s abilities and being realistic as to what they’re able to handle will help with expectations.
Below is a loose guide to age-appropriate chores that can be adjusted according to your family’s needs and your kids’ level of maturity. If your kids are older but just starting to help out, start at the beginning and work through the list until they’re familiar with the different tasks.
Toddlers (2-3 years)
- Pick up and put away their toys and books.
- Put dirty clothes in the hamper.
- Swiffer or sweep (toddler-sized cleaning sets are usually a hit!)
- Keep their room tidy.
Preschoolers (4-5 years)
- Set the table for meals.
- Help put clean clothes into piles for each family member.
- Help with putting away groceries.
- Match socks.
- Weed the garden.
- Dust baseboards and shelves.
School-age children (6-11 years)
- Water the garden and indoor plants.
- Feed pets.
- Help with folding clothes.
- Take out the recycling.
- Help with meal preparation and serving, with supervision.
- Clean the bathroom sink.
- Rake leaves.
- Mop floors.
Teenagers (12-18 years)
- Prepare meals.
- Use the washing machine and dryer.
- Clean the bathroom and toilets.
- Mop floors.
- Mow lawns.
- Shovel walkways.
- Clean the car inside and out.
Help children gain confidence by guiding them for the first few years. Once they’ve become proficient at a job, they can move on to more responsibilities, while continuing with the easier tasks. Encourage your kids to take initiative by doing things without being asked, and teach safe practices from the start, especially when using appliances or cleaning products (which should be locked away when not being used).
While it may be tempting to just do some things yourself, teaching your kids life skills early on will be worth it. And you may just have a whole lot less folding to do yourself.
Related read: 8 apps that teach kids about money