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When can I start giving chores to my children?

List of age-appropriate chores for children

Although it starts off with Mum and Dad doing everything for the baby, when the baby has grown into a toddler and then a young child, jobs can be redistributed.

Numerous parents have asked me what age a child should be before they can do anything like a little job around home. Children should be participating in household chores or jobs from a young age, about 2 years old actually. It teaches them responsibility, gives them an array of different abilities plus competence, self-esteem and skills for a lifetime.

Little children love to help, love to do and learn new things, and love to be ‘big enough’ to help. Learning these things when little enables them to carry them on as a normal function when older. So stop doing everything for your little children. Allow them the opportunity to learn to do things independently for themselves. This way you are teaching, and they are learning the vital things for life.

If started early, it is just so easy to have your children help tidy up. No problem and no complaints, they just do it as it is expected. It becomes a normal part of their life, like using the toilet and eating or washing hands. It is just what you do, doesn’t everyone?

Just look at the Junior Master Chef shows on TV, my goodness, those 10-year-olds are cooking like superb chefs. They can only learn that by doing, from instruction and by being allowed. Children can be so very clever. Honestly, who would have thought a 10-year-old could make a Welsh pie or Pavlova the way those kids could? It’s amazing.

Just shows if they can do that sort of complicated thing, they sure can pack away, pick up their wet towels, fold their clothes and place them into the drawer, put stuff on or off the table, and help mix, cut, and prepare things in the kitchen.

Let them try.

Raise the bar, and you will be surprised how well they can rise to the challenge. Set the bar low, then it is low you will receive, set the bar higher and higher is what they should strive towards.

And think about the older 8-year-old sibling in Third-World Countries, raising their younger siblings, comforting them, collecting food and water, preparing meals. Scary thought in our world, but they do all this because they have to and because they can.

Children, therefore, can start looking after their belongings and doing basic little jobs from two years old. The older they are, the more competent they become.

Allow and expect them to, and they will.

A list of age-appropriate chores for children

A two-year-old child can learn to:

  • Pack away their toys and items (with help), maybe not brilliantly yet with some assistance they can.
  • Find their shoes and socks, attempt to put them on.
  • Place dirty clothes into the hamper.
  • Use a dustpan and brush (a bit).

A three-year-old child will love cleaning up with you. They can:

  • Do all the above better plus much more.
  • Pack all toys and items away correctly
  • Fold and place clothes into correct drawers.
  • Toilet themselves
  • Organise boxes of toys.
  • Sort their shelves
  • Start using utensils correctly.
  • Dress themselves.
  • Place items in correct places
  • Wipe over benches or tables.

A four-year-old child can also:

  • Set the table.
  • Collect dirty utensils, plates, cups, and place them in the sink.
  • Wash basic items at the sink, maybe standing on a small stool.
  • Tidy up better
  • Manage their own self-cleaning.
  • Dress themselves.
  • Pour a drink.
  • Make a basic sandwich.
  • Learn how to use a knife and fork correctly.
  • Use game consoles and the TV.
  • Start learning to make their bed.

A five-year-old:

  • should be fairly independent doing the above, including make their own bed – pulling up their sheets and quilt.
  • Can start placing spreads, cheese, meats on to sandwiches or plates.
  • Setting the table, then clearing away the salt, pepper, sauce, and so forth, after dinner, putting placemats into the drawer, and so on.

By six to eight years, they can:

  • Assist cutting up vegetables or salad—under supervision. They love helping in the kitchen.
  • Clean and polish.
  • Sweep or vacuum.
  • Pack up items outside. They can do it!

Have your say:
Do your children do chores? When did you first give them chores to do?
What do YOU think? Let us know.

Karen Phillip

About Karen Phillip

With more than 20 years’ of experience, parent and family counsellor Karen Phillip has launched a new book, Who Runs Your House – The Kids or You? The book explores the ...

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6 comments so far -

  1. Thanks very much this is very helpful, you mind if I add your page link to my blog and Facebook articles
    My page is called: “Help South African kids with Barriers to Learning “

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