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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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16 comments so far -

  1. This is great list- my 2.5 year old daughter loves helping out with jobs around the house. The best way I can get things done is by giving her a job to do as well 🙂 I’m definitely going to save this for ideas in the future. Thanks!

    • Wonderful. Thanks Jen. Glad you found it helpful – and glad you’re little girl is helpful too! I find that my little one is happy to help out with things I’m doing too. They love being involved and it is great to encourage this while they are still young! All the best x

  2. I agree with these up to a point. I don’t ask or expect my 3yo to fold and put away his clothes He’s not interested in laundry haha. He does, however, set the table, use cutlery, dress himself, wash himself in the bath, brush his own teeth, pour his own drinks etc. He’s becoming extremely independent, and that’s not with me making him do these things. He does it all on his own because he wants independence. His little face lights up when I say “great job!” Or “woooow you did all that?!” It’s great! They should always be encouraged but if chores are enforced it could go the opposite way.

    • Hi! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I agree that if chores are enforced it could go the opposite way so it is good to encourage these things gently and early while your little one is still enthusiastic and learning. Sounds like you’ve got a good thing going with your little one. All the best x

  3. Nonsense. Kids aren’t our servants. Even those who’ve never done a single chore will figure it out. We’re talking about rudimentary housework, not brain surgery. A work ethic is all we need to teach them. Far better to encourage them to apply it to academics, than ‘cleaning’. This doing chores business is absurd.

    • Hi! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I agree that a work ethic is important although I do want to encourage a sense of shared responsibility in my own children, without being a slave master though as that approach would likely backfire!

    • I don’t have children yet (still a student), but I’ve lived with soo many young people who had never learned basic housework from home. Lovely, considered students with great work ethic when it came to homework, but who felt no responsibility for housework. In my experience, If the parents don’t teach their kids housework the problem will be passed on to their roommates, boyfriends and (very often) girlfriends.

      • Hi Anna! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. A very good point you make, these small chores are really just life skills that we are teaching our children. How to grow up to be capable adults. Thanks!

        • I agree with Anna. I’m was not taught well growing up when it comes to chores because everyone was so concerned with my academic success. I was an A student, reading at 4, doing great with homework, speaking 3 languages, singing, playing piano, art school, colledge degree. I can move muntains at work. Yet, I still struggle in my own home because everyone always thought it wasn’t important to teach me actual life skills. I’m a mom of 3, and want to do better by my kids, yet it’s a daily battle because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Please teach your kids to run a home home while they are young. You’re doing them a disservice by only focusing on one thing.

          • Hi Valerie, Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. We also feel it is important to pass on knowledge and skills to our children as well as a sense of responsibility. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Take care.

  4. 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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