Age-appropriate chores are important as they undoubtedly provide benefits for their development but won’t deny them their childhood. A study of articles published in more than 300 parenting magazines between 1920 and 2006 found that most modern-day children are only asked to take on trivial responsibilities. A 2014 survey of roughly 1,000 U.S. homes reported that 82% of current parents did chores as children, yet only 28% require their children to do chores. This poses the question, is it right to ask your children to ‘muck in’? There is also the question of whether we should pay children to do chores.
“Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores,” says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and co-author of the forthcoming book “Raising Can-Do Kids.” The kitchen is one of the places that pique children’s interest and enthusiasm early. Parents can take advantage of this to get their children to cook. We have written an article about this here. But at what age should children do certain chores? As in all things, all children are different, but the below could act as a guideline.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Children
When it comes to giving your child chores, your focus should be not setting them up for failure. If you start giving your children a long list that they can’t do, you are only preparing for conflict. Instead, start with easy things, and then as they achieve these, show them how to do the next step. Avoid insisting that your child carry out the task to perfection and try to be there with encouragement and praise while they’re doing the chore. However, make sure your child follows through when they’re assigned tasks. Otherwise, they may start putting chores off, hoping that someone else will get it done. Below are some age-appropriate chores, starting with 2 to 3-year-olds.
- Pile up books and magazines on shelves.
- Put clothes in the hamper.
- Put their toys away.
- Wipe baseboards with socks on their hands.
- Fill up a cat or dog’s food bowl.
- Help make the beds.
- Mop small areas with a dry mop.
Below are some age-appropriate chores for 4 to 5-year-olds.
- Water flowers.
- Fix a bowl of cereal.
- Uproot weeds.
- Make their bed unsupervised.
- Wash plastic dishes unsupervised.
- Help bring in light groceries.
- Clear the table.
- Unload utensils from the dishwasher.
- Dust with a cloth.
- Care for an animal’s food and water dishes.
- Use a hand-held vacuum for crumbs or room edges.
- Put away clean utensils.
- Set the table.
- Sort laundry into whites and other colors before washing.
- Match socks together.
Below are some age-appropriate chores for 6 to 9-year-olds.
- Sweep the yard.
- Help make and pack lunch.
- Weed and rake leaves.
- Put away their laundry.
- Sew buttons.
- Keep the bedroom tidy.
- Take a pet for a walk.
- Help make dinner.
- Make their snacks.
- Wash table after meals
- Mop floor.
- Make their breakfast.
- Peel vegetables.
- Cook simple foods.
Below are some age-appropriate chores for 10 to 14-year-olds.
- Wash the dishes unassisted.
- Wash the family car.
- Prepare simple meals unassisted.
- Babysit younger siblings with parents at home.
- Help deep clean kitchen cabinets and appliances.
- Use the clothes washer and dryer unsupervised.
- Prepare more complex meals.
- Take the trash to the bins and then the bins to the curb.
- Wipe out the fridge.
- Care for pets independently.
- Clean the toilet and bathroom.
- Mow the lawn.
- Iron clothes.
How to Make Chores Fun for Children
Between most parents and children, chores are usually a source of friction. But parents can inject some fun into the process, minimizing the association of chores with tedium. Below are ways to make age-appropriate chores fun for children.
- Involve the timer. This works even more effectively with toddlers. You can do this by simply announcing before chore time that you would be timing it to see how long it’d take to finish the task. This brings out the excitement in children, who would be eager to finish the chore in a short time. The timer can take the form of a song on Youtube.
- Make a mission out of it. Making a mission out of chores involves attaching a little bit of adventure to the task, with hypothetical risk and reward. A mission could be something like sweeping the floor with the adventure of finding a hidden bomb by picking their clothes on the floor. They save the house from exploding and also get a clean house in the process.
- Turn it into a competition. If you have more than one child, you can turn chores into a competition. This brings out the eagerness in children as they are striving to outdo their siblings. Divide chores into the number of competitors you have and even give them a fun name and then announce that you’re watching for who finishes first.
- Alternate the chores. Alternating the chores will help keep things fresh so that your child doesn’t get bored with them. Doing the same task for an extended period will introduce boredom. If your child helped in making the bed today, let them help tidy the floor tomorrow.
- Take fun breaks. This particularly comes in handy when it’s a long kind of work where your child can quickly grow disinterested. Make this clear from the beginning and agree with your child. The agreement should include at what point you take each break and the fun thing to do during the break.
Benefits of Giving Age-Appropriate Chores to Your Child
The result from an analysis of long-term data by Dr. Marty Rossmann from the University of Minnesota showed that those who did chores when they were younger grew up to be more successful both academically and in their early careers. The lessons gained from giving your child age-appropriate chores will stay with them throughout their lives. Below are some of the benefits of having your child do age-appropriate chores.
- Time management. When a child knows that a certain task is their responsibility and that they have to follow through on it, they learn to schedule that task somewhere during their day. This improves your child’s time management and prioritization. These are skills they’ll need when they take to the real world where so many things are bound to demand their attention. Here we discuss How to teach children responsibility.
- Practical experience and movement. Having your child engage in tasks where they have to manipulate objects provides them with a solid foundation of representational experience. Those tasks that allow them to open the inside of objects give them an idea of how things work. They learn to recognize patterns, which is essential for identification and problem-solving.
- Delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is one of the most important lessons your child can get in emotional intelligence. Children who can delay gratification do better overall as adults. This is because setting goals and reaching them as an adult requires delaying gratification in the hopes of multiplying it in the end when the goal is achieved. Also, delayed gratification inspires your child to put in the work. Here we discuss delayed gratification, its importance and development.
- Confidence, and a sense of purpose. Work that involves some challenges not only promotes self-confidence in children but gives them a sense of purpose. The result of every task makes your child feel like they’re helping out and taking part in something important. Helping prepare grandma’s favorite diabetic-friendly recipe is a sure way to feel like a part of important work. This will ensure confidence rather than arrogance.
- Happiness and better mental health. Better mental health plays a big part in overall happiness. A longitudinal Harvard University study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that children’s capacity and willingness to work in childhood is a better predictor of good mental health in adulthood than any other factors.
Final Thoughts on Age-Appropriate Chores for Children
As essential as age-appropriate chores are to children’s happiness and development, they shouldn’t take the entirety of their day after school hours. You should leave unstructured time for children to relax, socialize or just daydream. It is also not to get frustrated when they are done wrong. As in all things, it is the effort that we are most interested in. Don’t put up a barrier for them to attempt them again by fear of failure.