But That’s Why We Had You!
Children make messes. It’s part of their job.
Before I had children of my own, I ran preschool centers for under-privileged children. Because I could get a room full of twenty-four kids to mind me and pick up after themselves, I thought that certainly my own flesh and blood would follow suit and tidy up without complaint.
I was dead wrong.
It takes daily effort to get my children to put their clothes, toys, school stuff, and random paraphernalia away.
That’s just how it works. If I slack off, the kids slack off.
If I put my dishes onto the counter because it’s “too much work” to open the dishwasher and stash it away, the kids do the same.
they’re awfully smart and crafty, those buggers…
That said, here is a general guideline of age-appropriate chores. Do not expect your kids to instantly adhere to a strict list of chores. Monitor closely and always show your child exactly how to perform any new tasks.
One to Two Years of Age
Babies and young children enjoy being “big helpers,” and can begin to participate in the following household chores with adult supervision, help, and guidance:
– sort laundry
– empty wastebaskets
– bring in the mail/newspaper
– match socks
– pull up bed clothes
– empty spoons and plasticware from the dishwasher caddy
– put toys away in appropriate containers
– “dust and clean” with a baby wipe
Three to Six Years of Age
Preschool-age children can continue to help with all of the chores listed above, along with the following added responsibilities:
– make their own beds
– load and unload the dishwasher with assistance
– help younger siblings clean up strewn toys
– feed and water pets
– pull weeds
– water plants
– use a whisk broom to clean up crumbs under the dinner table
– use a handheld vacuum cleaner to spot-clean, or to vacuum the stairs
– put away their own laundry
– set the table for meals
Seven to Ten Years of Age
School-age children are capable of fulfilling all of the tasks listed above, as well as these new additions:
– complete an entire load of wash
– help younger siblings put away laundry
– vacuum their own rooms
– maintain order in their bedrooms
– sweep the kitchen
– load and unload the dishwasher independently
– walk the dog
– clear the table after meals
Pre-teen through Teenage Years
Although teenagers would rather lie around and talk on the phone (or text, whatever) all day, they are fully able to help their parents out with most of the housekeeping duties, inside and out, including these new ones listed below:
– vacuum the house
– sweep the house
– clean the refrigerator
– wipe down the bathrooms
– wipe down the kitchen countertops
– help younger siblings as needed
– perform more strenuous work in the garden
This may seem like a lot (and it does to me, now that I see it all in writing!), but remember back in the “olden days,” children were expected to be productive members of the household. Whenever I start to feel “mean,” I think of The Long Winter and remember all that Laura and Mary did to help out.
I also think of my friend Alison, who homeschools her nine children. Alison once told me that a parent’s job was to raise adults, not children. By the time children leave for college, they should be able to make a meal, sew on a button, do laundry, mow the lawn, and milk a goat.
Raising kids is part joy, part guerilla warfare. –Ed Asner
Learn the Exact Strategies I use to Keep My House and My Family Running Smoothly
(without losing my marbles) by downloading this free cheat sheet for moms. Enjoy!