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
I share more on my own daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly housekeeping in the Clean Less Play More book — you can find it on amazon, or read more info about it, here.
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!
I had to laugh a little at the 1 to 2 year old section- those are definitely some of my 19 month old’s favorite activities, dishwasher emptying especially! We have to watch her constantly while we’re loading it, or she starts chucking dirty flatware into the drawer the second we turn our backs.
Thank you so much for this. My kids don’t like you too much – all the crock pot food and now chores, too! My housekeepers showed up a day early today (I need help, I’m lazy), and I was fine! Usually I spend two hours cleaning up like a lunatic, so that by the time they arrive I am sweaty and exhausted. Today I panicked when I saw their car, but realized there wasn’t much to worry about. I’m cleaning my son’s closet, but otherwise the house is great. Thanks!
This whole list just brings back memories! I can remember doing just about every one of those chores at various ages as a child. While we don’t have children yet, we’ll definitely raise them with that same work ethic. I feel like it helped me become the well-adjusted adult that I am (and I certainly knew how to do laundry and cook by the time I went to college! It baffles me that some people don’t.)
Wonderful post on chores! Thank you, Stephanie!
I have been anxiously awaiting your list… we started our list on Monday as well, and I wanted to see how it measured up for our 6 and 8 year old. Whew… we did pretty well! :)) While you did say that it sounds like a lot when you write it down, I do want to remind you/readers that the kids are not doing all those chores everyday. The ones they are doing everyday may only take them a few minutes at a time. Thank you for your perspective!
oh that’s so cute!!
you’re not lazy, Jen. You’re *busy*! If I could talk Adam into having housekeepers come in every other week for the hard cleaning, I would. I’m getting close…!
remember—along with kids helping more, “back in the olden” days, the mother’s ONLY obligation was to keep the house running. We have since loaded ourselves down with lots and lots and lots of obligations and activities!
you’re doing a wonderful job. we all are.
great point, Christal!
I’m a few days behind in my Google Reader, but great ideas! I’m trying to hook my young kids on doing chores while they still think it’s fun to help Mama out.
Thank you! This is amazing! This will help a lot with my 2 1/2 year old and getting her to help around the house. She is in the stage where she wants to help a lot. I’ve always been the crazy lunatic cleaner, so I feel I never had a moment to help her help me. This is great! I’ve never been so excited to start chores (or use my crock pot)!! 🙂
Finally. Someone else who makes their kids work around the house. Yay!
I have slacked a little with my oldest and now need to retrain my 7yr old to be part of the team. But my 2 yr old LOVES to help. I also realized I need to retrain myself that little helpers dont always fold the towels my way or do the “perfect” job. But with time and practice it will come. I need to refrain from following after and redoing some of the work and also be careful how I bring up a job that wasnt quite done right. (My son like to do the “I don’t know how” thing in hopes of getting out of it, poor Grandpa falls for it every time)
My husband and I do not agree on allowance or payment for chores. I feel that no payment or treats is needed for regular stuff since we are a family, team etc and it’s everyones job to pitch in. I believe extras for extra jobs.
Any thoughts on dicipline and paying allowance? Thats a topic for ya!
I love the breakdown by ages…I have to admit I have been soooooo guilty of the just do it all myself. Then (and I reluctantly admit) my husband gently urged me to give the kiddos more responsibility. It is W-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l! Not only do we gets more done and I’m still sane, but they’ve actually taken initiative to ask me if there’s anything I need help with!!!( I also fainted the first time this happened!) I have also notice since the three of them are busier, there is less bickering going on this summer vaca. I have also adopted this approach to cooking too! My daughter, 10 yo, was diagnosed with Celiac this past April. We’ve been making all sorts of GF meals and goodies. And of course there are always helper jobs for the brothers. So not only are they learning some kitchen basics, I feel it also empowers my daughter–giving her the skills and understanding to take care of herself!
Great post! I am expecting my 8th baby in late August. I am a SAHM and homeschool. My children do most of the housework as I get tired really quick. I believe children should help out around the house. It teaches them a good work ethic and not to be lazy. After all, most of the mess comes from them, LOL. Thanks for the list of age appropriate chores. My older sons even like helping me make dinner! 🙂
I love your lists. I will print this and add it to my Mommy Planner. My kids love to help (ages 2-13), but it does require work on my part (reminders and training) and continual vigilance over my own habits.
I have one suggestion for an addition to the teen list: maintenance of the family vehicle, cleaning the interior and/or routine fluid, etc checks. This is a perfect chore for boys to do as a service to their families, but girls need to know how to do it, too!
I just realized I have not been asking enough of my 4 year old daughter-an only child. I’ve always had that mentality, “If you want something done right (or fast) you have to do it yourself”…when all along I was robbing her of her “learning to be an adult” activities! She has been feeding the dog now for about 6 months because that was her favorite thing to help with. I also have her picking up her room every night and help me tidy up the house before company comes over. But from now on, that girl is going to put her own laundry away! I already organized her closet so that her daily clothes are on the bottom rack where she can reach and her bottom two dresser drawers are the ones she uses for her pj’s, panties, and socks. She gets herself dressed, why can’t she put the clothes back, too? Great idea, Steph!
I am definitely going to share your chore list with my husband. Being an only child, he somehow got the idea that kids shouldn’t do chores (which is probably why he doesn’t know how to cook). We have two teenagers and two toddlers. He thinks the teens already have too many chores (between the two, they do their own laundry, put away clean dishes, wipe down the bathroom, and vacuum the living room daily). Personally, I think they have it pretty easy. 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this and breaking it down into age appropriate chores!
Just when I thought I was the only one left who thought kids should work to help out around the house! Thank you for writing this. I’m glad to read that other (good) mom’s want what’s best for their children in the long run and want them to grow up to be productive, hard-working adults and probably be happier in life because of what they’ve been taught.
I have been having my four-year-old daughter help with many chores, many that you’ve mentioned, for a couple of years now. Now, she will willingly help, take her own dishes to the sink, laundry, etc. all without being asked.
Good job, moms!!!
I just have to say THANK YOU! This is the first time I have come across anyone who believes that little kids can do chores. I have had both of my kids doing chores since they could walk. By 2 they could feed the cat and dog, put their laundry away (although not always pretty – but it’s away) and by 3 they knew what day was their laundry day and that meant to put their dirty clothes in the washer -even add soap (by age 1.5 they knew to put dirty clothes in their baskets). Mop the floors, wipe down the bathroom (They do this for fun!), help do dishes…the list goes on and on. I have heard so many moms say that their kid’s can’t help. My answer is yes they can! And I am glad to find someone who believes this as well.
Our children’s only limits come from those we give them!
Thanks for sharing!!
I appreciate this article so very much as I struggle with knowing what’s asking too much or too little of my 7-year-old, but according to this, so far so good.