What chores are appropriate for each age group?

It’s important to teach our kids responsibility. We want them to grow up having the skills and attitude that will make them helpful around the home and contribute meaningfully to the family’s work division.

But it can be hard to divvy out the work between them and make sure each task fits the different levels that the kids are at. At what age do you trust them with laundry? Making their own bed? Mopping floors? Remember that age is not the only factor to consider when dividing out tasks – kids have different maturity levels, strengths and interests – but it’s never too early to start building positive habits that help others. You know best the level of responsibility that you’re child is ready for, so these should be read only as suggestions.

Ages 2-3

Little Boy Wearing Red Shorts

Toddlers may have the enthusiasm and curiosity to help with chores but don’t always have the dexterity or know how. Often, they end up in the way, rather than helping, so individual tasks that aren’t crucial or time-sensitive are probably best for these little ones. Chore charts can reinforce these habits and could even encourage them to start doing it without your prompting. Some appropriate tasks to start off with are:

  • Pick up toys
  • Dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Throw away rubbish
  • Help make the bed
  • Put clothes in drawers and on shelves

Ages 4-5

Siblings Sharing Their Toy to Each Other

Playschool and early primary school students still have that curiosity and willingness to help with slightly more hand-eye coordination and motivation to really help rather than hinder. They can even do some chores without you having to supervise. This is where rewards systems can really work too, because this age are very motivated by stickers! Let them pick some of their chores themselves for a little added independence. Choose form the list below:

  • Set table
  • Replace toilet paper rolls
  • Feed pets
  • Wipe spills
  • Dust
  • Water house plants

Ages 6-7

Family Making Breakfast in the Kitchen

This is the age where the enthusiasm dwindles a little! You’ll meet a little more resistance here but again, independence is key. When they get to choose their own chore they feel more in control and less like they’re being bossed around. Praise is also really important for this age group, so make sure to comment on jobs well done and to reinforce good behaviour. Some of the tasks below are good ideas for this age:

  • Put away groceries
  • Help pack lunches
  • Sort laundry
  • Make bed
  • Help unload dishwasher
  • Set table
  • Clear table

Ages 8-11

Little girl doing housework in room

This age group have started to plan out their free time so schedules and advance notice are important to a lot of them. So either having a daily task like washing up after dinner, walking the dog or bringing in the post suits them. If they know what’s expected of them each week, there’ll be no miscommunication. Ask for their input about what tasks they want to take on and have a little give and take to let them feel ownership over their jobs. They’re a little old for reward charts so finding some other consequences and rewards for completed and uncompleted tasks. They can try:

  • Put away dishes
  • Bring in post
  • Load dishwasher
  • Put out bins
  • Walk dogs
  • Rake leaves
  • Hang or fold clean clothes
  • Sweep
  • Help around the kitchen

Ages 12+

Serious little African American girl wiping dust from shelf of rack in room looking at camera

You are the best authority on what your children are capable of each age. As they get older their schedules will be cramped but their skills and maturity will generally develop too. So allowing them to take more responsibility for themselves is allowing them to test their ‘adulting skills’. For example, if they forget to do laundry, they won’t have their soccer kit clean for the next practice. There’s no harm in helping them out now and again – their routines are filling up with increased schoolwork, friends and commitments – but it’s important to maintain the work ethic you’ve worked hard to build up in them. They can try:

  • Vacuum
  • Wipe down counters
  • Make a simple meal (Omelette, spaghetti bolognaise)
  • Clean showers and toilets
  • Help with grocery shopping
  • Watch younger siblings (if appropriate)
  • Mop floors
  • Wipe mirrors and windows
  • Washing – sorting clothes, hanging on the line etc

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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