With four kids in the house, you can probably imagine the amount of cleaning and vacuuming and picking up (oh, the picking up) that needs to be done on a daily basis. That’s also why you can bet my kids each have their own list of chores.
I’m a firm believer in getting kids involved from an early age because not only does is it a huge help (free labor!) but it teaches kids important lessons about responsibility. As our friend Asha from Parent Hacks says, “Frame your kids’ chores as move-out skills. No one wants a roommate who has to be taught to wash the dishes.” Truth!
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And if you need help on that front too, I’ve put together a helpful list of age-appropriate chores for kids, with the hopes you can reference it to get your own miniature gang chipping in. And of course, it’s just a guideline; you know your kids best, as we always say, so pick and choose from this list based on what you think your kids will be able to do. Also, what they’ll enjoy! As those of us who’ve broken up arguments about whose turn it is to use the spray bottle well know.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers (Ages 2-3)
Toddlers are really the perfect age to help with cleaning because they’re naturally curious explorers. Plus I’ve found they’re generally capable of doing more than you think; my motto is, if you can make the messes, you can certainly help clean them up. Now while small children might not be able to tackle full-on chores on their own, they can easily give you a hand (or two), first by watching, and then by doing their part all by themselves — something we all know is what toddlers are all about. Also, consider that a lot of age-appropriate cleaning tasks for younger kids are actually beefing up important developmental skills, like stacking, and sorting. That even makes it sound fun, right?
• Putting toys away in the right places
• Wiping tables – they spray, you wipe!
• Dusting – though be careful if yours have dust allergies
• Folding napkins to help set the table
• Helping to sort laundry – my toddler was the sock finder, while my older kids sorted by color
• Stacking magazines on tables, returning books to low shelves
Age-Appropriate Chores for Preschoolers (Ages 4-5)
Preschoolers like to feel like big kids and giving them the responsibility for specific chores can help them do just that. They really do love the feeling of accomplishment, so make sure to praise them a lot, and be specific about what they did well. Skip the generic Good Job! and tell them what you liked about what they did. Even if it’s, “I really liked how you made your bed today!” Detailed compliments go a long way in encouraging your kids to stick with those chores.
• Making their own beds – we just use a comforter; no military sheets here
• Emptying trashcans
• Using a small hand-held vacuum to clean up
• Watering plants
• Loading spoons, unbreakable plates and bowls into the dishwasher
• Unloading the utensils from the dishwasher – though get the sharp items out first by yourself, parents!
• Returning their own towels and bath mats where they belong after a bath or shower
• Folding towels and washcloths
Age-Appropriate Chores for Little Kids (Ages 6-7)
Kids in early elementary school are already doing lots of chores around their own classroom, and taking responsibility for their own work areas and common spaces. This makes the perfect opportunity for some crossover learning, by having them complete similar tasks at home.
And what’s awesome about using natural cleaning products like Branch Basics is that kids at this age can really clean and not just tidy up; in our house, my six- and seven-year olds are on floor-mopping duty and glass-door-covered-in-fingerprints duty. Sweet, huh?
Helpful hint: It’s super important that you’re not overly critical of your kids’ work, however anal you may be about cleaning. Show them how to execute a chore, then give them the freedom to do it, even if it’s not exactly how you would do it. You can certainly have them try again if they didn’t actually complete their task, but if their laundry is put away in the wrong drawer or the forks are facing right instead of left in the utensil caddy, I say just let it go. Tell them what they did do well, then wait until the next time to suggest any changes if they’re important to you.
• Putting away groceries – this includes remembering to shut the fridge door!
• Setting and clearing the table after meals
• Helping fold and put away their own laundry
• Sweeping and mopping floors
• Taking care of pets – Think food, water, litter
• Washing windows – at least the ones they can reach safely.
Age-appropriate chores for big kids + tweens
My older children are huge helps around the house, mostly because — and I’m going to be honest here — they earn an allowance for accomplishing their responsibilities. And while I know that different families have different rules about paying for chores or tying allowance to household tasks, it happens to work really well for us. (As a single mom of four, I am all about doing whatever helps you get the jobs done!)
As with all things parenting, it’s extremely important to be consistent. So if you set a chore plan with your kids that’s tied to allowance or rewards, be sure to stick with it. Also, take it slow; start with just a few tasks that you know they’ll be able to accomplish over the course of the week and you can always add to the list later. I’ve discovered that it’s much easier to add things to a shorter list than to have to cut it down later.
• Making their own school lunches; unpacking their lunch boxes after school.
• Hand-washing and drying dishes, or loading the dishwasher – though I still do the sharp stuff
• Unloading the dishwasher to the countertop – or putting dishes away if they’re tall enough to reach the shelves
• Taking out the trash
• Breaking down boxes or rinsing out containers for recycling – you’ll find most kids are eager recyclers!
• Raking leaves, shoveling walks or other simple yard work
• Vacuuming the carpets and floors
• Cleaning the bathrooms including the tub, toilet, and sink. Yes, they can do it!
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