Planning Chores for Kids: When to Start

kids gardening I grew up on a farm and chores were not something to be assigned, but rather, an every day part of life. Children in a farm family learn very early on, as my mother says, see what needs to be done and do it. The success or failure of the farm, and ultimately, the survival of the family, depends on everyone working together.

As a mom living in suburbia, though, I’m not always sure at what age to assign chores and which assignments to give. However, I’m learning that even very young children can contribute. I’ve noticed that my young kids, more than anything else, just want to be near me. If I’m dusting the furniture, all I have to do is give them a dust cloth and they’ll “help.” I finally bought a small, functional vacuum that was light enough for my children to use because they always wanted to help vacuum.

As children get older, their enthusiasm for chores wears off, and it’s tempting to let them off the hook. Not a good idea. I used to think it was my duty to give my kids a comfortable, easy life. I’ve since learned that it’s my job to train them to be responsible, contributing adults. As Dear Abby once said, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some weight on their shoulders.”

A Few Chores Kids (of All Ages) Can Do

Ages 3 to 5

  • Begin making their bed
  • Dust the furniture
  • Feed and water pets (with supervision)
  • Put away laundry
  • Take non-breakable dishes to the dishwasher

Ages 5 to 8

  • Run the vacuum
  • Rake and bag leaves
  • Take care of/train the dog (use the best puppy training pads to make house training easier)
  • Wipe kitchen counters
  • Put silverware away (take the knives out first)

Ages 9 to 12

  • Load dishwasher and clean kitchen
  • Sweep and mop the floor
  • Walk the dog; help with cleaning the dog’s teeth
  • Clean bathrooms and toilets
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean windows

Ages 12 and up

  • Cook simple meals
  • Help with the lawn mower
  • Do laundry from start to finish
  • Care for younger siblings

Of course, every child is different and you’ll need to make decisions based on your individual child. Teach children how to accomplish each task and don’t expect perfection for a while. Express your appreciation sincerely, and point out how hard they worked. The goal is to help children develop pride in themselves for a job well done, rather than expecting an external reward.

Photo by jjgwarren

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