Many young children want to emulate their parents. You may be surprised that a lot of young children are more willing and happier to help you clean than some of their older counterparts — especially if you start them young, reward them for their work and make them think it’s a game.
Think of a few age-appropriate chores for your children and make sure they help out at least once a day. When the family helps out, you can move on to bigger projects on your agenda, like remodeling your bathroom and installing a high-tech shower panel from decor planet. When you spend less time doing chores, you have more time to unwind.
When a child is between 18 months and 2 years old, the most important chore-related skill they can learn is that everyone should clean up after themselves. Provide your child with a toy chest and ask that every time they’re finished playing with a toy, they put the toy back inside. Cheer for them and make them laugh every time they drop the toys back in the bin. Because they like to see you smile, the praise will encourage them to continue to put toys away. Toddlers this age can also:
- Throw their trash away in a small wastebasket
- Carry their dirty clothes into the laundry room or throw them in a hamper
- Match their socks
- Put napkins out on the table (or on chairs if they can’t reach) for meals
Preschooler to Kindergarten
Between the ages of 3 and 5, your child will be taller and more dexterous. This means they can continue the chores they performed as a toddler and a few more. Children in this age group can set the table, particularly if you use plastic dinnerware. They should also bring their dirty dishes to the sink or dishwasher. They may not react to the cheers that you once gave them for putting their toys away, but smile at them and thank them for their help. Other chores they can do include:
- Helping put groceries away
- Folding their clothes
- Putting their clothes in closets and drawers
- Using a small broom and pan to clean up little spills
- Pulling weeds
- Putting away their clothes and shoes
- Making their beds
Between the ages of 6 and 11, your child can handle more chores around the house with each passing year. Continue to encourage them to clean up after themselves and carry out a reward system. Keep track of the chores they do each day on a chart with stickers, and tell them a certain amount of stickers will result in something they want to buy or a trip to a place they love to go.
Children this age can use a large broom to tackle bigger messes. When they reach the age of 8 or 9, they can vacuum with supervision. Elementary-aged children can use a cloth and cleaner to wipe counters, bathrooms and tables. They can also aid in the kitchen; let them make their own sandwiches and pack their own snacks.
Pre-teen to Teen
By the time your child is 12 or 13, they can do almost any chore you do around the house. Teach them to run the laundry machine and do their own laundry. Show them how to make meals, and let them take turns preparing and cooking food for the family under adult supervision. They can even help fix broken things around the house with tools, as long as they wear proper safety equipment and are supervised. With independence and adulthood around the corner, the pre-teen and teenage years are crucial to teaching your children the skills they’ll need to take care of themselves.
According to Dr. Ruth Peters, asking children to do chores teaches them the importance of a healthy work ethic, which makes them able to self-motivate and handle stress. You don’t do your children any favors by thinking they’re incapable of helping with household chores. Over time, they’ll become better at the chores they do, and you’ll have some much-needed help.
About the Author: Louisa Bradley is a contributing writer, mother of three and school counselor. She’s seen the positive effects of asking children to take part in household chores, at home and at her school.