Starter Chores for Kids by Age

Starter Chores for Kids by Age - The California Beach Co.

Blog written by California Beach Co.

There are differences of opinion on the value of chores for kids, with some people arguing that play and learning are more important. However, age-appropriate chores help kids learn a sense of responsibility, developmental and motor skills alike, and help the family bond.

Even toddlers can start performing easy tasks with proper supervision and starting young builds strong habits that will benefit them into adult life. Make sure that you allocate chores fairly and flexibly and with an eye to age, development, and growing aptitudes.

child cleaning the counter as a starter chore for kids

What Is a Good Age to Start Chores?

Most kids can start basic chores at the age of two or three. Starting young really does help build good habits. Some parents may feel it is "unfair" to ask for chores at this age, but we are not talking about anything onerous or time-consuming. Rather we mean small tasks such as tidying the playpen or matching socks.

As kids get older, they can take on progressively more important tasks, such as setting the table, watering the plants, or getting their own snacks. Many kids legitimately want to help.

Avoid tying chores to an allowance. Small kids may not understand monetary rewards and chores should be something you do because they need doing. In fact, cutting a kid's allowance because chores were not done can actually be the opposite of motivating. Paying older kids for "bonus" chores, however, can be helpful, as can not allowing "fun" activities until the chore is done. For example, not putting out dessert until the dinner plates have been cleared, or queuing a TV show for after they have tidied their room. Planning a family cleaning day followed by a fun day in the backyard can make for a productive weekend.

Motivate younger kids by turning chores into a game, such as seeing who can put away toys the fastest, or playing matching games. As kids get older, they will begin to experience satisfaction, so it helps to give them chores that have an obvious positive result, such as a made bed, clean counter, or happy pet. Younger kids need direct consequences, so be careful with more abstract motivation.

Age-Appropriate chores for kids helps kids…

  • Become more self-sufficient and better able to look after themselves
  • Develop a work ethic and the understanding that sometimes unpleasant tasks are necessary
  • Feel part of the family and as if they are able to contribute
  • Develop a sense of responsibility and improved self-esteem
  • Improve both fine and gross motor skills, as well as hand-eye coordination
  • Be more willing to try new food and activities. Taking kids shopping and letting them look around can be particularly helpful if they are picky eaters
  • Learn colors and patterns
  • Improve executive functioning
  • Learn household skills, which can help them in adult life and relationships

Make sure to give lots of praise and reward effort, not perfection. If something doesn't have to be spot on, such as making the bed, don't correct it but let them feel accomplished. As they practice, gently nudge them towards the correct way of doing things. 

Make sure that if you ask your kid to do something that you follow through. Help, don't take over when they struggle. If you take over a task because they are "doing it wrong,' then they learn how to get out of things. Alternatively, if asking for help gets an exasperated sigh and you doing it yourself, you can easily train a kid never to ask for help...

toddler doing laundry a starter chores for kids

Can Toddlers Do Chores?

Toddlers can absolutely start doing chores. The assigned tasks need to be age-appropriate and simple. Some suggestions:

Chores for Toddlers

  • Picking up toys. As this can be overwhelming, break it down into smaller tasks such as putting balls in the blue bin. Sorting by type or color helps development.
  • Putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. You might even be able to get them to turn on the laundry or dishwasher.
  • Dusting furniture. Have them work on what they can reach while you clean higher up.
  • Pairing up socks while you put laundry away. Or sorting clothes by color.
  • Filling a pet's food dish, after you have measured the food. They can also put clean straw in a pocket pet's cage.
  • Wipe up small spills.
  • Put away lightweight groceries such as fruits and vegetables.

Toddlers often like to copy adults, so pay attention to see what they are trying to do. Letting a toddler follow you around with a toy broom might not directly help with sweeping, but it sets them up for later success. Chores for toddlers should be light and directly associated with play and learning.

It's also helpful to let toddlers watch as you do household tasks, go shopping, etc. You might be surprised by what they are able and willing to help with. If they aren't ready to actually help yet, let them play help, such as pretending to cut veggies with a blunt, plastic knife. Take plenty of time to teach them how to do their tasks.

kid washing the dishes as a starter chore for kids


Age Appropriate List of Chores for Kids

While toddlers need to be started with simple tasks, most kids can take on progressively greater responsibility. There is always the caveat that development speed can vary, and you need to know your child. It is always better to err on the side of letting them attempt the task, with proper supervision. Kids will often surprise us and there is no way to know for sure whether they are ready without letting them try. Some kids, especially if they have special needs, will need more help and/or take longer to reach their chore "milestones," and that's just fine. Others might show an early aptitude in some areas, such as cooking, which should be encouraged.

When introducing a new chore, give clear instructions and make sure they are not afraid to ask for help.

Chores for Kids by Age:

Chores for Kids Age 4-5 
  • Help set the table
  • Sort toys and craft supplies
  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets (but not kitchen or bathroom trash)
  • Bring in the mail or newspaper
  • Clear the table 
  • Weed the garden (with supervision as they learn to identify weeds)
  • Use a hand-held vacuum
  • Water house plants, flowers and deck containers that they can reach
  • Help unload the dishwasher. Let them unload utensils and anything else not fragile or sharp.
  • Wash plastic dishes and utensils in the sink
  • Get their own premade snacks and breakfast cereal
  • Wipe window sills and similar surfaces
  • Get ready in the morning without help.
  • Cut and mash food, but not use a sharp knife
  • Fill a pet's water dish
Chores for Kids Age 6-7 
  • Make their own lunch, such as simple sandwiches or wraps
  • Fold clothes
  • Vacuum
  • Clean bathroom sink. (Note, don't let children use harsh cleaning chemicals. Stick to water and/or vinegar)
  • Feed the dog or cat
  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear the table on their own. Setting the table properly can be complicated to start with.
  • Rake leaves and similar light yard work.
Chores for Kids Age 8-9 
  • Load the dishwasher. We take this for granted, but efficiently loading a dishwasher is a valuable skill.
  • Put away groceries
  • Make more complicated snacks such as cutting cheese and fruit.
  • Wipe the table after dinner.
  • Help cook and prepare meals.
  • Put away their own laundry
  • Make breakfast, including things like toast and maybe boiling an egg
  • Sew on buttons
  • Peel vegetables
  • Mop the floor
  • Walk the dog, assuming the dog is well-behaved
  • Clean the shower or tub

While it's great to have the kids help, try not to create a situation where they are demotivated or resentful. Chore charts are overly complicated for younger kids but can help older ones see the division of labor, as well as helping make sure things are divided fairly amongst siblings. Put your own chores on the chart too, so they can see that you are not making them do everything. If there is a chore everyone hates, such as emptying the letterbox or cleaning the tub, share it fairly.

Give kids some agency. Discuss who is doing what and give them some choices. Respect their preferences when you can, whilst standing firm where you need to, such as ensuring their room is tidy and toys are put away. 

Ask, rather than assume, what they want to or don't mind doing, and avoid gender-based assumptions. One good way to get a sense of control is to be flexible, within reason, about the time of day you expect chores to be done. Kids will be developing a sense of their own rhythms and letting them choose a time helps them remember their chores.

Kids can, and should, start doing basic chores as young as two. This is not unfairly putting your kids to work, but rather giving them the tools they need to succeed. It is not instead of learning, but part of it.

Just keep things age-appropriate and positive, and your kids will become more self-sufficient and develop their sense of responsibility and self-esteem. Starting early helps your kids thrive and grow into good adult citizens.