Have you ever wondered which chores your kids could be doing, or how to introduce your kids to them in a positive, even fun way? The key is giving age-appropriate chores and helping children gain confidence in their ability to do their tasks well.
So, read on for my pointers about chores kids can do and how to get them started without drama and trauma. And for subscribers, there’s a printable age-based chore list for kids at the end.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Each Stage
Although my kids are adults now, it feels like not that long ago I was trying to figure out how to start them on chores without everyone breaking into tears.
Knowing what chores are age-appropriate is the first step, since that helps avoid expecting more from a child than they’re developmentally ready to handle.
Chores Toddlers Can Do (Ages 1-2)
Toddlers learn by doing, and they love to be their parents’ helper. Getting little ones involved in chores improves their fine and gross motor skills as they learn to handle things, move intentionally, and coordinate their actions.
But don’t be surprised if they get frustrated or bored if something takes too long. Keep it short and sweet—just like your kids!
- Basic Cleaning: Dusting with a small cloth, wiping small spills with supervision
- Cooking: Stirring liquids
- Kitchen Duty: Putting utensils next to plates, napkins on plates
- Pet Care: Feeding pets with supervision
- Laundry: Putting clothes in hampers
- Yardwork: Helping water plants
- Personal Space: Putting toys in toy box, helping to make their bed
Chores Preschoolers Can Do (Ages 3-5)
By the time my youngest was a preschooler, he was ready to climb anything and believed he knew it all.
The thing about preschoolers, is that even though their fine motor skills are better, they still may have trouble with precise movements. So, it’s still not quite time for them to work without supervision, but they’re getting there.
At this age, kids are learning problem-solving, categorization, sequencing, and how to follow instructions—the very things that help them grow more independent.
- Can do all the above chores.
- Basic Cleaning: Dusting tables and baseboards
- Cooking: Washing vegetables, stirring ingredients, measuring some dry ingredients
- Kitchen Duty: Helping to set the table, washing plastic dishes and silverware
- Pet Care: Giving treats with supervision
- Laundry: Sorting clothes by color and fabric, fold washcloths and towels
- Personal Space: Organizing toys into specific containers, making their bed, pulling off used bedding
- Household: Sweeping entry mats and front steps
- Yardwork: Simple garden tasks (digging small holes, planting seeds, pinching leaves)
Chores School-Age Children Can Do (Ages 6-9)
School-age kids are ready for more independence, and can understand more complicated instructions, but they still need supervision and encouragement.
This is when kids begin to learn practical life skills and a sense of responsibility. Boosting their confidence is key to helping them feel good about doing chores.
At this age, both of my kids were still easily distracted. You may find yours drop tasks halfway through, too.
To help them stay on task, let them work independently but pop in and check on their progress now and then.
- Can do all the chores above.
- Basic Cleaning: General dusting, wiping, sweeping, vacuuming
- Cooking: Peeling vegetables, measuring, mixing
- Kitchen Duty: Setting and clearing the table independently, emptying the dishwasher
- Pet Care: Basic grooming
- Laundry: Sorting clothes, folding and hanging clean clothes, putting their own clothing away
- Personal Space: Changing their sheets, clean their rooms independently
- Household: Emptying trash cans, sorting recycling, helping wash cars
- Yardwork: Raking leaves, watering plants
Chores Pre-Teens Can Do (Ages 10-12)
Preteens can handle more complex tasks but often not as much as they think. This is a rough age on everyone as they continue developing problem-solving skills and critical thinking—traits which can show up as criticizing their parents.
Fortunately, preteens can work independently most of the time. I found that a blessing since it affords a chance to take a deep breath rather than snap after they get cheeky.
Patience with them will pay off down the road as they gain empathy along with self-confidence.
- Can do all the above chores.
- Advanced Cleaning: Cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, polishing mirrors
- Cooking: Following recipes for simple meals and snacks, making their own lunch
- Kitchen Duty: Washing dishes by hand independently or loading the dishwasher
- Pet Care: Cleaning litter-boxes, walking the dog, giving treats
- Laundry: Managing their own laundry start to finish
- Personal Space: Cleaning and organizing their room, managing personal items, planning homework, and getting their backpacks ready
- Household: Changing light bulbs, maintaining bikes, vacuuming cars
- Yardwork: Helping with outdoor projects, pulling weeds, trimming shrubs
- Help with Younger Siblings: Overseeing playtime or helping with homework
Chores Teens Can Do (Ages 13 and up)
Chores for teens are about discreetly equipping them with practical knowledge, common sense, and time-management skills.
Teens are often quietly worried they don’t know as much as everyone else, or aren’t as prepared to become adults. The fear of being exposed can make them clam up, but that’s the last thing we want.
I always found it helpful to stick around the first few times my teenagers did a task, so I could catch them succeeding and praise them for it.
And if things do wrong—which happens to everyone—reminding teens that you’ve always got their back takes an enormous amount of pressure off them.
- Can do all the above chores.
- Thorough Cleaning: Deep cleaning of various areas in the home independently
- Cook: Preparing complete meals and planning family menus, especially with a budget
- Pet Care: Handling full pet care, including regular walks and vet appointments
- Laundry: Helping with household laundry and ironing
- Personal Space: Establishing a personal bank account, getting an after-school job or babysitting for others, budgeting personal expenses and savings
- Household: Minor repairs, painting rooms and trim, helping with renovations
- Yardwork: Mowing, fertilizing, aerating.
- Help with Younger Siblings: Babysitting, tutoring, supervising
Benefits of Kids Doing Chores
Chores aren’t just about getting kids to pick up after themselves, although that’s certainly a perk for parents.
Being expected to do chores leads to happier, more confident kids who grow into caring, productive adults.
- Chores teach responsibility: They learn to put time and effort toward the things expected of them, two skills that help them become successful adults.
- Chores teach accountability: They learn their contributions are valued and that not contributing has consequences.
- Chores boost self-esteem: Learning new skills give kids a sense of accomplishment that increases their confidence and self-esteem.
- Chores keep kids on a good path: Feeling capable and valued helps kids resist peer pressure.
- Chores foster family bonding: Contributing to the smooth-running of the home teaches they’re part of a team that takes care of each other. This leads to powerful family bonding and provides a feeling of safety that is crucial to childhood development.
Avoiding Chore Trauma
Like many parents, I was reluctant at first to give my kids chores because of my own childhood cleaning trauma from trying to please a perfectionist.
Then one day, I realized my oldest did not know how to use a vacuum cleaner, a task I’d been expected to do well at half her age.
Somewhere between the two extremes, I realized, was the point where my kids would learn important skills from a parent who’d broken the generational curse of demanding perfection. So, I changed my approach and it made all the difference.
1. Focus on their effort, not the result.
The ultimate goal in getting your kids to do chores isn’t having tasks done perfectly—it’s about teaching life skills and building confidence.
This shift in perspective helps in understanding that the effort they put in—like spending 20 minutes dusting without distractions—is more important than a spotless outcome.
As a kid, the pressure to do everything right was so strong that I was afraid to make mistakes. That meant I often hid my errors or didn’t try at all.
With my kids, I chose to focus on their effort, not the end result. That took the pressure off and encouraged them show up and try hard without fear of failure.
2. Celebrate their initiative.
Most parents don’t enjoy conflict with their kids, like having to nag about doing chores, so we don’t enforce the expectations.
But that approach deprives our kids of the developmental benefits that come from doing chores consistently. I solved this by actively looking for chances to praise my kids for doing things without being asked, no matter how little those things were.
Took their plate to the sink after dinner? “Thank you!” Fed the cat without being asked? “That was nice of you, thanks!”
It made them feel good about themselves to be thanked, and before long they were looking for things they could do to help out.
3. Notice when they improve.
If the idea of praising effort even when kids don’t do a chore well has you worried, keep in mind that chores aren’t a one-and-done thing.
Every time they do a chore they’ll get better at it. You can keep them motivated to keep trying by not turning chore-time into something that makes them feel awful about themselves.
The first time they clean a bathroom, for example, they may miss some spots on the mirror. Who doesn’t now and then?
Thank them and maybe next time, just mention, “Hey, let’s give those mirrors an extra shine.” It’s about guiding them, not making them feel bad, until they’re confident in their ability to do the job well and began taking pride in that.
Introducing Kids to Chores
If you’re ready to introduce your kids to doing chores, or to take a different approach to how you’ve been handling that, here’s are the steps that worked in my home.
- Start by demonstrating the task. Show and describe what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
- Describe the goal clearly: Saying “go clean your room” doesn’t tell kids what’s expected. Break it into smaller steps. A cleaning checklist is helpful for this.
- Work together at first: Do the chore together with your child a few times. This keeps them from feeling overwhelmed and gives them a chance to ask questions.
- Supervise a few times: Ease into a hands-off approach by staying nearby while they do the task independently.
- Turn it into a routine: Establish daily and weekly chores for kids so they have some predictability. Consistency helps kids learn and remember things.
- Keep consequences neutral but relevant: When kids forget or resist doing their chores, calmly remind them that privileges like screen time or staying up late are not available until they meet their responsibilities. Or, as my family puts it, “do your got-tos before your want-tos.” Isn’t that what we as adults have to do?
How Much Time Should Chores Take Kids?
There’s no hard and fast rule about how much time kids should spend doing chores. The younger kids are, the more chores feel like games because they love to help.
After they reach school age, a half-hour of daily chores—washing dishes, feeding pets, helping set and clear the table, etc.—is not unreasonable, even for busy teens.
Doing additional longer projects or more intensive cleaning together as a family on the weekends can keep the home running well. Single parents may need their kids to help out more than that—just be sure to set aside time to have fun with them, too.
Adjusting for Different Temperaments
As a parent, you already know that kids have individual learning styles and reach milestones at their own pace, no matter what the charts or experts say.
- If you know your child learns best by doing: Give them the time and space to make mistakes. Stay nearby to answer questions, but don’t critique.
- If your child learns best by listening: Work on the task together a few times while you narrate ever step and explain way it’s done that way.
- If your child learns best by watching: Find a “clean with me” video and watch it together, then let them watch you do the task. Next time, let them take a turn.
Above all, let your kids ease into learning and take on new chores as they’re ready. By keeping it positive and reminding them that their contributions are valued, you’ll keep your kids motivated to do the chores you’ve assigned and ready to take on more.