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Teaching responsibility to children from 2 to 12 with chores

Updated on February 16, 2014

Children of 2 to 4 years old

Around the age of 2, your child will start to show an interest in what you do around the house; cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of pets, etc. Your child might even ask if it can help you. And even if it is inconvenient (if you don’t have much time) and it is not possible at the time, at least explain what you are doing. If there is time, then, depending on the age, give it a simple task to do. Here are a number of examples of what your child in the age of 2 to 4 could safely do.

  • If you own a pet, you could show it how you feed it, walk it, clean its cage, pet it, etc. Your child will still be too small to do this, but , for example teaching it how to pet a pet could already help.
  • Let your child help you to water your plants, outside or inside, give it a childrens watercan for easy lifting and pouring.
  • Are you cleaning the house, give your child a (dry or moist) cleaning cloth so that if it wants, it can help you. Don’t ofcourse expect your child to really clean things, but at least it will give the the feeling that it is doing something important.
  • When hanging the laundry, let your child help you by handing you the clothing pins. When folding laundry, show it how you fold the clothing and perhaps have it help you fold towels.
  • Perhaps the most important is to have it help when cleaning up toys in his/her room, placing it in the cabinet, boxes, etc. Explain that it is important to clean up its toys so it can always find their toys back.

After every “chore or task”, make sure you reward your child by giving it compliments. This will make him/her feel proud and important and responsible.

Children aged 5 to 8 years old

At the age from 5 to 8 you can expand the “tasks” a bit. In the beginning you will still have to be there for safety, but slowely but surely your child will know how to do certain things and it will be able to handle a bit more responsibility. Remember to still keep it playful.

  • You can now start by giving your child its own fixed task, such as feeding a pet, or watering the plants. Your child will feel very important with this responsibility.
  • Folding and hanging the laundry together.
  • Help with cooking is also possible now. Your child can help mixing certain ingredients, adding spices, or mixing dough. When your child is around 7 to 8, you could even give it a blunt knife to cut fruit or vegetables. Also preparing the table for breakfast/lunch/ dinner or help with cleaning it. Remember that you should always stay with your child when it is doing these tasks.
  • Helping with the dishes. Give them an apron (for the water) and a sponge to clean plates and cups (look out with sharp items).
  • Ask your child to clean up its toys /room more regularly by itself or together. Teach it to clean up the “old” toys before starting to play with the “new” toys.

Children of ages 9 to 12 years old

When your child is in this age category, you may expect it to do some chores around the house. You can make him/her responsible for them (safe tasks that is).

  • You could have your child walk the dog (if it is a small/medium dog) around the block. Do set a time when your child should be back and how far it can go walking. If you have a rabbit or hamster, your child could clean or help clean the cage/ refill the water, etc.
  • As from 10 years old, you could ask your child to vacuum clean or mob the floor, even if it is just one room (don’t let it do the entire house, though)
  • A task that most children take care of in this age category is getting the table ready for the meal and cleaning the table after the meal.
  • Teach your child the basics of cooking, such as frying or boiling an egg, baking pancakes or baking a cake. Don’t let them handle fire yet though, especially without your supervision. Let your child help with cutting ingredients for a meal, making sandwiches for school.
  • Have your child collect laundry or hang the clean clothes.
  • Your child can now be responsible for cleaning its own room and keeping it clean too. A clean room makes a good study environment.

Determine how clean is clean

Some tips along the way

  • Don’t be too strict when handing out tasks and don’t give your child too many of them at a time. Main thing is that, especially in the early age, they enjoy and feel proud of what they do. As they get older they should ofcourse do their share, but do not de-motivate them.
  • When they are about 6 or 7 years old you could start giving them pocket money. You could have them do certain tasks in return for their pocket money (cleaning their room, doing dishes, etc.) or offer them some extra pocket money reward for certain more important and more heavy tasks, for example cleaning a car or the garden.
  • During it all, never forget to compliment your child for doing a task and say how proud you are of them.


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    • twoseven profile image


      4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Great suggestions! I have found my son (4 years old) really loves to clean with a damp cloth. My 1.5 year old will even try to imitate him! I will try some of your other ideas as well.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Enschede, The Netherlands

      Thanks! I use them myself too and my daughter is actually proud of taking care of watering the plants :) Sometimes a bit too much though...

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Nice suggestions for little ones to pitch in and help out around the house!


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