Age Appropriate Chores for Children
It seems that many people these days have forgotten to have their children do chores around the house. I am a firm believer in having the kids do chores to help make the house run, but unfortunately I am one of the few people I know that requires their kids to help. It is hard to think back to my early childhood and remember what chores I did at a very young age, but I know I did them.
I think part of the problem is that parents remember how they hated chores when they were children therefore they don't want to impose such things on their children. I think another part of the problem is smaller family sizes. When I just had one or two children it was still fairly easy to do everything myself. It was certainly easier at times. As our family grew and there was more and more for me to do it became necessary to have the kids pitch in and help. I am so glad I decided to require that at a young age, because they now all have chores that they do on a regular basis. Yes they sometimes complain, but they do them and they do them well because they know it is required and they have had lots of practice.
Toddlers love to help! Start at this age and things will go a lot smoother. Any small thing that you can have them do will make them feel like they are helping big time. At this age, they should really be with you for the most part anyway so including them in what you are doing shouldn't be a big deal. You can give them a dust rag and they can dust alongside you. My daughter even will dust the walls for me. She is always so happy when I include her. Toddlers can also line up shoes, put their dirty clothing in the laundry, put napkins around at the table, throw something away for you, help clean up their toys, stack books or magazines, hand you something off the floor, etc. Any little thing that they can do will teach them that helping is good and make them feel proud of themselves.
Preschoolers generally still enjoy helping and can do a lot more than you think. Preschoolers can do all of the above plus set the table, help put dishes away (unbreakable ones), get their own snack, put their clean laundry away, dress themselves, sweep under the table (buy a small handheld sweeper and dust pan) make their beds (it won't be perfect, but resist the urge to redo it), empty small trashcans into a bigger one, put a bag in the trash, fold napkins and towels, help bring in the groceries and help in the kitchen. My daughter loves to wash veggies, count out hotdogs, stir muffin batter, pour ingredients and take plates over to the table. Preschoolers also love sticker charts and if you combine chores with earning stickers you will make their day.
For young school age kids, maybe 5-7, they can do all of the above, plus sweep, help in the garden or yard (pulling weeds or raking leaves), organize books (and actually do a decent job), vacuuming, mopping, putting things away for you, unloading the dishwasher, clipping coupons, folding laundry and sorting laundry. They can also do a pretty good job at helping wash the car. One thing I have my kids do frequently, especially during cold and flu season, is to give them a disinfecting wipe and have them go through the house and wipe down all the doorknobs and light switches.
Up through age 7 or 8, remember the child is helping you. Many of the things I have listed they would not be able to complete on their own. Keep in mind small children get tired faster than adults. So they may help rake the leaves for 10 minutes and that is great. Don't expect them to rake the whole yard. Children need to be taught to do chores correctly and if you start when they are young things will go much smoother. Don't expect perfection in the beginning, but over the years they will develop some pretty good ways of getting things clean and you will really come to rely on them to help the house run.
From the ages of 9-12 children can handle increasingly difficult jobs around the home and yard. They are usually now capable of completing any of the above chores fairly quickly and do a pretty good job. I know that my 10 year old can go out and rake and bag leaves, mow the lawn (the flat parts, we don't want him going up and down hills yet), wash the car, water the garden and sweep the porch. Inside the house he does a great job vacuuming, unloading the dishwasher, carrying the groceries in, cleaning up messes and sweeping and mopping.
For children older than 12 they should be learning to do everything that an adult does around the house. It shouldn't take them long to learn and I really think that kids need to learn everything that needs to be done to run a household. What better way to teach that than to actually have them do it. Parents need to take the time to teach their children all the little things as well as the big things. They should be able to cook meals, change the oil in their car, mow the lawn, clean the house top to bottom, plan a menu, do minor fixes around the house, etc. It won't be long before they are out on their own and they need to know how to survive.
I do not have my children do all of these things all the time. I do not sit around all day while my children wait on me and clean the house. We all work together to help keep the house running. They need to know how to do everything I do eventually and my job is to teach them.
I have found that rotating chores will keep the kids learning and keep them interested. One of the things that runs through my head frequently is "who is the youngest person who could handle this?" It is so tempting to just ask the oldest one to do everything, because they are fast and capable, but the younger ones need to learn too.
Each child has chores that they are always expected to do. We do not pay for these chores. We do however pay for extra chores that need to be done. It is up to you what incentive you use, some people use none and that is fine. We do a combination. Having kids do chores might seem like more trouble than it is worth when they are young, but it will pay off in the long run and it won't be long before the whole family is reaping the benefits of everyone working together.