Assigning your kids chores around the house isn’t just a great way to get some extra help: It’s also the perfect opportunity to teach them responsibility in a hands-on way. Getting them on board to contribute to the household can also increase their enthusiasm to be helpful in other ways, too. And even if you think your kids are too young to contribute in a meaningful way, know that even small chores can promote a feeling of accomplishment and healthy pride in their belongings, as well as their surroundings.
Because most kids learn by doing, don’t insist on perfection—at least not at first. After you assign them a chore, be sure to do it with them so they can get the hang of it and understand your expectations. Does making the bed include folding in the corners? Show them, then help them work with plenty of praise and positive reinforcement.
If they protest, help them understand that while chores can be fun: Encourage them to put on their favorite music when putting their toys away, or let them make up a song to sing while they make their bed. A treat or reward on completion of each task is a good idea. Something small like an animal cracker usually does the trick! For older kids, a chore chart complete with weekly rewards can be more effective.
Ahead, a list of age-appropriate cleaning tasks for your children.
Cleaning Tasks for Ages 5 and below
At this age, kids generally enjoy being helpful. Encourage them to be autonomous in small ways by showing them how to fill up your dog’s food bowl, and make sure important (but safe) cleanup items like rags or paper towels are within reach.
- Help make the bed
- Put their toys away
- Fill your pet’s food dish or water bowl
- Put their dirty clothes in the hamper
- Match clean pairs of socks
- Wipe up spills or their area after a snack
- Organize books and magazines
Cleaning Tasks for Ages 6-8
According to Good Housekeeping, 29% of parents spend five or more hours per week cleaning, but 76% of children aged 6–17 have no cleaning responsibilities. By the age of six, most kids have mastered the fine motor skills needed to do things like make their own bowl of cereal or set and clear the table.
- Make their bed
- Put away all items in their bedroom
- Empty wastebaskets
- Set and clear the dinner table
- Use a hand-held vacuum or dustpan to pick up crumbs
- Water plants and change the water in vases
- Fix their own bowl of cereal (and yours!)
- Sort laundry by color
- Sweep floors
Cleaning Tasks for Ages 9-11
By now, kids are likely to have developed a set of chores they like as well as some they dread. To give them a say in, let them pick a handful of chores, then assign a couple of more that fill in the gaps of general life skills. (Eventually, they’ll have to learn how to do laundry—even if the idea of folding towels sounds painfully boring.)
- Load the dishwasher
- Unpack and put away groceries
- Vacuum one level of the house
- Mop the floor
- Help prepare dinner
- Take the garbage out
- Wipe the kitchen table and counters
- Put away their own laundry
- Take your family pet for a walk
Cleaning Tasks for Ages 12+
At this point, kids should have a list of daily and weekly chores that they handle without being told. Don’t fret if they need a reminder: Even adults require a checklist.
- Unload dishwasher
- Do the dishes
- Do and fold laundry
- Iron napkins & dish cloths
- Clean the bathroom
- Wash the windows
- Wash the family car
- Help cook simple meals with supervision
- Change their own bed sheets
- Help with yard work
Of course, you may need to adjust this based on your child, but even the smallest task will help them develop good life skills and habits. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t take to it right away, just know that it’s better to introduce something too early and have them take their time learning it than it is to introduce it too late!