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Age-Appropriate Chores for Young Children: 10 Things You Should Know

March 3, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

Most people hate chores, but it’s something we have to live with unfortunately. If I could, I would most definitely hire a cleaning service, but I can’t afford it. Thus, again, this leaves me at a point where I still need to do chores. It’s a responsibility that most people will have throughout their lives, so it is something that should be taught to children at an early age. So, what are some age-appropriate chores for young children, and how do we get them to start learning the concept of responsibility at a young age?

Before I jump into the discussion, I wanted to add that according to one article, toddlers have an innate desire to be helpful. Interestingly, one study even showed that 20-month-old children who were playing with a new toy were likely to stop what they were doing in order to help an adult pick something up from the floor. It isn’t known why toddlers seem to have this strong desire to help, but it could be that they just want to be around their family.

chores for young children

Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers (Ages 2-3) and Young Children (Preschool age)

  • Picking up after themselves. This can include picking up toys, their clothes, putting their dishes up (plastic ones), and throwing away their trash.
  • Help with sweeping such as holding the dust pan. My daughter doesn’t quite get this concept yet, but she still helps and will eventually get the concept.
  • Help wipe down tables and other surfaces (I usually give my child an extra rag without any type of cleaner on it and just let her imitate what I do)
  • Carry in groceries (very light bags, of course!). I have my daughter carry in the bread, for instance.
  • Help put dishes in the dishwasher
  • Help set the table
  • Assist with giving the pets food and water
  • Assist with watering plants

How do we get our kids to actually do the chores?

  • Expose your children to chores as much as possible. When you are doing the dishes or vacuuming, allow them to watch you do it. This ties in to the point on modeling, as they learn just be watching you do it.
  • Model the behavior. For example, when I want my child to put her toys up, I start putting them away.
  • Be sure you are giving the child a chore that is appropriate to their skill level and makes an actual contribution. For example, sometimes I may let my child sweep after I have already swept. If they are not making an actual contribution, they will pick up on that and may be invested less in helping later on. If they are making a contribution, it helps them feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Ask politely, by saying, “Will you please help me put away your toys?”
  • Don’t force the issue. Encourage children when they seem interested in helping. If the child is forced, they may become more resistant later on.
  • Make it fun. Sometimes, I like to sing songs with her as we clean up. Or I make it game, so I may say, “Let’s see who can put the toys up the fastest!”
  • Sometimes children are distracted by something else, such as what’s on TV. So, it may be helpful to remove those distractions first before asking your child to help with a chore.
  • Try a reward chart such as the one below. You can put stars on the chart after a chore is completed. And if they complete all of their chores for the week, they can receive a reward of some sort (trip to the playground or a nice toy). For younger children, they will likely need more immediate rewards.

chore chart for young children

    • This is another idea as well. There are 50 total chore sticks to draw from, 42 of them have printed chores on them and 8 can be customized to fit your family’s needs. There are also surprise fun sticks that are mixed in that children can draw. For example, one fun stick involves dancing to one song. This variety may make chores more fun and keep them coming back to see what they might draw next. These chore sticks also come with a free downloadable board game, bingo game, and a chore star chart.

  • Offer them choices in the chores that they have to do. For example, you might ask them, “Would you rather pick up your toys right now or help set the table for dinner? This helps them become more independent and learn how to start making decisions.
  • When your child does finish a chore, say thank you and praise them for doing it. 
  • Make sure your expectations are simple and clear when communicating to your child about what needs to be done.
  • Offer an immediate reward after they finish the desired chore(s). For example, this could be a piece of candy or some time watching their favorite cartoon (This will work better with older children, as rewards seem to undermine helpful behaviors in toddlers).

Final Thoughts

If you are teaching young children how to do chores, this is one important part of beginning to teach responsibility. This helps set them up for learning responsibility in other areas of their life. I don’t want to be the mom who is still doing my child’s laundry when she gets to college (This is a thing, as some will come to the dorms to do it), so why not start helping them learn some daily living skills early on?

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