Chores for kids at every age

Find out how to choose appropriate chores for toddlers, kids and teens.

Chores for kids at every age
No parent should feel alone in completing a whole household worth of chores. From a very young age, kids are capable of helping out – so teach them how.

"I like to equate it to adults volunteering," says Judy Arnall, a parenting expert and author of The Last Word on Parenting Advice (Professional Parenting Canada, 2011). Try creating the same conditions at home as you would for volunteers in a charity situation: "Set reasonable expectations and keep it short and routine," she says.

Doing chores is great for your kids' self-esteem because it helps them feel as though they are part of a group. Plus by asking your kids to help you're telling them: "We need you."

Remember that it's important to get kids helping out around the whole house and in "more than just their corner of their world – their room," says Arnall.

Chores for kids: Dos and don'ts for getting your kids to contribute

• Do offer plenty of encouragement.
• Don't overdo it: Keep chore time short and sweet, rather than spending a whole day taking on everything that needs to be done.
• Do make chores social and fun.
• Don't pay your kids to do chores.
• Do provide recognition and appreciation.
• Don't expect perfection.
• Do choose age-appropriate chores.
• Don't criticize the way a job has been done.
• Do offer choices: one chore over another, or a particular time of day to complete chores.

Age-appropriate chores for everyone

Starting at 18 months, kids can learn to put away their own toys and belongings.

By age three, your kids should be regularly tidying up their toys and putting things away. They can also help you empty wastebaskets or, according to Arnall, "be a gopher" – hand them an item to put away, have them run off and do so, and then come back for more. This presents you with an opportunity to turn cleanup time into a game. About this time, kids can also start to learn to sort laundry or set the table.

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