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Chores for Kids: The Ultimate Guide to Age-Appropriate Chores

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Chores for Kids

Why to Involve Your Kids to Build Life Skills


We don’t do our kids any favors when we do everything for them. Resilience and self-esteem aren’t trinkets you can give your kids for their birthdays. They’re earned by them. And we can create learning opportunities for them. 


Our children were assigned chores at a young age because we didn’t want them to be lazy. At the time, we didn’t know that introducing chores to children at a young age also teaches valuable life skills such as responsibility, time management, and self-reliance. 


"Children want to be helpful and take pride in pleasing adults and caregivers." - Tara McMullen

Tara McMullen helps lead the Early Childhood Teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School. According to Mrs. McMullen, "Having young children do simple chores as early as 18 months can foster healthy social-emotional learning."


Even small tasks encourage responsibility. Here are a handful of examples of simple chores shared by Mrs. McMullen:


  • Putting their plates, spoons, and silverware in the sink when they are finished after a meal.

  • Helping take garbage or recycling to an outdoor trash can.

  • Washing or wiping down toys that are getting ready to be put away.

This comprehensive guide breaks down suitable chores for kids according to their age groups, helping parents foster a sense of contribution and independence in their children.


What the Research Says


A University of Minnesota study discovered that beginning chores at an early age — as young as 3 or 4 years old — was the best predictor of young adult success, on measures related to education completion, career path, and personal relationships.


It has been found that working children, whether it is part-time work, household chores, or school clubs, is a better predictor of mental health than social class, family problems, and other factors in adulthood, according to a Harvard University study of inner-city males.


The 2019 study “Associations Between Household Chores and Childhood Self-Competency” of nearly 10,000 U.S. children entering kindergarten in 2010/2011 assessed how regularly they participated in household chores. These same children were assessed again when they reached third grade for prosocial behavior, prosocial behavior, academics, and life satisfaction. Researchers concluded,


“The frequency of chores in kindergarten was positively associated with a child’s perception of social, academic, and life satisfaction competencies in the third grade, independent of sex, family income, and parent education… Compared with children who regularly performed chores, children who rarely performed chores had greater odds of scoring in the bottom quintile on self-reported prosocial, academic ability, peer relationship, and life satisfaction scores.”


Don’t Do This


Crazy Chore Chart

When our children were young, I concocted an elaborate system to track chores and distribute incentives based on varying factors. My wife was on bended knee, laughing at my system as I explained it. 


Why? It was far too complex. Do not create a complex system, particularly when the children are young. 


 

Related: Our Household Chores Page is full of ideas and resources to manage chores as a team.


 

Systems to Manage Your Kids’ Chores


Alaina Restivo is an organizational effectiveness and business consultant who coaches women on the skills they need to feel supported and successful in the workplace - which starts with equitable division of labor at home.


Alaina lives in Rhode Island and is a single mom to three girls ages 11, 8, and 5.


I asked Alaina how she uses the Fair Play as a chore management system win her family.


"In my household, I have used the Fair Play tenets as a way of keeping us grounded in the truths of my life: Mom has 24 hours in her day, just like the kiddos; we have stuff that has to get done, and things we want to get done; and, to be the best mom that I can be, I need help.


My kids love the visual element of Fair Play, and are active participants in 'building our (household) deck.' Every two weeks, give or take, we talk about our calendar and how it relates to the deck. For example, do we have a birthday party for a friend? is it time for us to open our pool? Those tasks go into the "must do" category.


Once we have our deck 'built', I ask my kids to grab a card that they're willing to hold until the next time we meet. By having them 'opt-in', they feel ownership over the tasks. We also discuss what each of us can do for ourselves - like tidying up our rooms - without swapping.


I'm a big believer in starting small and building over time - I take the conception and planning portion of all cards, which helps the card(s) not feel overwhelming. We also swap regularly. However, Fair Play gives our home a common language - now, when I say it's 'tidy up the living room' time, they know what that means."


Should Chores Be Tied to An Allowance? 


Some say yes, and here is how


We were proudly a FamZoo family when our children were younger. We've seen firsthand how beneficial the program can be for families, which is why we selected FamZoo as a partner.


Learn more about discounted pricing with our partnership.


I asked Bill Dwight, the FamZoo founder, for one of his favorite ways to tie together an allowance with chores using FamZoo.


"My favorite chore setup combines optimism, convenience, accountability, and the power of loss aversion."

Loss aversion in behavioral economics refers to a phenomenon where a real or potential loss is perceived by individuals as psychologically or emotionally more severe than an equivalent gain. For instance, the pain of losing $10 is often far greater than the joy gained in finding the same amount.


Dwight continues by adding, "It combines an automatically delivered weekly allowance with a chore penalty chart. The parent only needs to check the box on the chart when the child fails to complete an expected chore. Doing so claws back a penalty amount from the child's account."


Simplifying and automating processes make it easier for parents to follow through. As Dwight shares, "Optimistically, if all chores are completed each week, the child keeps their full allowance and the parent need not lift a finger. The system conveniently runs on full autopilot. If, however, a child misses a chore, the parent checks off the box, a penalty amount is deducted, and the child is held accountable."


Dwight concludes by adding, "The potential claw-back consequences for not completing a chore creates a powerful loss aversion incentive. Nobody likes to lose money they already received!"


Some say no, and here is why


"What if your child has everything they need, and they decide they don't need an allowance and refuse to do the chore?"

When Ron Lieber, the author of The Opposite of Spoiled, shared this with me in the past, a light bulb went off. He was right. It's an unlucky conundrum when your kids are young, but the standoff could be real in their preteen or teenage years.


When our kids were older, we transitioned to chores as an expectation to being a member of the family. If they didn't do their chores, we grounded them.


With one caveat. Our kids could propose a household project for them to complete that went above and beyond what is expected, and they could bid on the project. The idea is to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship.


As far as their allowance, we provide it to them as a tool to learn how to manage money.


Chores for 3 Year Olds

Toddlers (Ages 2-3)


At this age, toddlers are eager to imitate adults and are naturally curious about their surroundings. Chores should be simple and focus on fostering a sense of accomplishment.


Suggested Chores

Chores for 3 Year Olds

Pro Tips: Make it fun! Use songs and games to make chores fun and provide lots of praise and encouragement.


Chores for 4 Year Olds

Preschoolers (Ages 4-5)


Pro Tip: Preschoolers are developing more motor skills and can handle slightly more complex tasks. Chores should still be simple but can include more steps.


Suggested Chores

Chores for 4 Year Olds

Pro Tips: Demonstrate each task clearly and work alongside them initially and keep a chore chart with stickers to track progress and reward completion.


Chores for 6 Year Olds


Children in this age group can follow multi-step instructions and are more capable of handling responsibility. Chores can be slightly more complex and varied.


Suggested Chores

Chores for 6 Year Olds

Pro Tip: Establish a routine to make chores a regular part of their day.


Chores for 7 Year Olds


Some children change quite a bit in these ages. Use the list for six year olds and the list that follows to determine what is most appropriate for your child. 


 


 

Chores for 8 Year Olds

Older Elementary (Ages 8-10)


At this stage, children can handle more detailed chores and take on additional responsibility. They can start to understand the importance of their contributions to the household.


Suggested Chores


Chores for 8 Year Olds

Pro Tips: Explain the importance of each chore and how it contributes to the household.


Chores for 11 Year Olds

Preteens (Ages 11-12)


Preteens can manage more complex tasks and take on chores that require more responsibility and independence.


Suggested Chores

Chores for 11 Year Olds

Pro Tips: Allow them some independence in completing tasks and discuss the value of their contributions and how these skills will benefit them in the future.


Chores for Teenagers

Teenagers (Ages 13+)


Teenagers should be capable of handling most household chores and can even take on more complex tasks that prepare them for adulthood.


Suggested Chores

Chores for Teenagers

Pro Tips: Encourage responsibility by allowing them to manage their chore schedule and 

connect chores to real-world skills and future independence, like preparing for college or a job.


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