Share on Pinterest
Dejan Ristovski/Stocksy United

You look around and see that the house is a mess — again. Before getting down on your hands and knees and picking stuff up yourself, consider getting your kids involved.

Children as young as toddlers can pitch in and help with the family chores. Doing so may even develop their sense of personal responsibility and gratitude, as well as their ability to take care of themselves when they grow into adulthood.

Research from 2016 studied chores and the impact that household work has on children. What experts have discovered is that kids who do chores develop a sense of gratitude. They also apply this sense of gratitude to their parents, creating a closer parent-child bond.

The key, researchers say, is making chores a routine. In other words, parents must make sure to incorporate chores into everyday life in a consistent way.

In another study from 2019, researchers revealed that young kids who regularly do chores have an increased feeling of life satisfaction than those who don’t do chores.

When evaluated in third grade, these children had higher levels of social skills and academic achievement. Interestingly enough, kids who did regular chores in kindergarten had higher math scores in third grade than their peers.

As your child gets older, the chores you assign should meet their interests and abilities.

Chores for tweens and teens, for instance, serve the very practical purpose of preparing them for life on their own. This means you’ll need to think about your child’s stage of development to choose tasks that will benefit them most as they grow.

By the time your child is 3 years old, they should be able to follow instructions that involve two to three steps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that any chores you assign should be relatively short and simple.

Children of this age also have the dexterity to screw or unscrew jar lids and turn door handles as they move around their environment. Remember to keep breakable items and small objects out of reach, and be sure to block off any areas you don’t want your tot getting into unattended.


  • Pick up toys and place them in a toy box or on a shelf.
  • Gather books and place them on a bookshelf.
  • Pick up trash and place it in a garbage can.
  • Gather clothing and put in a laundry basket.
  • Take clean clothing and place it in dresser drawers.
  • Fold small items, like washcloths, rags, and their own clothing.
  • Wipe down or dust baseboards, window sills, small tables, or other objects on their level.
  • Put away plastic or break-resistant dishes in a low drawer or shelf.
  • Pull weeds, like dandelions.
  • Get dressed and undressed on their own.

How to get started

Children in this age range love to copy what they see adults and other kids doing. So, modeling whatever chores you choose for your little one can be a useful way to begin.

You may even want to approach chores in a way where your toddler is your little helper. Your child can follow you around the house and take part in any tasks you’re doing.

Incentives for this age range

Your toddler may not need any rewards to help around the house. They may just like feeling that they’re doing something on their own. Or they may enjoy spending time with you.

Try not to focus too much on incentives at this age, and instead work on getting your little one into the habit of helping as part of daily life.

While children in this age range may be quite demanding at times, they can also be very cooperative and have a desire to please their friends and family members.

Children as young as 4 years old have the ability to pour liquids, cut with supervision, and even mash their own food, so chores can extend to the kitchen with light meal preparation (with supervision, of course).

While kids this age are less accident prone than their younger siblings, you’ll still want to supervise them while they’re doing chores. They may also benefit from using smaller tools and other aids, such as child-sized brooms, dust pans, or even a stool.


  • Make their own bed.
  • Straighten their bedroom (put away toys, books, or clothing).
  • Pick up after themselves when playing with toys and puzzles or when making art projects.
  • Sweep the floor using a child-sized broom.
  • Dust or wipe down low surfaces with a safe cleaner.
  • Collect trash from several small bins and put them in larger can.
  • Feed and water the family pets.
  • Set the table before meals and clear the table after meals.
  • Water plants using a child-sized watering can.
  • Fix a simple snack (banana with peanut butter) or meal (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) using child-safe kitchen tools.
  • Put away groceries, with assistance as needed.
  • Continue assisting with laundry, but move on to folding and sorting items like socks.
  • Continue assisting with dishes, but move on to flatware and even regular dishes.

How to get started

Your child can begin by doing any of the simple chores they were doing in their toddler years. Then, as you see their abilities and interests expand, you can try adding new tasks.

Children in this age group are beginning to understand time, so setting a timer may be a useful way to get chores done with less protest. You can say, “We’re going to do our chores for 10 minutes! Go!”

When you’re giving your child chores to do, be specific. Instead of saying, “Go clean your room,” you might spell out exactly what needs to be cleaned up. Try saying, “Please put your toys and stuffed animals in your toy box, and put your comforter on your bed.”

Incentives for this age range

You’ll probably find a lot of different chore charts and prize systems set up for children of this age. However, experts warn to be careful with using too many rewards. It may spoil your child’s intrinsic motivation, which is a fancy way of saying your child’s ability to do something simply for satisfaction versus a promise of reward.

Kids in this age group have a wide range of interests and abilities. Any chores you assign should take your individual child into consideration.

For example, kids ages 6 to 7 like to practice new skills they learn to improve over time. They can also follow instructions that include up to three different tasks at a time with some practice.

Once they get a bit older, between 8 and 9 years old, they may have the coordination and control to use a screwdriver or hammer with only a little assistance. You may also find that your child likes to collect lots of tiny objects at this age, so chores that involve keeping all those precious items corralled may be useful.

The oldest kids in this age set have a growing sense of responsibility and may even be good at helping others, like neighbors. Older children can generally read well by themselves and, as a result, may do well with written instructions or longer chore lists.


  • Fold full loads of laundry and distribute to appropriate rooms and drawers.
  • Sweep or vacuum floors.
  • Take indoor trash out to outdoor garbage can.
  • Prepare simple meals (for example, packing a lunch for school) — even using the toaster and microwave (may also use the stove and oven with some assistance).
  • Keep their own room clean (picking up floor and desk areas, making bed, putting all clothing away, etc.).
  • Change the sheets and comforters on beds.
  • Bring in the mail or newspaper each day.
  • Clean out trash and clutter from the family vehicle, if you own one.
  • Clean the bathroom (scrub toilets, wash mirrors, and wipe down vanity top).
  • Take care of personal hygiene (brush hair, brush teeth, wash face, and shower).
  • Rake leaves, water plants, and continue basic weeding tasks.
  • Begin to watch over younger siblings for short periods of time when parents are home.

How to get started

Continue on with the chores your little one was doing as a younger child and build as you see their abilities advance. You may find that your kid likes doing some types of chores better than others. Try to give them a mix of things they enjoy and other tasks that challenge them.

Don’t underestimate your role in modeling at this age. While some tasks, like raking leaves or taking the trash to the curb, may seem straightforward, your child may still need instruction to do them properly.

Try a four-step method with any new chores:

  1. Do the chore in front of your child as you explain what you’re doing.
  2. Do the chore together.
  3. Watch your child do the chore while you help and encourage them.
  4. Let your child do the chore unattended.

Incentives for this age range

You may see the A-word — “allowance” — mentioned a lot when looking at incentives for children in this age group. This goes back to your child’s intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

For some families, allowances provide a good motivation, though. You’ll ultimately need to decide what works best for your family and your child.

That said, positive reinforcement (whether it’s pocket money or just a spirited, “Good job!”) can be an effective incentive, provided it’s given consistently and matched with appropriate consequences.

For example, you don’t necessarily want to give your child a reward for doing chores but then no consequences for not doing them.

Consequences might include:

  • going to bed earlier
  • getting less time on devices or screens
  • not being able to do a special activity until the chores are done

Along with the physical changes of puberty, your child is developing a keen sense of independence. Chores can help young and older teens learn critical life skills that they’ll need when they eventually move out on their own. Think of chores for your teens as a bootcamp for real life.

Chores, like mowing the lawn or washing the car, can even provide teens with much-needed physical activity.


  • Continue all previous chores from younger age groups.
  • Mow the lawn and do other yard work.
  • Walk and care for the family pet.
  • Wash or vacuum the car.
  • Shop for groceries or other essentials (with a list).
  • Cook meals for self or the whole family.
  • Provide occasional childcare for younger siblings.
  • Help with home maintenance, like painting.
  • Deep clean the bathroom or kitchen.

How to get started

Tweens and teens may tend to be moody or they may be feeling stress from school or friends. If your child seems less than willing to pitch in for these reasons, try talking about what’s wrong and then moving on from there with the task at hand.

Sometimes, presentation is everything. You may want to approach chores as an expectation instead of a favor. Instead of saying, “Could you please walk the dog for me?” Try saying, “I expect you to walk the dog this afternoon. Do you want to do it now or after dinner?”

This type of phrasing makes it clear that your tween or teen needs to do the chore, but still gives them some power and choice in how and when they do it.

You’ll still want to model new chores for your teen to ensure they know exactly what needs to be done and how. A little time spent explaining can save a big headache later.

Incentives for this age range

While you may expect your teen to do most of their chores with no reward, you might consider paying them for certain chores.

How to choose? Well, think of things you have them do that you might otherwise hire out.

Babysitting younger siblings is a good example of a chore you might incentivize with money. And that may lead your teen to offer certain services (babysitting, mowing lawns, doing small jobs) to neighbors, family, and friends for a small fee.

Consequences don’t always have to be things like taking away your teen’s phone or car privileges. Natural consequences may eventually become apparent. Examples include not getting to eat dinner on time because they didn’t put the dishes away or not being able to wear a favorite outfit because they didn’t do the laundry.

Share on Pinterest
Infographic by Alexis Lira

You may get even the most reluctant kids to pitch in by making chores a part of your family’s everyday routine. The best way to do this is to do chores as they fit in naturally throughout the day. For example, if you want your child to clear the dishes off the table, have them do so right when dinner is finished and not hours later.

Here are a few other tips to make chores less of a battle:

  • Routine, routine, routine. You’ll also find that your child may need less reminding when you do chores as they need to be done instead of at random. Examples include feeding animals first thing in the morning, taking out the trash when you’ve finished cleaning the kitchen, or bathing each night before bedtime.
  • Don’t harp. If you do need to give reminders from time to time, make them short and sweet. A simple, “Pickup time!” may be more effective than a long lecture about the importance of cleaning up the toys before bed. And if your kids are continually skipping their chores, consider having a family meeting to address the issue directly.
  • Try visuals. Some kids may respond well to a chore chart or poster with their chores clearly listed (and maybe illustrated for younger kids). Put a chore chart in a family space where all members can see it. Try awarding stars or stickers for a job well done.
  • Rethink rewards. Again, you ideally want your child to feel satisfaction after finishing chores without the promise of a prize or money. There are also plenty of rewards that don’t involve material things. Consider rewarding your kid with a family game or movie night, special time just with one parent, or staying up late. Try making a list of the things that may motivate your child and letting them choose this type of reward once all the chores are done.

Last but not least, stick with it. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying!

Your family may not get into a rhythm of consistently doing chores overnight. However, if time goes on and you don’t see progress, you might consider appropriate consequences to get your child to help out more.

Assigning your children chores is about much more than just having them clean your kitchen or bathrooms. Working together to maintain your home and belongings teaches kids about the world around them and their role in it.

Start small with just a few tasks and build as you see your child taking on their responsibilities with pride. Reward completed chore lists — or not. It’s up to you. Whatever you do, keep at it!