Kids chores – what should my child be doing?

Written by Sharon Jelenic, Occupational Therapist

As a parent, sometimes being able to click your fingers – Mary Poppins style – and have a clean and tidy house is very appealing. The numerous loads of washing to be sorted, the dishwasher needing to be unpacked or beds to be made, can feel like a never-ending story! Children sometimes ask to help, or more commonly are prompted to help with family chores. But at what age can children start doing jobs around the house? What type of tasks can children do, and at what age? 

Children completing chores, whilst valued by parents, also serve a greater purpose. Studies have shown that chores can contribute to competence and independence in adulthood and are essential to the development of life skills.
Studies have also reported that engaging children in chores around the family home is easier when there is a routine and consistent expectations. Routines where chores are performed regularly produce a more positive outcome, when compared to sporadic work requests.

While helping around the house can benefit parent house-work load, it is can provide more than that, when children engage in chores it is associated with positive behaviour, increased empathy, compassion, and positive mental health in outcomes in adulthood.

The following table is a guideline of what kinds of jobs and ages that children can start helping themselves and their families around the home:

AgePersonal TasksFamily Tasks
2 to 3 years- Help making their beds
- Pick up toys with adult supervision.
- Wash dishes
- Help wash the family car
- Prepare easy meals independently
- Help clean bathroom
- Learn to use the washing machine and dryer.
- Take bins out to the curb with supervision.
4 to 5 years- Get dressed with minimal help.
- Make their own bed with some assistance
- Bring their belongings from the car
- Set the table for dinner
- Clear the table after dinner
- Help with food preparation
- Help carry groceries
- Match socks when folding clothes
- Provide food and water for a pet
- Hang up their towels in the bathroom
6 to 7 years- Make their own bed daily
- Brush teeth
- Comb hair
- Get dressed
- Be responsible for a pet’s care (food, water, and exercise).
- Help with vacuuming
- Help with dry mopping
- Help with folding clothes
- Put away their clean clothes after folding.
- Unpack the dishwasher
- Empty bins and recycling
- Answer the phone
8 to 11 years- Take care of personal hygiene
- Keep bedroom clean and tidy
- Be responsible for homework
- Be responsible for personal belongings.
- Wake up using an alarm clock
- Wash dishes
- Help wash the family car
- Prepare easy meals independently
- Help clean bathroom
- Learn to use the washing machine and dryer.
- Take bins out to the curb with supervision.
12 to 13 years- Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework.
- Set own alarm clock
- Recharge own devices and batteries
- Change bed sheets
- Empty vacuum cleaner
- Dust, vacuum, and do dishes
- Clean mirrors
- Mow the lawn with supervision
- Prepare the occasional family meal independently.
14 to 15 years- Responsible for all personal chores
- Responsible for library cards and books
- Do homework with no prompting
- Do yard work as needed
- Help look after younger family members.
- Prepare food – including writing a shopping list, buying the items, and preparing the meal.
- Help wash windows.
16 to 18 years- Responsible for all personal chores.
- Responsible to earn spending money
- Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
- Responsible to maintaining the car they drive
- Independently attend to house and yard word as needed
- Preparing family meals
- Deep cleaning of household appliances – e.g., defrosting freezer or cleaning the oven."

These tasks are just guidelines, as every child is different and will need varying levels of support to complete their chores and tasks successfully. Studies have found that there is a link between successful engagement in family chores and working memory. Meaning that some children may need support to plan, multi-task and initiate goal-directed behaviours.

Children who need additional support with planning and initiating of tasks could benefit from a visual planner to assist them in routine and chore expectations. You can easily create visual planner at home and it might look like this:

It is important that the tasks delegated to our littlest household members are both age appropriate and achievable. Once they experience success, they are more likely to be engaged and want to continue completing these tasks.

If tasks need to be broken down to support your child’s participation, look at breaking them into small elements of the tasks and gradually, over time build up the child’s participation, independence, and confidence in completing the household tasks.

If you need any support with creating a visual planner, or supporting your child’s independence, come and have a chat with one of our Occupational Therapists. Find out more at www.steppingstonesforchildren.com.au.

References:
Laverdure, P., Nemec, E., Johnson, C., & Blake, T. (2021). Evaluating interventions that improve participation in chores in children and youth with disabilities: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/19411243.2021.1875384
Tepper, D. L., Howell, T. J., & Bennett, P. C. (2022). Executive functions and household chores: Does engagement in chores predict children’s cognition? Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/1440-1630.12822
Age Appropriate Chores | Focus on the Family Australia (families.org.au)
Copyright Stepping Stones Therapy for Children 2023

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