Age-Appropriate Chores:
How to Help Kids Be Responsible

Dirty dishes. Messy bedrooms. Toys on the living room floor. Some days, there just isn’t a good way to avoid the chore wars. But there is always tomorrow, and you can be proactive. Ask yourself, What chores are important for my children to learn, and what are they capable of doing?

Contents

Chapter One

Ages 2 and 3

Chapter Two

Ages 4 and 5

Chapter Three

Ages 6 and 7

Chapter Four

Ages 8 to 11

Chapter Five

Ages 12 and 13

Chapter Six

Ages 14 and 15

Chapter Seven

Ages 16 to 18

Before finding the answer, recognize the difference between a chore (an ongoing task that benefits the household) and a life skill(an activity that children should know how to do before living on their own, such as handling money). The following list is not a life-skills checklist. It is a list of age-appropriate chores.

As you view it, remember that every child matures at a different pace. Adjust this chart to what you know about your children’s skills and talents, and realize that no child should do all of the chores listed below every day. (And if you want to set the scene for your kids, have them listen to Signed, Sealed and Committed, an Adventures in Odyssey album in which some kids threaten to go on a chore strike. Or have them read about some of the chores that kids did in Jericho within the story “Trapped!” in Bible Kidventures: Stories of Danger and Courage.)

 

The following list is only meant as a guide and reflects the types of chores that many children in specific age ranges are capable of completing. And we’ve included some links from some of these chores that offer hands-on, practical ways to train your children to do them. Hopefully, these general guidelines may help your children succeed in personal and family responsibility: 

Chapter One

Ages 2 and 3

To help teach our children responsibility for their pets (a frog, guinea pig and bird), we made sure the cages were centrally located in our house. The animals' homes never went into a bedroom because it was too easy to overlook their care when they were out of sight. With everyone in the family seeing our pets daily, we kept their cages clean. And yes, it was a family effort. For example, one person might hold the guinea pig while another swept out the shavings and mess and a third person quickly cleaned the floor. We all learned to play with and care for each animal. And through it all, we made family memories. We still talk about our whistling guinea pig that pleaded for treats whenever the fridge door opened.

—Danielle Pitzer
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Chapter Two

Ages 4 and 5

Note: This age can be trained to use a family chore chart. 

Personal chores

Family chores

Prior to a family outing, I set the timer for 15 minutes and call for a "quick clean." Children scramble to straighten up assigned rooms while I gather belongings scattered around the rest of the house. When the timer goes off, they put away my pile, and we head out the door of our clutter-free home! (Fifteen minutes also works well for yard work.)

—Kristen Erickson

Chore Chart for Youngsters

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Chapter Three

Ages 6 and 7

Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.

Personal chores

  • Make their bed every day
  • Brush teeth
  • Comb hair
  • Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed
  • Write thank you notes with supervision

Family chores

Compensating Kids for Chores

Is it appropriate to pay our school-aged children for doing household tasks? When I was growing up I always received an allowance, but my spouse says that kids need to work without being paid because that's part of being a family. What do you think?
Family Q&A
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Chapter Four

Ages 8 to 11

Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.

Personal chores

Family chores

  • Wash dishes
  • Wash the family car with supervision
  • Prepare a few easy meals on their own
  • Clean the bathroom with supervision
  • Rake leaves
  • Learn to use the washer and dryer
  • Put all laundry away with supervision
  • Take the trash can to the curb for pick up
  • Test smoke alarms once a month with supervision
  • Screen phone calls using caller ID and answer when appropriate

7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment

Good parents aren’t perfect. There’s no formula to follow, but there are ways you can grow every day. Focus on the Family’s 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment gives parents an honest look at their unique strengths, plus some areas that could use a little help.
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Chapter Five

Ages 12 and 13

Personal chores

  • Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
  • Write invitations and thank you notes
  • Set their alarm clock
  • Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
  • Change bed sheets
  • Keep their rooms tidy and do a biannual deep cleaning

Family Chores

  • Change light bulbs
  • Change the vacuum bag
  • Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
  • Clean mirrors
  • Mow the lawn with supervision
  • Baby sit (in most states)
  • Prepare an occasional family meal

Chore Chart for Tweens

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Chapter Six

Ages 14 and 15

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
  • Responsible for library card and books

Family chores

  • Do assigned housework without prompting
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Baby sit
  • Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
  • Wash windows with supervision

Dealing With Lazy Teenagers

How can I motivate my two lazy teenagers? They won't help me around the house, and they consistently wait until the last minute to do their homework. As a single parent, I usually don't have the energy to make them get down to work. Is there a way to break this negative pattern?
Family Q&A
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Chapter Seven

Ages 16 to 18

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
  • Responsible to earn spending money
  • Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
  • Responsible for maintaining any car they drive (e.g., gas, oil changes, tire pressure, etc.)

Family chores

  • Do housework as needed
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
  • Deep cleaning of household appliances, such as defrosting the freezer, as needed

Avoiding the Chore War With Your Kids

Our guests offer parents practical advice on teaching children responsibility by giving them age-appropriate chores.

Up your parenting game and get the eBook
Avoiding Chore Wars

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About the Author

Sheila Seifert

Sheila Seifert, M.A., is the editorial director of parenting content for Focus on the Family magazine and FocusOnTheFamily.com and the founder of Simple Literature.

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