All mothers want a little help around the house and why not start with your children? Yes, your child can help do more than clean their room. I will walk you through what chores each age can do but first, let’s talk about what to expect.
Children Aren’t Natural Cleaners
If you are one of those rare lucky moms whose baby was born a neat freak who couldn’t stand a mess and cleaned up after themselves since they were a toddler…no just kidding. A unicorn would be more believable. My children are 14, 12, and 8 and I still have to tell the teenager how to clean up after himself!
My whole deal sums up to this:
“Rick, did you leave the oatmeal packet on the counter?”
“Alex, did you put the cap back on the toothpaste?”
“Who left their shoes on the stairs?”
“Bri, did you load the dishwasher as I asked?”
“Did you clean the litter box yet?”
“Who left their clothes on the bathroom floor?”
“Why is your room still a mess?”
“Can someone please get the tiara and the Lego man off the floor?”
You get it. You’re a mom and moms know we spend our days asking our children rhetorical questions. We know who left the Lego on the floor and who forgot to load the dishwasher. Us moms use these questions to give our children an opportunity to take responsibility for their messes.
Anyhow, you want a clean house and your kids need to learn how to clean. Forget math, reading, and history. They still can’t put their socks in the hamper! Time for some lessons in cleaning. Just remember, children do not learn fast. You have them for eighteen years for a reason.
It’s our job to teach our little one’s responsibility. Put your child in charge of cleaning up after themselves and others. Teach them young, so they will understand they will need to clean more than just their messes. When they become parents, if not sooner, they will clean up after their children, spouse, and pets. They live under your roof, do not teach them their room and board are free or they will expect life to be free.
Chores for 0-1 Year-Olds
Sorry moms, you can’t have your nine-month-old washing dishes. Let her learn how to walk and talk then chores.
Chores for 2-3 Year-Olds
The toddler years are magical years where kids just learned how to use their bodies and want to use their new-found abilities to help as a big kid. They may not be capable of a lot but let them do what they can. Including:
- Handing you dishes to put in the dishwasher
- Getting forks for dinner
- Pull condiments out of the fridge
- Pick up toys and put them away
- Make their bed
- Pull clothes out of the dryer
Any other small chores with simple one-step commands are also acceptable as long as they are not dangerous. Make a big deal out of everything your toddler cleans. Lavish him with praise for helping and tell him what a big boy he is so he will continue the behavior and think chores are fun. You can only fool them for so long.
You might be able to find gifts that encourage your toddlers to help, like toy brooms.
Chores for 4-5 Year-Olds
As your child moves past the toddler years to a preschooler, she can do more for herself. Cleaning her room should be the focus although, you will need to help organize once a week or more as she is not ready to organize. Also, teaching her to clean up after herself in the kitchen if she pours a bowl of cereal she should put the box and the milk away. Here are other chores she can do.
- Sweeping a small room or the dust after you sweep
- Wipe out the bathroom sink
- Set the table for dinner if you put the dishes on the counter for easy reaching
- Clear the table after dinner
- Pick up random stuff on the floor around the house and put it away and in the backyard
- Dust furniture with a rag or dust device but not with furniture polish
- Empty the bathroom trash
- Wash low windows
- Fold small laundry items
- All previous chores
This age can follow two-step commands. Keep the directions simple but otherwise, the possibilities are endless. Focus on teaching one portion of a chore instead of an entire chore. For example, sweeping up the dust instead of sweeping the whole room and cleaning up the dust.
Your little one will not do a good job at first so plan to send them back at least once to get the job done right so they learn to do a good job. You will probably need to re-do the chore after they finish because of lack of experience but they need to learn. Remember, patience is a virtue the third time they fail to sweep up all the dust and they argue it’s all gone and you see a mound of dirt!
Chores for 6-8 Year-Olds
First, second, and third graders can do any chore physically but lack the mental stamina to follow the chore through all the way. Again, you will need to maintain your superhuman level of patience when their tiny eyes miss stuff obvious to your adult eyes. Here’s a starter list:
- Load and unload the dishwasher. They may have to load dishes onto the counter for someone taller to put away
- Bring the own laundry down to the laundry room and put it in the machines
- Wash the table
- Vacuum a room or the stairs but make sure you move the vacuum up for him
- Sweep a room
- Take out the trash
- Get the mail from the mailbox
- Wash fruit and veggies
- Fold laundry
- All previous chores
These first few years of elementary school you want to give your child more responsibility to grow with them. Sadly, at this age kids no longer find chores to fun but know cleaning is work. It’s time to link chores to reward. For example, you could offer allowance for chores well done or electronic time.
This age group can finish entire chores and not just a portion. Not that they will but they can with enough goading. The whining can overwhelm you but push through. Remind them of the reward.
Chores for 9-11 Year-Olds
By this age, your child should be fairly self-sufficient. Your daughter should be able to get ready for school with no help. I still have to tell my kids to keep an eye on the clock and make sure they are out the door on time but otherwise, I sit on the couch and check Facebook with my cup of coffee in the morning. Here are other chores children should be able to handle at this age.
- Cook simple foods like ramen, grilled cheese, canned soup
- Take trash bins to the curb for trash pickup
- Wash, fold and put away laundry
- Mop floors
- Vacuum the car
- Clean the bathtub
- Wake up on their own for school
- Pack their own lunch
- All previous chores
You can dole out larger chores now. Tell them you want them to vacuum the main floor including around the edges with the hose and the stairs. The chore may take a while but they should be able to handle this with no problems.
By nine-years-old my children were in charge of cleaning their rooms and two chores, one being cleaning the kitchen after dinner. I cooked and do not plan to clean after too. They eat the food they can wash the dishes.
Watch out though, this is the age were children become sneaky. They do a surface clean of their chore and then expect you to be satisfied with their work. Nope, kiddo mama wants the chore done right. Get back up there and do it again.
Chores for 12-14 Year-Olds
By now, your son should be self-sufficient to the point where you become just a reminder system. Yep, our job at this point is to nag because all your son will want to do is play Fortnite on the PS4. Here is what he can handle.
- Cook meals and help with meal prep
- Clean the bathroom
- Babysit for short periods
- Wash windows
- Carry in and put groceries away
- Do their own laundry
- Get themselves up and ready for school unassisted
- All previous chores
Most kids learn by this age doing the chore right the first time saves them time and gets them in less trouble. Use this to your advantage. Rick, if you want to get on the PlayStation, your room better be actually clean and the kitchen floor swept and mopped. You should not have to redo the chore when he finishes cleaning. Send him back if the work wasn’t done correctly.
His room should be reasonably clean. By this age, most teenagers keep their room at what I call a five minute clean. They can clean the whole room to your satisfaction in five minutes or less. Pick up some dirty laundry, tidy up the top of the dresser and done.
Chores for 15-18 Year-Olds
- Anything you need help with
My oldest child just turned 14 so I am not at this category yet. What I know from being a teenager myself though, is teenagers should no longer need reminders to do their chores. Stop reminding them this is a service you no longer provide. They need to learn the skill of remembering their to-do list without help before they graduate high school and move on to college.
Remember though, high school kids come home with a lot of homework. They also have extra-curricular activities, possibly a job, and a girlfriend or boyfriend. Give chores but make sure they have time to do the chores with their busy schedule.
Many parents pay their children cash for chores but I do not pay with money. I pay with electronics. When the chores are done they can get online. Once the kids are in high school, they will get paid cash instead because they need to learn money skill before graduating. Also, selfishly I don’t want to pay for sub-par work. When the work is done correctly the get paid.
Your children use the resources in the house. They eat food, use electricity, water, etc. They can help to maintain the home. You provide for them they help to maintain, it’s that simple.
Finally, effectively work yourself out of a job as the kids become older. Think of yourself as the manager and the children are your trainees. They need to learn to run the store on their own without you breathing down their neck.
Remember to enjoy their childhood though and the mess. Without the mess, you would be in the house alone with your spouse. Before you know it, the kids will be out and the mess will be gone and you will miss every moment.