How to Divide Chores Among Your Kids

Age appropriate chores

Verywell / Maritsa Patrinos

Although kids often seem less than thrilled about chores, household work is good for them. Children learn organizational skills and responsibility when they do chores. Regularly doing chores also helps them to develop a strong sense of self-confidence and an understanding of teamwork. It’s important for each child to have duties that can help them grow, develop, and gain a sense of accomplishment. But dividing up chores in a way that makes sense can be a challenge.

“If only one or two members of the family are doing all the chores, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed and possibly frustrated with others. By splitting up chores, you’re sharing responsibility amongst the family, which means that everyone can have more time for fun and connection,” says Jody Baumstein, LCSW, a licensed therapist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life. 

Having everyone do their fair share doesn’t mean each child gets the same responsibilities or even the same amount of work. It means giving a child chores they can appropriately do on their level. By considering a child’s age, developmental growth, and abilities, parents can divide chores in a way that creates a successful learning experience—and maybe a cleaner home—for everyone.

What Chores Can My Child Do?

Young children are usually eager and excited to help when you give them a task to do. Experts say toddlers as young as 2 and 3 years old can put away their toys, help feed household pets, and even put dirty clothes in the hamper.

At ages 4 and 5, kids can take on more responsibility. They can make their beds every morning, do some of the household dusting, and even set the kitchen table (be sure to leave any sharp knives or other dangerous utensils for you or an older child to set out). At this age, kids may ask to help with the housework. Let them! They won’t do it perfectly and may in fact make more of a mess. But they are learning, and they’ll get better as you continue to give them the opportunity to try.

Children ages 6 to 8 years old can do all of the duties of younger children, as well as wipe countertops, sweep floors, put away groceries, and even help prepare meals with supervision.

Once kids hit 9 years old until age 12, they can start washing dishes and loading the dishwasher. They can also pack their own lunch for school, change bed linens, and clean household bathrooms. Some children can even help with yard work.

Mary Alvord, PhD

Not all kids are neurotypical, so it’s not just age; it’s what is the ability of your child. Focus on what they’re good at.

— Mary Alvord, PhD

As kids move into the tween years, their chores can include cooking for the family. They can also feed and walk pets, wash the car, and do the laundry. As teens start driving, they can begin grocery shopping and help with other household errands.

Age breakdowns provide a general guideline for dividing chores. However, experts caution against making age your sole criteria for your household division of labor.

“Not all kids are neurotypical, so it’s not just age; it’s what is the ability of your child. Focus on what they’re good at. If some kids are good at reading things, then you might have a task where they have to read things to sort them,” advises Mary Alvord, Ph.D., psychologist and co-author of "Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens."

How Do I Split Chores Between Kids?

Knowing what your kids are capable of doing is one thing, but figuring out how to assign chores based on those capabilities is another. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; there are a variety of options that may work well for your family.

Divide Chores by Age

Having concrete age guidelines for chores helps to avoid giving children too much to do and causing them to get frustrated. “Even though each family member has responsibilities, what it looks like for each child will be determined by what is developmentally appropriate. For example, a toddler does not have the strength and ability to tie up the garbage and take it outside. This would be an appropriate chore for an older child or teen,” says Baumstein.

Give Chores Based on Interests

A child who loves animals will enjoy feeding the family pets. A child with a culinary flair may get satisfaction from cutting vegetables or preparing the family dinner as their chore. Responsibilities aligned with interests are less likely to get complaints, and kids are more likely to do them well and with a good attitude.

Assign Chores in Kids' Areas

Children may take a sense of pride and accomplishment in keeping their own areas clean. Cleaning their bedrooms is a given, but parents can add on cleaning their own bathrooms and doing their own laundry. Kids will learn to appreciate the importance of doing their chores on time if they can’t find clean clothes to wear to school or the bathtub is dirty at bath time.

When assigning chores, experts note that stereotypical gender-based assignments aren’t beneficial. Raising well-rounded children means preparing them for life, and all the household tasks they will encounter, regardless of their gender identity.

How Do I Get My Kids to Do Their Chores?

Convincing a child to stop a fun activity and do housework isn’t always an easy task. As the parent, however, you can start them on a path to ensure a more harmonious experience.

“It’s helpful to start from a young age so that children learn family expectations. Kids like to have a sense of purpose and teaching them what they can do to help at a young age can have a lasting impact,” Baumstein says.

Experts also recommend explaining the reason for chores to your children. Make it clear that everyone contributes to the success of the family. And that includes pitching in and doing work around the house. Then start small with easier-to-manage tasks. Even if you have an older child, if they are just starting to do chores, give them simpler jobs to do. Completing those items will build their confidence.

Jody Baumstein, LCSW

If something is too difficult, it can backfire and hurt their confidence, making them less likely to want to do chores in the future.

— Jody Baumstein, LCSW

“If something is too difficult, it can backfire and hurt their confidence, making them less likely to want to do chores in the future,” Baumstein notes.

You may take all the right steps, but your kids still may not like the way you’ve divided the chores. They may procrastinate, complain, or give halfhearted effort to get the job done. Though it can be frustrating, take a deep breath and take steps to establish doing chores as a regular habit in your family.

First, make sure your expectations are clear. “Kids can’t read between the lines, so don’t leave anything up for interpretation. Be clear and direct about what you expect. For example, ‘clean your room’ is vague. Be clear about what a ‘clean’ room means to you,” says Baumstein. You may even write down the rules or create a checklist that helps them know what tasks to complete.

Consistency is also important. If one day cleaning up the kitchen means clearing the table, and another day it means loading the dishwasher, your child might get frustrated. Explain chores specifically to avoid any confusion. Again, setting expectations is key. Being a positive role model is also important. Make sure you’re getting your own tasks done regularly and with a positive attitude. Kids take their cues from you.

You can also try to make some chores fun when possible, like raking and jumping into piles of leaves. And above all, continue to encourage and praise your child. Focus on their effort, not the outcome.

Lastly, recognize that chores are about more than just cleaning the house; children are learning valuable skills for life. “We want all of these to be developed into good habits of self-care and family care,” Dr. Alvord concludes. 

A Word From Verywell

Doing chores can be a beneficial learning experience for a child. When you assign household jobs based on their skill level and cognitive development, kids can complete those jobs and develop a sense of self-confidence and accomplishment. Give them work they can do on their level, be clear about your expectations, and aim to model the behavior you want to see. Both your home and your children will benefit.

Originally written by
Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Girevich

Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.

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