What Chores Should Your Child Really Be Doing?

All you have to do is mention kids and chores in the same sentence and parents start rolling their eyes. Coming up with a chore system is stressful because so much planning goes into it, and even then kids don’t always want to pitch in. From power struggles to choosing the right chores for your child, all the different considerations can make many parents throw up their hands, rather than implementing a smoothly flowing, reliable system.


In fact, in discussing why she hasn’t been able to create a system of age-appropriate chores for her kids, KJ Dell’Antonia of the NYTimes Motherlode blog hits it on the head when she writes, “we vowed to change, but that was two weeks ago, and to be honest, we haven’t. Of all the things I thought might be difficult about having children, I never realized it would be so much work to get them to do any work.”


But we know chores are good for kids! Research shows that embracing household responsibility as part of a larger set of clear parental expectations for accomplishment is key to kids’ later success in life. Not only are chores extremely supportive to kids’ development, household responsibilities teach kids basic “domestic survival” skills they need to leave the nest. Aware that chores are important, parents often get stuck in the planning stages choosing chores for their kids.


Many parents get stumped at the question, “What chores should my child be doing?” Put that worry to bed. Here’s a list of chores that link up with kids’ development, so parents can rest assured they’re choosing chores wisely.

Just-Right Chores by Age



Kids this age are building initiative through exploration. More important than getting it perfect in this stage is fostering initiative by getting them excited about having work to do.

  • Water outside plants
  • Help make dinner
  • Make your bed
  • Put laundry in hamper
  • Feed pets
  • Sort recycling
  • Dust furniture



Kids this age are increasing independence while becoming more cooperative. Capitalize on this cooperation by giving them individual chores as part of a larger shared cleaning task.

  • Water indoor plants
  • Sweep the floor
  • Set the table
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Help wash dishes
  • Sort laundry
  • Help wash the car



Kids this age are developing a sense of industry through beginning to master difficult tasks. Allowing them to take ownership over certain housework necessities feeds their growing sense of personal competence.

  • Rake leaves
  • Vacuum
  • Help with laundry – sort/fold/put away clothes
  • Clear table
  • Take out trash
  • Load dishwasher
  • Clean monitors/screens


12-18  Teens are working on establishing identity. As they take on more responsibility and seek independence from parents, support and appreciation for their work goes a long way in teaching them to trust themselves.

  • Mow lawn/yard work
  • Shovel snow
  • Mop floors
  • Do your own laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Put away the groceries
  • Plan and make meals
  • Run small errands
  • Wash car
  • Dust keyboards/electronics


Choosing the right chores for a child’s age and developmental stage doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Remember, every child and every family is different. Follow this guide to what’s developmentally appropriate and select chores that are meaningful to your family..

Jenny Kepler, is a marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in-person therapy with adults, couples, and families. She also offers parent-coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland.

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