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The Best Chores for Toddlers to 10-Year-Olds

BoyWashingDishes_400Most of us are blind to our children’s growth. We see them getting taller, having real conversations, learning to ride a bike, but we don’t realize all the other things they can do–including helping out around the house, which builds their confidence and independence. This guide from Family Whispering shares what your child could be doing, not necessarily what he or she should be doing. That’s for you to decide.

Good citizen (practices common courtesy, is considerate toward others).

Younger than 3: Can greet and see off; says “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Sharing and managing own emotions is tricky at this age, but parents can help by identifying feelings (“You’re angry”) and ignoring whines and tantrums.

Ages 3–5: Can draw pictures for someone else; dictates birthday, thank-you, and get-well notes; shares toys with friends; knows to ask permission (“May I go outside?”) and inform parent of intentions (“I’m going to play in my room”); is willing to give away toys to children who need them.

Ages 5–7: Can carry out own responsibilities and begin to offer help in new arenas (helping on computer, offering a neighbor assistance); observes phone etiquette, can make calls, answer phone courteously, take messages; by age 7, can write simple letters and thank-you notes, create birthday cards.

Ages 7–10: By now, politeness, courtesy, sharing, and respect for others are default reactions; welcomes and cares for guests; plans own birthday and sees it as an occasion to be grateful and to do something good for others; increasingly helpful with younger siblings (changes diapers, helps with bath and bottle, will entertain sibling when adult is out of the room, helps with simple homework); helps others with their responsibilities when asked (sometimes even offers); volunteers in the neighborhood or community; can handle self in public, alone or with peers, or when staying overnight with a friend; packs own suitcase.

Independent doer (responsible for self).

Younger than 3: Can handle simple (parent-sanctioned) choices (“Cereal or waffles for breakfast?”) and follow somewhat detailed instructions in the house or yard (“Bring Daddy that bucket” to “Take this paper towel and put it in the garbage”).

Ages 3–5: Can play for increasingly longer periods without adult attention or supervision; keeps room neat (with reminders); has gotten better at handling morning routine (by age 5, dressing on own, cleaning room); assumes reg- ular responsibilities around house (see other categories); capable of gradually more complex decision making about meal choices, outings, time with friends (at age 3, “Would you like the red or green shirt?” and getting closer to five, “Would you like to go to the playground or have a play date with Billy?”); speaks on the phone; knows phone numbers and address; puts away laundry.

Ages 5–7: Can wake to an alarm; picks out own clothes, dresses independently, ties shoes; strips bed sheets and puts them in the laundry; makes bed daily and cleans room on own; knows appropriate clothes (play vs. school vs. Sunday best); shops for and selects own clothing and shoes with parent; does many unsupervised chores (wash out trash cans, shake rugs, gather wood for the fireplace, rake leaves, weed); saves money (from allowance, gifts, earnings) and decides how to spend it; carries own lunch money and notes back to school; still limited use of electronics but aware of dangers; changes school clothes without being told.

Ages 7–10: Can take increasing responsibility for self; keeps own appointments; receives and answers own mail/email; is savvy about internet (with parents’ knowledge of child’s password and sites visited); gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night on own; changes sheets; prepares own school lunch and snack; crosses streets unassisted and increasingly ventures out on own; runs errands for parents; works for neighbors and earns own money on weekends and at summer jobs (lawn mowing, dog/baby/plant-sitting, painting fence or shelves, other odd jobs) with parents’ help; is thrifty and trustworthy about money (handles, learns about banking, and does own financial planning, including allotments for saving, donating, gift giving); by age 10, can be alone at home for short periods.

Self-cleaner (takes care of own body and personal hygiene).

Younger than 3:> Washes hands before meals; cleans body in bathtub; begins to undress self and learns to dress.

Ages 3–5: Can use the toilet; brushes teeth; washes and dries hands and face and brushes hair.

Ages 5–7: Can take a shower or bath independently; washes own hair (more easily in shower); has the wherewithal to come in when cold or overheated; cares for own minor injuries (Band-Aid, ice, rest), if necessary. Boys (should) put the toilet seat down.

Ages 7–10: Has basic knowledge of first aid; can run own bath or shower; leaves the bathroom in order after using it.

Clothes/equipment maintainers.

Younger than 3: Can throw dirty clothes into a hamper.

Ages 3–5: Can sort dark and light clothes (with supervision); helps empty the dryer; matches socks; can fold simple items, such as dish towels and pants.

Ages 5–7: Learns how to use the washer/dryer and measure detergent; can fold clean clothes and put them away; by age 7, can be unsupervised with laundry; is careful with sports equipment and other gear.

Ages 7–10: Does own laundry; irons clothes, when needed; folds large items (blanket, tent); does simple sewing (buttons, seams, hems), uses sewing machine, and, if interested, learns other skills (weaving, knitting, macrame); maintains own gear without being asked (oils baseball glove, cleans cleats).

Food-service workers (shopping/cooking/meals).

Younger than 3: “Helps” by handing parent or older sib items (in market or at home to be put away); carries light bags from the car; executes simple cooking tasks such as mixing, sprinkling, adding premeasured ingredients; cleans up what is dropped or spilled during meals.

Ages 3–5: Helps plan meals, compile grocery list, shop, carry from car, and put away food on low shelves; sets table; improved cooking skills to help prepare family meals (stands at stove with supervision, holds a mixer); fixes part of own meal (spreads butter on sandwiches, prepares cold cereal, simple dessert); helps clean up, puts items in refrigerator, scrapes dishes, and disposes of uneaten meal; loads dishwasher; washes light dishes.

Ages 5–7: Writes or contributes to shopping list; in supermarket, finds items on list (while in same aisle as adult); carries heavier items from car; makes own sandwich and pours own drink or prepares simple meal for others (breakfast for family); increasingly handy with small appliances and cooking skills (makes own toast, scrambles eggs, cuts with blunt knife, bakes, peels vegetables, mixes frozen concentrate to make beverage); prepares own school lunch.

• Ages 7–10: Buys groceries using a list; does comparative shopping; can take on more complex kitchen projects, including meal planning and preparation, baking; chops and slices, using sharp instruments;
measures and organizes ingredients; uses appliances; cleans up mess afterward; helps defrost and clean the refrigerator, with supervision; gets grill or campfire ready for a cookout (by age 10, lights fire).

Home maintenance staff (house/plants/garden/lawn).

Younger than 3: “Pretend” cleans with child-sized items or dustrag; puts books and magazines in a rack or on a low shelf; helps make bed by handing pillows; waters indoor or outdoor plants (premeasured
in an easy-pour cup); picks up toys and trash in yard.

Ages 3–5: Vacuums, sweeps (not perfectly but good-enough); helps wash the car, take out trash, dust furniture; needs help to make a completely unmade bed; smooths covers to make bed look “straightened.”

Ages 5–7: Uses cleaning supplies properly; eventually can clean sink/ bathtub; polishes furniture; cleans mirrors/windows; takes out trash and recyclables; learns the purpose and beginning usage of tools and
helps with home maintenance; waters plants and flowers.

Ages 7–10: Complete responsibility for own room (bed making, dresser drawers, closet, vacuuming); handles more difficult cleaning projects (scrubbing kitchen floor, windows, cleaning appliances); oils and cares for bike; sweeps and washes patio area; washes out garbage containers; cleans out inside of car; does yard work without supervision (lawn mowing, edging, cleanup, gardening).

Organizers.

Younger than 3: Can put toys away after playing, eventually sorting into categories (ball bin, truck shelf).

Ages 3–5: Puts backpack, equipment, clothes, and other personal items in a particular place; knows where family items belong in various rooms of the house.

Ages 5–7: Hangs up and puts clothes in drawers, with help; devises systems for collecting, storing, and sorting.

Ages 7–10: Makes to-do lists, keeps an appointment book or assignment notebook; does chores and homework without being reminded; handles big “projects” (reorganizes own closet, “weeds” toys and gadgets no longer used, helps parent confi gure a new work space, straightens or cleans out silverware drawer); helps reorganize family storage areas.

Pet caretakers.

Younger than 3: Puts down pet food; notices whether water bowl needs filling.

Ages 3–5: By age 4 or 5, takes over pet feeding (with supervision).

Ages 5–7: Feeds own pets and helps clean their cages, litter box, or living area; trains and walks dog.

Ages 7–10: Bathes pet; cleans up pet messes in house and yard; becomes more knowledgeable about own pet’s habits and health by reading, going to vet, etc.

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