Kids And Chores: When Should They Start?

  • Parents Only

by: Hayley Dean, ellaslist

To chore or not to chore, that is today's question.

We all had to do them, didn’t we? Well at least I thought we all did when I was a kid. I remember clearly my list of chores in our household and, being the youngest of three girls, I naturally landed the worst ones. There was the individual “complete everyday” list; make your bed, dishes into the dishwasher, clothes in the dirty clothes basket etc and then there was the “we’re all cogs in this family wheel” list; feed the dog, water the plants etc and then finally, there was the bigger and highly prized “pocket money” list that included such tasks as washing the car or picking up the dog poo for the grand whopping reward of 50c – yes, you read that right, my parents only paid me 50 lousy cents which back then, I thought was amaz…nope, I can’t even try to fake happiness there.

Cashed Up Kids

Today’s kids seem to have negotiated a much better industrial agreement with their parents. According to the CBA, 4-6 years olds earn an average of $7.17 a week! Perhaps it’s because as parents, we are still nursing childhood wounds or our kids are doing more that we ever did (yeah, right?!) or maybe we are asking them to help around the house at a much older age?

My guess is that it’s a little from column A and a little from column C.


Willing And Able

The fact is, we often under estimate just how capable our wee ones really are and more poignantly, how eager they are to help. Maria Montessori (famous Italian doctor best known for her education philosophy) refers to chores as practical life skills and was a strong advocate for involving children in our daily life. Sarah Breckenridge, Infant Community Director at the Inner Sydney Montessori School says, “The younger you start to encourage children to be involved, the better. What tasks they actually perform is very much a question of ability rather than age”. 

Perform a simple Google search and you will find a vast array of lists and/or guides for age appropriate chores/life skills. In my own home, we essentially started around the age of 15-16 months, when my son became a toddler. His first practical life skill was to learn to put his toys away after playing with them and it soon moved into helping me with dinner preparations, setting the table, putting his clothes in the laundry basket and helping to feed the family pets. Now at 4, these things are done with ease; at the end of his meal he will take his plate to the dishwasher and push his chair back under the table. He also makes his bed each morning and dresses himself for (pre)school which allows me the time to assist my younger son with his clothes. They are small steps that make a huge difference to me.

Mrs Breckenridge notes “You want to encourage practical life skills early while they want to help, ideally before the age of 6/7 when they stop being so eager (!), so that they do become second nature when they are older”


Helpful Tips To Get Your Kids Involved

  1. Never force your child – make chores fun! Kids learn best by example and you want to offer opportunities whilst they want to help.
  2. Make your home a place with opportunities for involvement - Look for child-sized brooms, mops and utensils to give the greatest success.
  3. Don’t rush! Slow down - Taking your time and limit talking at the same time so it’s easier for your child to copy you.
  4. Let go of perfection – remember they are learning and they will learn from their mistakes. Ok so the water isn’t totally mopped up; that’s absolutely fine, walk away and fix it later. (Just don’t clean it up in front of them as that implies failure).


photo credits: Used with permission from Inner Sydney Montessori School.