Tasks for Tots: What are good jobs around the house for kids?

May 15, 2008 at 9:18 am 32 comments

What age were your kids when you started giving them daily/weekly chores?

What jobs did you start with?

Any tips for keeping it fun and motivating?

At three and a half, O thinks that doing jobs is really great, but he’s not that good at it. His idea of dusting is taking a rag and wiping in one little area many times and then moving on.

I want to teach responsibility and a good work ethic to him, but sometimes it just goes so much faster to do it myself! But that’s what my mom did, and thus I didn’t know how to do laundry until I went to college. That was totally not cool.


Entry filed under: Family, Home.

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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mrs. MK  |  May 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

    All my boys have “jobs”—-even baby Ian helps set the table. (really, at 14 months, he knows where the brown sugar goes for our oatmeal) The other boys (6 and 4) empty the dishwasher, put away silverware, wash the table and sweep under the table, dress themselves (uniquely, of course) and make their beds. Late afternoon we always do “pick up” and we just go from room to room putting things away.

    We started out with a chore chart (with hand-drawn pictures) so they could see what is their jobs, and then check it off when it’s done. That worked for awhile, now I just say “let’s get our jobs done”.

    But, it was very hard to get this in place. It takes much much much more time and patience on Mommy’s part to help them learn to work, then to just do it myself. Things get broken, are not always done well, and it takes extra time.

    So far, I just keep encouraging them to do a good job—-keeping their age in mind. If I see sloppiness, or rushing through their job carelessly, then I correct them and have them do it *better*. Some days there is quite a bit of “slowness” and fighting, but we work through it.

    Just start small, with a few little projects that Orison can accomplish, and let him feel the pride of really helping. Kids love to know their important to the household!

  • 2. rachel  |  May 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    well then, i suppose he should start doing the laundry now.


  • 3. Stacey  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:05 am

    LOL, Maxwell and Griffin LOVE the swiffer. All day long I just swiffer all the gunk into one or 2 or 3 corners of the house and then at the end of the day I just have to run the sweeper on those corners…….excepting when they get a hold of the swiffer and swiffer all the gunk from thhe corners back all over the floor.

    It is always fun at this age……no teen wants to do chores. At least NONE I have ever come in contact with. Ben still moans and groans….he does it, but he moans and groans at 19. I have ALWAYS made him clean up his room etc. but he still lives like Pigpen off of the Peanuts. I think boys are different in the cleanliness area than girls.

  • 4. Kim  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Yeah…it’s a lot easier to do it yourself, but the payoff is huge! Now at 17, 12 and 10, the girls can clean the house, cook dinner and get the laundry done without me! It still doesn’t get done perfectly or completely, but what a great feeling for me to have them come alongside and work together to host a family or cook a meal for a friend in need. Keep your eye focused not on the goal of getting something done, but in training up a child and the end result changes. If he’s learned, but half the table is still dusty…it’s a good day. You’ll swipe it later or, like me, learn that you’re the only one seeing it anyway!

    I always liked the idea of a chore chart, but am not good at keeping up with that sort of thing. So, I just had them pitch in with whatever I was doing. Getting stuff from the fridge for breakfast. Drying off the silverware and plastic stuff. Learning to fold towels by laying them on the bed. Something that told them they were a big help. The jobs got bigger and bigger until they could do it all. (We still homeschool the youngest two…with the oldest in public school with her dad. That helps give us time that others may not have.)

    Two other things…it has always been easy for them to see that helping is what we do for each other because their dad is such a servant to his family. If he’s doing dishes after working sometimes till 9pm, they’ve got no room for complaint. Also, we’ve chosen not to pay them for the chores. We want them to get used to serving with gladness both in the home and outside of it. But we also try to be generous when God allows by blessing them with what they love…ice cream cone for snack one day…trips to the dollar store on Saturday. Not in repayment, but to bless them. Other families love to give a little something for chores…a great decision for them.

    I’d also agree with Stacey about the bedrooms…keeping those clean? Well, I’ll let you know when that happens. But I try to stay a little more tolerant there. Unless company is coming and they’re staying in the room, we try to just do a major overhaul about once a month and let it go the rest of the time.

    People always told me there’d be time for a perfectly clean house later…they’re right. I can see it coming and I’d rather have the mess!

  • 5. Elizabeth Esther  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

    oooo, i love this topic.

    at Orison’s age, it’s not the result that matters so much as the effort involved.

    and all effort should be praised, i think. even if you have to go back afterwards and do it again. here are some ideas:

    1. picking up toys into little baskets (or plastic boxes) is a good one. all my littles did that easily. our rule was (and is) clean up immediately when you’re done playing—before you do anything else.

    2. setting the table for dinner—just start with placemats.

    3. wiping crumbs on the table—use a dry paintbrush to wipe the crumbs into a plastic bowl or tupperware container. throw this in the trash. we call this “crumber the table, please!” the kids love it. they feel like they’re “painting” the crumbs away.

    4. tidying bed. this is hard for most kids, esp. getting the sheets straight and no bumps. so we say “do your best and mommy does the rest.” 😉

    5. putting dirty clothes in hamper. this is a huge help and very simple for young children to do.

    hope this helps!


  • 6. C.  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I am not a mommy, but I am a nanny to an 18month old and a 31 month old (I know… close). They empty the silverware from the dishwasher and their plastic plates and cups from the dishwasher. The older child like to vacuum with a small “shark” vacuum and I let him vacuum the crumbs after lunch. He LOVES that, and the floor is mostly clean. THe kids both take their plates to the sink after meals too. Its slow going, we played lots of copy cat games to learn the skills, and matching with the silverware. I just let them put salad forks and dinner forks together. I am not that picky and it only takes a minute or two to seperate them again. And we get stickers for “splendid picking up of toys” (meaning there’s nothing left on the floor) after so many stickers, they get a reward like extra TV or ice cream or something. The instant reward and cheering helps a lot to teach them.

  • 7. Leslie  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Our kids have jobs, too. They range in age from 9 to 4. I am trying out the Swiffer dusters. My youngest even does a good job of dusting with it. And I don’t worry about her getting dusting spray where it isn’t supposed to be — like the floor and fabrics.

    One thing that has helped me is having my kids shadow me for a few times before I give them the job to do alone. They watch me do it a few times, then I watch them do it the next time, and once they have the hang of it, I let them go. It takes a long time (I could move a lot faster if I weren’t trying to teach the skill), but it’s worth the effort. My 9 year-old can clean house! Of course, I don’t think I got serious about teaching her when she was O’s age.

    It is fun when I team up with the short ones and we do highs and lows. I do the high parts and she or he does the low parts. This works well with window cleaning. And baseboards. And doors. And bookcases.

    My main concerns were that they not misuse the cleansers. Little ones get quite carried away with spray bottles and shiny things.

    Stacey said that her kids love the swiffer. My kids do to. We have hardwoods and tile. They go nuts over swiffering those rooms. My daughter still loves the broom, though. Since Orison is still short and probably couldn’t handle a tall swiffer stick, I’d get him a little broom and dustpan if I were you. Even if he doesn’t do a “good” job sweeping, it’s something you could do together. He’ll eventually get the hang of it.

    Just remember it’s a long term endeavor. It won’t be all that fun for you in the short term. But there are ways to make it fun for your little guy. I don’t know how you feel about rewards, but stickers go a long way with kids.

  • 8. C.  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Yeah, so I should say that as a nanny, thats the way I do it becuase I am not their mom. If I were a mom ( and I will be soon) that cheering is a definite way to go if you choose only one. The oldest one sometimes asks me what he’s goign to get as a reward for doing something and I have tell him he gets a kiss and a smile. He’s less thrilled with that. =)

    But praising the effort before showing them how improve is a good thing too. They are more likely to go back and try again if we cheer first and high five and make a game out of it, like racing to see if they can beat me, or who has more toys in what bin. I have to keep in mind that picking up all the toys is sometimes a monumental effort for an 18 month old. And a 2 1/2 year old.

    Ok. No more commenting.

  • 9. Pamela T  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

    My son Joshua is 4. He is responsible for putting folded clean clothes back into his drawer. He gets so excited when his “favorites” are back in the rotation. Now, I have to figure out what chores to give the give the 2-year old twins but the thought of it seems so daunting! Many of the ideas above seem great but with twins it changes the equation some!

  • 10. nicole wilson  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Hey Molly… I don’t have kids… but know how they work, sometimes! 🙂

    Here’s one blog that I read – Prayer of Hannah – and this was a post just this week…

    i think it’s great to give him tasks! he’s young, but he has a great mind for understanding! tasks like folding wash cloths and carrying things are easy and he’s sure to pick up on more things as his height changes! 😉

  • 11. nicole wilson  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

    and i love the swiffer idea from all those people… i could use a three year old swiffering my house… we have 100% hardwood floors… and a dog that sheds like CRAZY

  • 12. robyn  |  May 15, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    i love the answers to this. i think I’ll have noah start helping me to set the table and I love the paint brush and the tupperware idea.

    I’ve also heard, with boys especially, to not overload them with too many mom chores, but also give them things to do that are like daddy. For example, helping to take the trash cans out, washing the car (noah LOVES this one and is actually really helpful!), helping me unload the groceries from the car. (I just give him lightweight things).

    Obviously we want our boys to know how to do laundry, iron a shirt, cook a delicious meal, and help around the house, but we also want to build them up in their masculinity. Noah always seems so proud of himself when I tell him how strong he is and what a great worker he is, know what i mean?

  • 13. Nikki  |  May 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Oh my goodness! I didn’t know how to do laundry until college, either! I thought I was the only one. I’m kind of excited I’m not! (If you’re reading this, mom, I love you & it’s OK! :))

  • 14. Molly Piper  |  May 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Very good thing to keep in mind, Robyn. Today I had Orison bring in something really light from the car and he thought it was so awesome!

    I’ve been thinking about car washing now that the weather has finally turned in MN. That’s a good one.

  • 15. Jake  |  May 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I specifically remember making my bed and setting the table.
    My son’s only 1, so I’m just brainstorming some others….
    -matching socks might be a fun task
    -carring already-folded laundry to everyone’s rooms
    -clearing the stairs
    -setting the table (a must- and already said)
    -feeding pets
    -watering (outdoor!) plants
    -sweeping decks/sidewalks


  • 16. Debbie J.  |  May 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    We use a P.E.G.S. chart. I ordered it off the internet, and I really like it!

    With six kids, I really need to be organized, but I never had much consistency until we started P.E.G.S. It’s a peg board that comes with picture disks of almost every chore you can imagine. When our kids do their “jobs”, they cover up that picture disk with a green “reward” disk to show me that it has been done. At the end of the day, they count their green disks and put that many skittles in a jar. (We use a large jar for six kids.) When the jar is full, we do something fun as a family like go out for ice cream or order pizza and watch a movie. I really like that I don’t have to make a new chart for six kids every week!

    We also give out green disks for good behavior, or whatever character trait we’re working on at the moment. (There are also red “penalty” disks. I like it because it’s a very concrete and tangilbe way for young kids to keep track of what their jobs, there’s some immediate gratification in putting up a green disk, and I can see quickly who has done their jobs and who has not! Sometimes I let the younger ones turn in a disk (not all of them!) for a skittle or jelly bean.

    My rule of thumb for toddlers and pre-schoolers was to assign at least one daily chore for every year of age, so for a 3 year old I would say, get dressed, make your bed, and put away ten things in your room. (And maybe set the table.) I also ask them to help me with other things that I am doing, like laundry and meal prep, for which I might reward them with an extra green disk to put on the board.

    I think all the ideas above are great; I unscrewed and took off the top of my swiffer handle when I only had pre-schoolers so it was the right size. We also use feather dusters instead of dust cloths, and the kids like shaking them outside when they’re done!

    Debbie, wife of jamsco

  • 17. Shannon Archer  |  May 15, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    My sister home-schools and she uses a book called “Choreganizers”. I keep thinking about ordering it. I checked hers out and it looked good.

  • 18. Andrea  |  May 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Hi Molly…

    Here’s a website I have used to search out age-appropriate chores:


    It has helped get me thinking, sometimes reminding me of things that the littles can do at home that I might not have thought of myself.

    I’m really enjoying your blog…
    Sterling, OH

  • 19. Adoption Road  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I’m wondering how I can add anything of value after reading all these awesome comments! I am also a woman who would rather just do it myself once and have it done right. Even before children, I battled this when my helpful hubby wanted to do the laundry. Since my laundry science is too precise for even Martha Stewart, I delegated toilets, dishes and trash to the man of the house. He also turned out to be a much better cook than me! Now that I have a little girl, who desperately wants to be “just like mommy”, I’m feeling convicted on looking for ways to include her in chores. I’m also realizing how nice it is to have a little happy helper. She loves helping me with the laundry, though she still doesn’t like folding “Daddy’s underwears”. 😉 I don’t consider myself a domestic goddess. I’m better with computers than casseroles. However, once I understood the theory behind training the next generation, I started seeing lots of small ways to include my daughter in caring for our home that didn’t necessarily require chore charts. I just had to purposely think to invite her into whatever I was doing. More important than helping with chores, she gets time with me that is one-on-one. Whether she is helping me blog or bake, my goal is to teach her to serve our family joyfully. The skillfully will come later I hope.

  • 20. JenR  |  May 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I totally sympathize about the laundry-a guy in Navs had to teach me!

    My mom did summertime bingo. Basically, she would put a bunch of “one time” ish jobs on a bingo chart. Some of the jobs would be things like “sweep the porch and pull the weeds on the walkway”, “weed the garden”, “keep room clean for 1 week without having to be told” (there were lots of things like that!) that were age appropriate. On the bingo chart were rewards at the end of each row and column, such as “get Ritas water ice with mom”, “have movie night”, “get 1lb of candy from candy store”, etc. This bingo chart was very motivational.

    We also got paid a penny for every dandylion that we pulled and every branch we picked up from the yard.

    These things were on top of our regular chores.

  • 21. maleesha  |  May 15, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Boys + dirt = FUN…so my three year old son gets to help scoop potting soil into pots for me. It’s actually a help because while he’s filling the pots, I can be prepping flowers/veggies or doing other things. He loves it and is proud of himself when we are done, he says “I sure helped, Mom!”

  • 22. proverbs31  |  May 16, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Oh my goodness, can I just write you an email instead? 🙂

    1 – We started giving the oldest chores when she turned 5. But then the 2nd had to start helping when she was 3 or 4. And now I have the 2 1/2 year helping as much as he can. The main things I do with the 2 year old is having him put his toys back when he is done with them and his shoes to his closet and his dirty clothes to the hamper, etc. But I also let him help unload the dryer, etc, when he wants to help because I am not going to tell him “no.” 🙂

    2 – You’re right, they won’t be very good at it. And I used to not let them help because of that. But at some point I realized that doing it all myself was not working, which is why I started letting them do it (even if it wasn’t perfect) because I know they’ll get better and that it’s important for them to learn to help out, and that part of my job as a mom is to teach them those things.

    3 – We’ve been through many different systems and games. I find that sometimes we have to keep changing things up to keep it fun when they are little. And we have to keep tweaking the system as we find what works and what doesn’t. One thing that really worked for a long time was “musical cleaning” where we put on music and raced to pick up one room before the song ran out and then ran to the next room for the next song. Orison may enjoy that, especially if you use a good cd of praise and worship songs.

    Have you read A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George? I really recommend it. It’s not all about this, but she does talk about training our children a lot. Reading it encouraged me to make some further changes around here, making my two daughters, 5 and 8, completely responsible for the cleaning of their shared room and for their own laundry. I am here and available to guide and train and teach, but they’re doing the bulk of the work. My hope is that by the time they are grown, they will be able to manage their stuff and their space a ton better than I was when I left home.

  • 23. Chris  |  May 16, 2008 at 4:40 am

    I was that way with cooking, so I started my kids in the kitchen early. When they were just toddling and could stand next to me by the counter on a step stool, I let them measure, pour, and stir dry ingredients, and then as they got older, I let them do more. They are teenagers now and very capable in the kitchen. They each make dinner for the family one day a week. Well, that is the plan. Sometimes things get busy, but when we are on our regular schedule, they enjoy having their day.

  • 24. Laurie  |  May 16, 2008 at 6:04 am

    I have three boys (10, 10, 9) and a girl (6). I try to approach household chores a little bit differently for my boys than I do for my girl. It’s more the heart motive that I’m trying to build that is a bit different. A few masculine traits I would like to keep in mind with regard to chores is to train them to order their environment, take initiative, and be humble servants. So for them it isn’t always a structured chore list, it’s more that they need to not walk past a mess, or watch me struggle into the house with grocery bags, etc. I have done chores with them, but I try to keep in mind the bigger issues of manhood and how these things are expressions of masculinity, not domesticity. I am grateful for my husband’s example for these things.

    With Maggie, my girlie, I want to cultivate a love for our home, a love for our domain, so to speak. I am more deliberate with including her in on my cooking and cleaning. I also try to broaden my idea of being helpful around the house to more than cleaning because she really loves to help “beautify” through use of decor, flowers, etc.

  • 25. Carrie  |  May 16, 2008 at 8:27 am

    I also agree with Robyn about boys. I have three boys (3, 2, and 3 months) and with my 3-and 2-year-old, I have them “help” me move the table and chairs out of the kitchen so I can mop. I try to encourage them as they’re pushing chairs out by calling them, “Strong boy!” and if we’re moving a chair together, pretend I can’t do it without their help. “Oh, I need a strong boy to help me move this.” They LOVE it, and go around trying to move stuff, going, “Strong boy! Strong boy!” It teaches them to help out around the house, but hopefully is teaching them to be masculine, too.

  • 26. Carrie  |  May 16, 2008 at 8:31 am

    So, I hadn’t read through all these comments before I left my comment… sorry to repeat! I don’t think I can improve upon what Laurie said about boys, so sorry for the repetition :~)

  • 27. Louise  |  May 16, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Making beds is difficult for most little ones (teens also but other causes), Have them crawl under the covers to the end of the bed and then make everything straight while they crawl out of bed . This makes a huge impact on their ability to accomplish the task. And it’s quite the adventure if Mom happens to fall over on the bed while they’re crawling out from down under!

  • 28. shawnda  |  May 16, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Hey girl! I’m sure you got tons of you good advice – I don’t have time to read through them! But thought I’d throw out a few things 🙂 If O doesn’t dust that great – that’s OK!!! It’s great for that to be his chore and to have that responsibility now. As he gets older, he’ll be able to do it better, and the idea of a chore/responsibility will be nurtured from a young age! That’s what mom’s tell me, anyhow! : )

    Samuel sweeps the porch. And Samuel and Keziah take turns putting away the utensils. Those are their biggest chores right now.

    I need to come back and read what others wrote b/c we need to add to that! ; )

  • 29. Really Robin  |  May 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Training your children responsibility is very time consuming but, as pointed out in earlier comments, extremely important. When our kids (we had six all together) were young – 3, maybe 4? – they were responsible for putting their toys away and putting dirty clothes in a low basket.

    We also cleaned as a family on Saturday mornings before the television came on. We went clockwise around the living room, dining area, and their bedrooms – straightening up, dusting, putting things away and vacuuming/sweeping.

    As they got older, there were added responsibilities. And we did not have an allowance system – they were trained that chores were a “cost of being family”. Just as I, their mother, was not paid by them to taxi them around, make their meals and wash their clothes, they were not paid to empty garbage, the dishwasher or make their beds.

  • 30. kendra  |  May 19, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    As soon as Fallyn was born, one of Calvin’s jobs became fetching her diapers or his own diapers. He was 18 months. He started some things even before then. So, *around* that age his jobs were to throw things in the trash, fetch things, put the silverware in the dishwasher (I’d lay it on the open door and he’d put them in), put clothes into washer, into dryer, pull them out… Now he is 3 and is able to line up the bowls in the dishwasher, pick up toys, take dirty dishes to counter, “clean” by spraying (with his own “cleaner” which is water in a spray bottle) and wiping, helping me clean the leather couch, etc. I just do the job with him, and let him do his share.

  • 31. kendra  |  May 20, 2008 at 12:06 am

    what Calvin thinks is fun: his own cleaning apron, his own spray bottle, and here’s something that i think is just great for kids: the swiffer floor thing (broom? what’s it called–you attach a swiffer dry cloth to it) that came in a couple short pieces. you can take out a section so that it’s the perfect size for a toddler!

    and he has always just thought jobs are SO fun!

    he even earned $20 several months ago, when he was 2, working for friends and family to earn money for a toy he wanted so badly. he emptied their small trash cans into bigger ones, “cleaned” a friend’s kayak, etc. it was great. we were so proud of him! since he didn’t really have a concept of money, we put his money in a glass cup, drew a line at the top, and said the money had to get up to the line, then he would have enough.

  • 32. jimmy  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:59 am

    i give mykids 10 pound a day perchoir they do


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