Chores/Milestones Your Kids Can Actually Do

So the other night I was skimming through a very popular mothering book from the 70s, and I came across the chore section where—i am NOT kidding—“holding the wood” while Mom saws it was an example chore for a TWO year old.

Ok, so I am not sure WHOSE two year olds are ready for holding wood or helping saw, but it definitely isn’t mine.  And I am pretty sure the book wouldn’t have been published today with the AAP and that kind of suggestion!  Fearful as we all are 😉

Now I am like many other moms who think the Culture of Fear has gotten out of hand (we have to say NUTS are included in Almond Joy bars, and all playground equipment is plastic and spongy now).  But I still don’t stoop to quite the amount of security that these co-authors had.  And yet, I wonder why our kids today are so dependent on us, as compared to the earlier days.  There must be a connection.  I always get a great laugh when I watch “The Patriot” and one of the stony-eyed militia men tells his curly red-headed five year old, “Look after your mother!”  That’s a sweet joke of course, but there WAS a day when twelve and thirteen year old boys actually were supposed to look after their mothers and work the farm when Dad was away at war.  Do you know any 12 or 13 year olds who could do that today?  Not many.

So while I am pondering this loss of maturity, I realize I’m not doing that much better in my own home.  When it comes to jobs, I have a tendency to do them myself because my kids seem so… so… dumb.  Sorry.  But they are!  They ask ridiculous questions, can’t see the obvious, and have less coordination than their PE teachers are aware of.  My own fault, no blame here.  Also two of them can’t read and two of them are very short for their age.  But I am looking to transfer ownership and responsibility to my young brood—to challenge them to pitch in and take care of their stuff—without assigning them jobs which involve saws or fire.

But what is age-appropriate these days?  What is expected?  (I should get some info from a person with a farm.)  But here is a list of chores/jobs that I have so far found to be age appropriate.  Each age differs SO much.  And gender and birth order makes a difference (My oldest are three boys).  And personality.  But here’s where we have so far been successful.  (I will add more jobs in later as I think of them).

3-4 year olds

  • pick up own toys, including outside and bathtub
  • clean up own crayons, play doh, puzzles, school materials
  • put own dishes in dishwasher
  • help water plants
  • put laundry into piles (by color, category, or owner)
  • choose own clothes, get dressed mostly by themselves
  • gives everyone a placemat, napkin, spoon, etc
  • helps put reachable groceries away
  • puts stuffed animals, pillows back on own bed
  • can “help” wipe, clean a mirror, use a dustpan, etc.
  • runs things to the trash
  • lays out food on plates, with prompting
  • stacks things (cups, tupperware, etc)
  • hangs own things on the frig
  • turns TV on and off correctly, or other easy buttons

4-5 year olds

  • organize their own backpack, bookshelf, closet
  • puts things in the right folders, stickers in the right spots
  • change a CD/DVD correctly (with training)
  • work the basic remote buttons (with training)
  • run things up and downstairs, to the right places
  • put their own laundry away correctly
  • dusts
  • sets/clears table with help
  • helps bring in light groceries
  • can use automatic water/ice dispenser correctly (with training)
  • helps plant flowers, garden
  • helps clean out car
  • holds a flashlight for you
  • can plug and unplug more reliably

5-6 year olds

  • wipe kitchen table off, use sponge without too much water or mess
  • wipes most spills up ok
  • sweep crumbs with a dustpan (well)
  • brush own teeth (correctly, without supervision)
  • buttons own shirts, snaps
  • can help with laundry, using a stool
  • puts mail in and retrieves mail, remembers flag (not on a crazy busy street)
  • can put most groceries away, including the refrig/freezer correctly
  • toilets without help anymore (except occasional emergencies)
  • can change own clothing (dirty, wet, hot/cold) without prompt
  • makes own bed
  • straightens own blankets, folds blankets/towels
  • can bring you over a hammer, screwdriver, etc. reliably
  • helps a younger child with clothes or shoes
  • can help a younger child at nighttime with an easy problem
  • learns to put on own seatbelt
  • can do a “loop” around our neighborhood sidewalk, on a scooter independently (not a busy street)

6-8 year olds

  • comb own hair (correctly, without supervision)
  • learns to tie shoes, harder clothes independently (i.e. belts, zippers)
  • take ownership of dishes/dishwasher, plan ahead to run or not run
  • folds laundry correctly, pairs and rolls socks, puts things on hangers
  • sets own watch/clocks/timers
  • can do assignments independently, coming back when it’s over or there’s a problem
  • makes lists
  • can change/replace soap, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. with a little prompting
  • can (finally) assist in some minor home renovating projects =)
  • can take own bath with slight, occasional oversight
  • wipes a mirror, counter, or toilet correctly
  • use a dustbuster, or canister vac with some help
  • uses toaster and microwave correctly, with some supervision
  • can ride a bike independently on our street
  • can open and shut most car doors without incident

4 thoughts on “Chores/Milestones Your Kids Can Actually Do

  1. I love seeing old books on parenting somethings make me realize not only can my kids probably do more than I challenge them, but I too could probably do more without whining. haha

  2. Well, playground equipment should be spongy. To be honest, the metal parts still scare me to death. I read that playground accidents can be as bad as car wrecks.

  3. Oh wow! Well I’m not about to tell you (and the www lol) what my children do, and CAN do but I do agree that, as we have less and less children (as a society mind) we seem to moddy coddle them more and more, to the extremes, and to their own detrament. Sad hey. And to Kelly, yes I agree playgrounds were dangerous! Worse than climbing trees, and the roof, ladders,etc. These things we know have danger! We watch our children, say- be careful etc etc. We take them to the playground and expect them to be safe, they expect to be safe, really there was little difference between climbing a tree and climbing a metal climbing frame. Now there are no more climbing anything……….

  4. My favourite early skill to teach is spreading – that way they can make lunch for the family if we are busy and are ready to make their own lunch when they start school at 5. Really we Mum’s are supposed to be doing ourselves out of a job – I want my kids to be able to take care of themsleves by the time they leave home and we have to work to make sure that can happen. It feels nice to do things for them but it is better for their self esteem and overall development to learn to do it for themsleves.

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