two preschoolers practice chores for children by cutting vegetables

Chores for Children: It’s Never Too Early

What’s the surest way to set your child up for lifelong happiness and success, establish a strong family bond, and keep your household running smoothly? Experts from Stanford and Harvard say it’s to give your child responsibilities around the house, the earlier the better. That means lining up chores for children as young as 12 months old.

Why Chores for Preschoolers?

An expectation and routine of pitching in around the house teaches a child teamwork, responsibility, respect, and a positive work ethic. It develops feelings of self-worth as well as tangible life skills. The benefits of being responsible for age-appropriate chores stick with a child well into adulthood as the foundation for both independence and a collaborative mindset. Chores for children help them develop into “can-do” adults.

On top of that, the time you spend patiently showing your child how to do age-appropriate chores is time spent bonding as parent and child.

Young girl helps mom with laundry showing chores for children

Which Chores?

Focus on chores for children that actually help your household function. Those revolving around the basics—food, clothing, and shelter—are a good place to start. That means your child can help procure food, prepare and clean up after meals, care for clothes and linens, keep the home neat and clean, and so on. These activities are essential to life, and your child knows they are important.

Using Charts and Lists

A younger child might enjoy tracking and “checking off” chores using a picture-based chore list or chart, such as the magnetic ones available in toy shops. Start with just one or two chores per day. Older children who are beginning to write and read may be attracted to a chalkboard or white board where they can write and cross off their own daily or weekly chore list. Either way, you can support your child’s budding organizational skills by helping him or her create and manage a chart that is both useful and fun. Be sure to update both the chart and the chores as your child matures.

Learning Opportunities

Give clear, step-by-step instructions when introducing chores for children. Show multi-step tasks a bit at a time, with the adult taking on most of the steps at first. Then incrementally add more steps for the child to do in later sessions.

Young boy vacuuming in his house doing chores for children

Your child may already possess some of the subskills involved in many of the chores at home, such as squeezing out a sponge, pouring from a little pitcher, or carrying a glass of water carefully. Think of the Exercises of Practical Life that you’ve observed your child and classmates doing at Montessori Center School. They will inspire myriad ways you can involve your child in Montessori at home activities.

Chores for Preschoolers by Age

Try some of these age-appropriate chores for your young one(s). The age suggestions are, of course, only guidelines. You know your child and his or her abilities and interests.

Walking Well to 18 Months

  • Sort blocks and other small toys into bins
  • Replace books in an open basket
  • Wipe up spills with a small cloth or sponge
  • Pour own juice from a little pitcher
  • Place worn clothing in laundry basket
  • Hang up bath towel after use
  • With help, water houseplants with a small watering can
  • Clean vegetables with a child-size scrubber
  • Fill a pet’s food or water bowl, with help

18 Months to 3 Years

  • Place trash and recycling in proper bins
  • Carry compost outdoors in a little bucket; dump it into the compost pit
  • Replace books on shelf
  • Help load and unload dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer
  • Fold washcloths, napkins, and other small laundry items
  • Sort socks—everybody’s!
  • Cut bananas and other soft fruit for a salad
  • Set the table for a family meal
  • Dust with a cloth, a feather or wool duster, or a pair of old socks worn on the hands

3 to 4 Years

  • Clean windows with a little spray bottle and squeegee
  • Use a child-size broom, dustpan, and brush to clean floors
  • Scrub the bathroom sink or bathtub with a small sponge or brush
  • Help carry in and unpack groceries
  • Help with cooking and baking by measuring ingredients, stirring, etc.
  • Put own laundry away in proper drawers
  • Hang up clothes on pegs or hooks, or on hangers on a low closet rod
  • Spread peanut butter or soft cheese on crackers for a snack
  • Help parents with a younger sibling by fetching a diaper or burp cloth
  • Bring in mail or newspaper every day

5 to 6 Years

  • Run the vacuum
  • Bake cookies, biscuits, or muffins, with supervision and a little help
  • Core and slice an apple with an apple corer
  • Arrange flowers for the family dinner table
  • Begin to do whole loads of laundry more independently
  • Serve as an adult’s “assistant” on a fix-it job by handing tools, keeping track of nails, etc.
  • Clear the table and load the dishwasher
  • Make own bed
  • Pull weeds, when shown how to identify them
  • Help with big outdoor chores like bathing the dog or washing the car