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For over a decade I’ve had toddlers in my house.   I am familiar with toddler messes.  And toddler abilities.  And toddler dispositions.  I am also familiar with how these messes, abilities, and dispositions “mature” (rather than disappear) as the child grows.

Almost without fail, when I am in conversation with a young(er) mother, we end up talking about chores.  What can I expect a toddler – or pre-schooler or school-age child or tween or teen –  to do around the house?

In my experience, with young children, we expect too little.  And with older children, we expect too much.

Note:  There are no hard lines on the age a child is ready to learn a new household skill, but there are age ranges where we’ve typically seen a child have the maturity to begin learning.  There is a lot of overlap.  Obviously, an older child can do a younger child’s job, and some jobs only need to be done when you have a toddler to do them (in other words, things like cleaning light switches and doorknobs will probably stop getting done when we don’t have a toddler in the house.)

Second Note:  I refer frequently to Homemade Cleaning Wipes.  My recipe for these is found at the end of this post.

Having said all that, here is our list of chores by age range:

0 to 2-ish

  • Make messes.
  • Be cute.
  • Cry.
  • Play on the floor or nap while we clean.
  • Follow us around asking to be held.
  • Hide cleaning supplies.
  • Try to force calls to the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222.  If you don’t know this already, the folks there are REALLY nice).
  • Beg to clean.

18-months to 4-ish

0-2 helpers

  • Get ecstatic about cleaning.
  • Pick up toys.
  • Put place mats on the table.
  • Fold napkins and move into putting them on the table.
  • Add silverware to the table setting.
  • Clear trash from table.
  • Collect trash bags from trash cans.
  • Use homemade cleaning wipes to clean doorknobs and light switches.
  • Dust baseboards.
  • Use homemade cleaning wipes to clean the refrigerator handles.
  • Clear floors for vacuming.
  • Use a wet cloth and dry cloth to clean lower cabinet doors.
  • Use a whisk broom to sweep the stairs.
  • Use a dusting cloth to dust stair rail and stairs after sweeping.
  • Sort laundry (if you do this – see an upcoming post on Laundry for more options in this area!)
  • Measure ingredients.
  • Roll cookies.

3-ish to 6-ish


  • Enjoy cleaning.
  • Change Diapers.
  • Set the table with plates and cups.
  • Unload the dishwasher. (Our kitchen is arranged so that most of the dishes that go through the dishwasher are stored in the lower cabinets.  Since I am almost 6-feet tall, this requires a lot of bending for me, but is well worth it.)
  • Use a dusting cloth to dust furniture.
  • Use a small sweeper-vac to vacuum hard floors.
  • Use homemade cleaning wipes to clean bathroom floors.
  • Collect trash & replace bags in trash cans around the house.
  • Sort toys into bins in the playroom.
  • Collect soap dispensers from all bathrooms for refilling.
  • Return soap dispensers to all bathrooms after they have been filled.
  • Dust dining chairs, benches, legs of tables with a dusting cloth.
  • Use a hand-vac to clean out cubbies.
  • Use a hand-vac to vacuum floor and wall vents.
  • Use a hand-vac to clean out bottom shelf of lower cabinets and low drawers in the kitchen.
  • Use a hand-vac to vacuum stairs.
  • Use a hand-vac to vacuum under cushions on a sofa or chair.
  • Put away folded laundry.
  • Collect all toothbrushes and bathroom cups to load into dishwasher.
  • Make bed alone.
  • Pull weeds.
  • Maintain a small plot in a vegetable garden.
  • Make sandwiches.
  • Add toppings to pizza.

5-ish to 8-ish

at 7

  • Accept cleaning.
  • Potty train a sibling.
  • Make pizza dough.
  • Vacuum carpeted floors.
  • Use a feather duster to dust doors, furniture, picture frames.
  • Swish and Swipe using homemade cleaning wipes and soapy water.
  • Start loads of laundry in the washer.
  • Move washer loads into the dryer and start it on appropriate setting.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Use small sweeper-vac to vacuum dining room and kitchen after meals.
  • Unload groceries from the car and put away appropriately.
  • Pre-heat the oven.
  • Set timers for a variety of tasks.
  • Change sheets unassisted.
  • Wrap gifts with gift bags.

7-ish to 10-ish

9-yrs working

  • Tolerate cleaning.
  • Roll out pizza dough, pie crust, and pasta.
  • Add sauce and cheese to pizzas.
  • Clean toilets with chemical cleaners.
  • Clean sink with chemical cleaners.
  • Clean mirrors.
  • Clean windows.
  • Hand wash dishes after meals.
  • Load the dishwasher.
  • Wipe place mats, table, and counters after meals.
  • Clear the table after meals.
  • Put leftovers in appropriate containers for storage after meals.
  • Use a power drill for a variety of tasks.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Clean car windows and surfaces with appropriate chemicals.
  • Sweep garage with a push broom.
  • Supervise an older baby with minimal supervision.
  • Entertain a toddler with minimal supervision.
  • Sweep walkways, porch, patio and house walls.
  • Beat rugs.
  • Use a hand-vac with attachment to vacuum dryer vents.
  • Sort recycle items into appropriate bins.
  • Assist with freezer cooking preparations.
  • Wrap gifts with wrapping paper (unsupervised).

9-ish to 13-ish

10-12 year olds working

  • Resent cleaning.
  • At 9, our kids receive their first cookbook and their own night of the week to cook (with help, initially).
  • Dust ceilings, fans, light fixtures with a feather duster. (a small pvc pipe makes a great lightweight extension handle, if your 9-to-13-year old isn’t quite tall enough…)
  • Damp mop wood floors.
  • Wet mop tile floors.
  • Take trash to outdoor can (our can is really tall, so that is our main limiting factor on starting this job).
  • Sweep hearth and wash it with wet rags.
  • Dust on top of furniture, moving objects off of the surfaces to get them fully clean.
  • Clean showers and bathtubs with baking soda or other chemicals.
  • Organize game closet – restore to useable condition.
  • Organize book shelves – restore to useable condition.
  • Use chisels, carving knives, and sharp tools for a variety of household and craft tasks.
  • Use a sewing machine for small crafts.
  • Vacuum car with a shop vac.
  • Use loppers and pruning shears for yard projects.
  • Clean outsides of windows (safely managing the window feature that allows you to tilt the windows indoors).
  • Fill hand soap dispensers from around the house.
  • Use knives to prepare food in kitchen.
  • Turn on/off gas stove.
  • Put things into a hot oven.
  • Remove things from a hot oven.

12-ish to 15-ish


  • Proficient at cleaning.
  • At 13, we give our child full responsibility for their own laundry.
  • Babysit during the day. (We had ours take the Red Cross Babysitting Course first.)
  • Mow the lawn on a riding mower (depending upon the slope of the land).
  • Manage e-bay selling and preparing for shipping.
  • Convert slides, photos, videos to digital formats.
  • Develop electronic solutions for information management in the home (beginning programming necessary).
  • Make and mend clothing with a sewing machine.
  • Start the car on cold mornings.
  • Use leaf blower to clear walkways and drive ways.
  • Fill a grocery order from a specified list – paying attention to unit prices, allergens, etc.
  • Create a grocery list from a meal plan.
  • Create a meal plan for the week.
  • Cook meals without supervision.
  • Change oil in the car.
  • Change oil in mower.
  • Use a string trimmer, hedge clippers, and other small power tools.
  • Change light bulbs.
  • Apply lemon oil to wood furniture.
  • Generate shopping list for bulk buying (Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s, etc.)

15 and up

  • Ambivalent about cleaning, unless it’s a really stressful week, then all bets are off.
  • Cut hair using clippers.
  • Load recycle into truck and take to city recycle center.
  • Complete a full grocery trip.
  • Maintain cars, lawn equipment, and appliances.
  • Run errands.
  • Babysit into the late evening.

OK, so now you have a list of chores that different aged children can accomplish.  Now what?

Next Wednesday I’ll talk a little about the principles behind our chores and how we assign them.