How Old Is Old Enough for Chores?

As your child ages, you’ll be looking for and encouraging many different aspects of her development. A lot of milestones will be largely driven by your child (her first words, her first steps, etc.), but some, such as learning about responsibility and what it means to be part of a family, will have to come from you.

Luckily, chores are a great way to handle that. When you ask your child to take on certain tasks, you’ll help teach her about routines and problem solving, as well as promote independence and self-responsibility, all of which will help contribute to her self-esteem. Here are some ideas for introducing chores to your tot.

Start small. You can’t expect too much at this age, but even the tiniest tasks can help your toddler feel important and contribute to the family. For example, when you fetch the mail, ask your tot to come with you and have her carry a couple envelopes back to the house. Or give her one spoon to pop into the dishwasher after dinner. She’ll feel proud to help out.

Make it fun. Turn chore time into game time by using a timer. Set it to three minutes and challenge your toddler to see how many toys she can put in her toy chest or how much dirty clothing she can toss in her hamper before the buzzer goes off. By age 3, you can even help your child make her bed, racing to put the pillows in their place before the timer goes off.

Be a team. Kids this age love to be near and copy Mom, so take advantage of your little shadow! At dinnertime, give her the soup spoons to carry over to the table and show her how you put one in front of each chair. Or have her help match socks while you fold laundry. One exception: Stick to doing chores solo if you’re using any chemical-based cleaners.

Start a routine. Young children thrive when following a schedule, so stick to the same chores every day at the same time. For example, give your toddler the regular evening chore of helping to put the bath toys she played with back into a basket. Doing this task just before her bedtime routine begins will help signal that it’s time to wind down.

Of course, involving your toddler in chores may increase the amount of time they take (and make more of a mess, too), but remember that this is a learning process. Before long, your preschooler will be a pro at helping to clean her room or putting her dish in the dishwasher without needing to be asked!