In asking a question about teaching knife skills, I realized I'd never seen a question about chores and household skills and what is appropriate when on Parenting SE. I did find this question in regard to preschool abilities, but found nothing similar for the elementary student or older.

There are a few books out there about the matter, like, "Chores without Wars" but sometimes real experience is nice to hear along with what books have to say about what can be expected. There is a lot of opportunity for scaffolding in new skills at different stages. There is probably a depth of experience out there for assigning chores perhaps others would like to weigh in on so we can have a useful resource here on Parent'sSE.

2 Answers 2


I don't think there's a definitive answer as children vary widely in coordination and ability at a given age. Enthusiasm also is a big factor. My son has been helping unload the dishwasher, load and unload the washing machine and dryer since he was 1 and a half. We didn't ask him to do anything, he just walked over and started doing it because he wanted to do stuff with daddy. Even from that age we've never had a broken dish, so he's very good. He's 3 now and regularly helping me peel garlic, stir things, and of course licking the spoon when I'm baking. It's not as if I have to work to get him involved, holding him back would be impossible! Of course I don't let him get near the knives.

As for when I will get him involved in other things my answer is when I think he's ready. I look at it as building skills on top of one another. Take cooking for example. Right now he does things like peel garlic and onions, kneads bread (I give him a teeny bit and he kneads it using the same technique I do), and helps me make meatballs. Next I'll get him opening cans with the can opener and controlling the mixer. Then I'll introduce him to slicing with a pearing knife, then chopping with a chef's knife. Maybe he'll be chopping stuff up at 7, maybe at 10, I'll play it by ear.

I don't think you can say "introduce your children to x at y years", I think you have to say "when your child can do x, introduce your child to y skill".

  • 2
    +1 for this - absolutely agree with seeing what they are ready for, and what they want to be involved in.
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 19, 2012 at 11:53

So of course GdD's answer that there isn't a definitive answer is absolutely true in that no two kids are alike and one must gauge where an individual is at any given time. Still, there are guidelines of what can typically be expected at certain age levels.

So far, I have found this list to be fairly accurate in our home, but it is missing quite a few things I believe kids should learn so I will summarize the highlights and add a few things here for the first two age categories (toddlers and preschool) since that is where my kid is at now.

The link basically lists helping with the putting away of things like toys, dirty laundry, their own clean laundry, plastic dishes emptied from the dishwasher (and silverware), and wiping of things like lower cabinets, baseboards and simple dusting jobs for toddlers.

I also found Alice to be very helpful with sorting socks and folding wash clothes, cleaning mirrors and windows (WITH ME) and spotting weeds in the garden. She also started vacuuming occasionally at three because we have very little carpeting and a light weight canister vac. and she wanted to do it. She had no trouble helping to load the dishwasher and although she didn't get everything in its "proper place, at three should could even help with setting the table and watering the indoor plants.

For the preschool category, the link lists things like clearing the table, washing dishes (with help) folding dish towels, watering indoor plants and a few of the items I listed as things Alice did at three.

Between 4 and 5, Alice was able to help weed, but we have tough soil, so she certainly could not do this on her own (Nor would I require her to do such a huge job on her own as we have quite a large space), She was also able to help a lot more with meal prep stuff like getting ingredients, washing veggies and fruits, measuring ingredients (with occasional help) and even started cleaning out the sink. She also started to be able to use a cheat sheet for setting the table and was able to unload the dishwasher except items up out of reach and knives (butter knives were fine and we rarely put the sharp stuff in the dishwasher, but we instructed her to let us handle the sharp stuff or anything really heavy just in case).

Alice can't really "make the bed" at this point, but she certainly can straighten her bed. She also can help with cleaning counters, the table and a number of other kinds of surface cleaning jobs.

By the time she is well into elementary I would think she'll be able to help with most chores and through late elementary and middleschool it will be a matter of figuring out what she can do on her own when.


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