Mar 19, 2013

I can do it! An age-by-age guide to basic skills and chores.

We all want our children to become increasingly self-reliant as they get older.  As a mom, I struggle with knowing when and how to give new responsibilities to my children, and have done a bit of research over the years regarding the topic.  

Many websites and blogs have lists very similar to this one, with slight variations in ages for skills and chores.  The following is a comprehensive list that includes a consensus of what most of those sites are saying are reasonable ages to expect your children to do these things.

Many times we see lists like this and think... "Good idea!"  Then you go to your 7-year-old child and say "You should be able to make your own lunch".  The mistake is to leave them to do it without any training.

From skills as simple and seemingly intuitive as cleaning their room and getting dressed to more complex skills like riding a bike or sewing, children need a calm, patient, loving parent to train them step -by- step.

New skills can be taught to children in the following way:
1. You do, the child watches.
2. You do, the child helps.
3. Your child does, you help.
4. Your child does, you watch.

Teaching a new skill this way takes time, but it decreases the chance your child will fail at the task and increases the feeling of confidence and security they need to do something new.

The only other caveat to this list: just because your child is old enough to do something and CAN do something doesn't negate their need for you to do it for them sometimes too.   Parenting is a balancing act between doing too much and doing too little.  We want our children to feel loved, cared for and nurtured, as well as to have the abilities and confidence to take care of themselves. 

There is a thin line between encouraging self-reliance and being inattentive your child. You as the parent will have to figure out that line for you and your child.  

And NOW:

Age 2-3
Put toys away with some supervision.
Get dressed (with some help from you).
Put clothes in the hamper
Clear their plate after a meal
Assist in setting the table.
Brush their teeth and wash their face with assistance.

Age 4-5
Should know their full name, address, and phone number.
How to make an emergency call.
Perform simple cleaning chores such as dusting in easy-to-reach places, hanging towels up in the bathroom and clearing the table after meals.
Feed and care for pets.
Identify monetary denominations, and understand the very basic concept of how money is used.
Brush teeth, comb hair, and wash face without assistance.
Help with basic laundry chores, such as putting clothes away, and bringing dirty clothes to the laundry area.
Choose their own clothes to wear.

Age 6-7
Mix, stir, and cut with a dull knife.
Make a sandwich, and a “cold lunch”
Understand what a “healthy” snack is versus a sugary snack
Help put the groceries away.
Wash the dishes, empty the dishwasher
Use basic household cleaners safely.
Straighten up the bathroom after using it.
Make bed without assistance.
Bathe unsupervised.

Age 8-9
Fold clothes.
Learn simple sewing.
Strip their bed
Care for outdoor toys such as a bike or roller skates.
Take care of personal hygiene without being told to do so.
Use a broom and dustpan properly.
Read a recipe and prepare a simple meal.
Use the stove to cook (with supervision)
Use the oven to bake foods (with supervision)
Help create a grocery list.
Count and make change.
Take written phone messages.
Help with simple lawn duties such as watering and weeding flower beds.
Take out the trash.

Age 10-11
Stay home alone. (Use your judgment, you know your child)
Change bed sheets.
Use the washing machine and dryer.
Plan and prepare a meal with several ingredients.
Use the stove to cook
Use the oven to broil and bake foods
Read labels.
Learn to use basic hand tools.
Learn how to create a simple budget and implement it
Mow the lawn.

Age 12-13
Go to the store and make purchases independently.
Look after younger siblings or neighbors.
Use an iron
Wash the family car with supervision.
Change light bulbs
Change the vacuum bag
Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
Clean mirrors

Age 14-18
Perform more sophisticated cleaning and maintenance chores, like cleaning the oven/ stove and unclogging drains.
Fill a car with gas, add air to and change a tire.
Read and understand medicine labels and dosages.
Interview for and get a job.
Prepare and cook meals if needed.
Be able to use a grill.


  1. Hi AJ,

    Wow, that's a comprehensive and ambitious list. I better get cracking on some of that in my kids. :) Thanks for the ideas here. I especially liked the progression in the parent child watching and learning list of four items at the top.

    Thanks for stopping by my post "Sneaking Romance into the Work Week" this week. Forgive my delay in replying.

    Have a great week. Hopefully it's warmer there than it is here in MN today. :)


    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. :) Have you ever considered the idea that our kids should be very nearly independent by the time they are 18-20 years old and if we wait until they are 16 to force them to learn independent skills they won't get there. I always say "you are not behind, just start where you are!" That goes for this stuff too. We work on a lot of these skills during the long summer weeks... try to master one or two and learn the rest. GOOD LUCK and YES! It has been alarmingly warm here in central CA... mid to upper 70s... looking forward to a cool rain storm that is coming this week.


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