This post was last updated on
YES! Your 3-year old can do chores! Here’s how to teach your child responsibility starting as young as three with age appropriate chores
There’s a running joke at our house that the only reason we had kids was for the free labor.
As a young parent, I dreamed of a time the daily chores would become my kids’ responsibility. Oh, what a day that would be when they were suddenly old enough to take care of the home their parents so lovingly made for them.
Sure, I’d still do my part; I’d never expect them to pick up my dirty clothes off the floor or make my bed every day. But push around a vacuum? Oh yes, my children would do that. Wash dishes and load the dishwasher? Absolutely! And if I can pull on a pair of rubber gloves and give the toilet a good scrub, so could they.
But I’m here to tell you that my kids are now nine and 12, and none of those things happen.
Don’t get me wrong: My kids have daily chores, and for the most part they don’t complain (much) about helping out around the house. But the older they get, the more I realize there were age-appropriate chores they could have been doing since they were two. Not only did I cheat myself out of years of free labor, but I may have inadvertently cheated my kids out of learning a sense of responsibility and independence.
Age Appropriate Chores for Children
Assign Age-Appropriate Chores
Sometimes it was circumstance that eliminated a chore from their lists, other times it was physically not possible for them to complete it. For example, a few years ago my husband and I invested in loft beds to maximize the space in their small bedrooms. Up until that point they had been expected to make their beds every day. It seemed unnecessary with loft beds since they’re up high and out of plain view. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to make a loft bed. So daily bed-making got scrapped.
I also discovered that as lightweight as our upright vacuum is, it’s still cumbersome for my kids to maneuver around the house. They tried, but they couldn’t even do a mediocre job of it, so they were excused from vacuum duty.
But there were so many other age-appropriate chores I could have (and should have) assigned them, like depositing their clothes into their hampers at the end of every day or rinsing off their dishes and placing them in the dishwasher. (Because if I see one more plate placed on the counter directly above the dishwasher, I think I’m going to snap…)
I can’t help but think if I had been more mindful of the little chores they could have done when they were younger, I’d probably have fewer gray hairs now.
If your child is somewhere around the 3-year-mark, he is definitely ready to take on some daily chores. Lucky for you, the preschool years are also the time that kids want to help. God bless their little hearts, they think cleaning is fun!
If you’re not quite sure what a three-year-old is capable of, here are some examples of age-appropriate chores:
- Putting clothes in a hamper
- Picking up toys and putting them away (in a toy box or bin)
- Dusting furniture
- Feeding pets
- Collecting and piling books and magazines
- Helping to set and clear the table
- Wiping down the front of appliances
- Helping with laundry (matching socks, folding washcloths)
I bet there are chores on this list you wouldn’t have thought of assigning to your kids. That’s because as a mom, you’ve grown accustomed to doing everything for your child. That beautiful, helpless creature you brought into the world relied on you for everything, including cleaning up after him. That’s a hard habit to break.
Don’t feel bad if it didn’t occur to you that your three-year-old is indeed old enough to do things around the house. It didn’t occur to me, either. But now that you know, use it to your advantage. Free labor!
Why Daily Chores for Kids Are Good For Them
All joking aside, assigning daily chores helps kids grow into responsible adults; it leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence (something we all could use). And as they and the messes they create get bigger, you’ll want them to take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves.
But when it comes to assigning chores to small children, it’s important to treat it as a learning opportunity first. Remember that they’re just little and won’t do chores perfectly, so don’t set impossible standards. If you set your little one up to wash the front of the kitchen cupboards, expect a spot or two to be missed. If you ask your child to feed the family pet, you’ll probably find some kibble spilled on the floor. They’ll get better at it as time goes on, so don’t make a big deal if they can’t do things flawlessly.
The important thing is that your child is participating in the household chores and learning valuable lessons about pitching in and sharing the responsibilities around the house.
Keep in mind, too, that at three years old, kids can only handle one assignment at a time, and it needs to be pretty specific. I learned a long time ago to avoid saying things like “Go clean your room!” To a small child, that phrase is too general (and overwhelming). You have to give specific instructions, such as: “Pick up all of the dirty clothes off the floor and put them in the hamper.” When they’ve completed that task, give them another.
A Printable Chore Chart Saved My Sanity
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that kids thrive on routine. When they know what to expect (and what’s expected of them,) they feel safe and happy.
It took a while for me to realize it, but a printable chore chart is a necessity at my house if I want my kids to keep on top of their daily chores, even now that they’re older.
Being able to go back to the list and check off what they’ve done and see what they still have left to do keeps them motivated to tick off every last thing. They know what’s expected of them and they get right to work. When I tried to verbally instruct them, they’d whine or try to negotiate their way out of their chores. A printable chore chart saved my sanity!
You can find all kinds of printable chore charts for kids online or create a simple one yourself. Hang it somewhere the kids can see it and make it age-appropriate by using images on chore charts for younger kids and easy-to-read text for older kids.
No matter how young or old, children need to feel like they’re a contributing member of the family who’s valued and appreciated. Daily chores help kids develop a sense of responsibility and understand how important it is to participate in taking care of the home.
Consider the age-appropriate chores your three-year-old could do around your house and then put together a printable chore chart they can use to track the important work they’re doing. You’d be surprised at just how much of a help they can be.
Want to share this project/recipe/article with your friends? Just click any of the share buttons on the left to share with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.!
Dianne Duckett is a 40-something mom of 2 pre-teen girls who manage to make her both proud and a little crazy every day. In her spare time she reads biographies and jogs. (Just kidding… she naps.)