Core Routines -- The Value of Doing Chores -- Chores by Age

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” Adm. Bill McRaven – Head of the Joint U.S. Special Operations Command

My 2₵

In a previous post, I said since our end goal is not preparing our students for taking standardized tests to make our school look good on some published list but developing in them the skills and habits that truly make a difference in their success later in life. Many of the best universities understand that SAT and GPA scores are poor predictors of success and that growing up with a lifestyle of doing chores is.

At Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute we do not send our students home with worksheets or any other work to do at home. We see much more value in downtime, family time, and free time, and in the value of doing chores (which if done correctly is truly family time). We see sending busy work home for kids is simply conditioning them as adults to take work home from the office. We believe it is much more important for the child to be conditioned to have the habit of successful happy adults and modeling for their own children doing the work of making a harmonious home life for their family.


As I said in the early post chores should never be used as punishment or presented as drudgery but a fun part of life. If you start them young doing dishes, telling stories of your youth, and singing with them, telling jokes, laughing they will look back on this time with fondness and raise your grandchildren the same way. An old saying is “If you raise your children, you spoil your grandkids. If you spoil your children, you raise your grandkids.” Developing your children in an environment that your children are happy doing chores is a good positive daily habit is a huge part of raising your children to be successful adults.

Start when they are young and make a game of it. If you missed that opportunity when they were young because life got in the way and they are now in their teens just remember it is never too late to start new positive habits. Have them start with the top of the list and keep adding more each week. Part of this will be building grit. If you don’t know some of these tasks get a mentor and learn with your teen.

Some Words to the Teens

The purpose of this page is to prepare you for the skills of being a successful self-reliant adult. If you grew up doing daily chores thank your folks for the leg up they gave you and look at this entire list for skills you missed along the way.

Okay so if your folks did not develop in you the habit of doing chores forgive them and let’s move on. You may not have all the basic skills you will need as an adult such as cooking, basic car maintenance, laundry, taxes, etc. Take this list and start the habit of doing as many as you can. For those you can’t do find a mentor; be it a neighbor, grandparent, or friend and learn those skills that you don’t have. It will be time well spent which you will never regret.

Chore Chart

Here are chores by age, as stated before, start at age 2 and if your older children are not doing tasks that are expected of younger kids start them now. Add tasks at a rate appropriate for your child. In short, don’t overwhelm them, but remember part of this is building grit. Like everything else in life, it is a dance.

Ages 2 and 3

Yes, chores should start this young. Studies show that when a parent started their children in tasks at ages 9 to 10, or worse, 15 to 16, the children thought that the parent was asking them to do something they didn’t want to do. They didn’t get the concept of ‘we’re all in this together. “They were far too self-centered.” Starting at age 2, children will what to emulate their parents, love doing big people work. It may take as much time or more for them to help you as it would be for you to do it but look at this time as an investment in their future, you are teaching them skills that most schools can’t.

Personal chores

  • Assist in making their beds
  • Pick up playthings with your supervision

Family chores

  • Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket
  • Fill a pet’s water and food bowls (with supervision)
  • Help a parent clean up spills and dirt
  • Dust

Ages 4 and 5

Note: This age can be trained to use a family chore chart with supervision.

Personal chores

  • Get dressed with minimal parental help
  • Make their bed with minimal parental help
  • Bring their things from the car to the house

Family chores

  • Set the table with supervision
  • Clear the table with supervision
  • Help a parent prepare food
  • Help a parent carry in the lighter groceries
  • Match socks in the laundry
  • Answer the phone with parental assistance
  • Be responsible for a pet’s food and water bowl
  • Hang up towels in the bathroom
  • Clean floors with a dry mop

Ages 6 and 7

Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.

Personal chores

  • Make their bed every day
  • Brush teeth
  • Comb hair
  • Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed
  • Write thank you notes with supervision

Family chores

  • Be responsible for a pet’s food, water, and exercise
  • Keep wood box full
  • Vacuum individual rooms
  • Wet mop individual rooms
  • Fold laundry with supervision
  • Put their laundry in their drawers and closets
  • Put away dishes from the dishwasher
  • Help prepare food with supervision
  • Empty indoor trash cans
  • Answer the phone with supervision
  • Help set and place mouse traps
  • Help gather kindling

Ages 8 to 11

Note: This age benefits from using the family chore chart.

Personal chores

  • Take care of personal hygiene without prompting
  • Keep bedroom clean
  • Be responsible for homework
  • Be responsible for belongings
  • Write thank you notes for gifts
  • Wake up using an alarm clock

Family chores

  • Wash dishes
  • Wash the family car with supervision
  • Be responsible for a few rows of garden
  • Help with livestock chores
  • Helping with the cutting a wrapping of meat
  • Clear ash from woodstove
  • Prepare a few easy meals on their own
  • Clean the bathroom with supervision
  • Rake leaves
  • Learn to use the washer and dryer
  • Put all laundry away with supervision
  • Take the trash can to the curb for pick up
  • Test smoke alarms once a month with supervision
  • Screen phone calls using caller ID and answer when appropriate
  • Cut kindling
  • Help with stacking firewood
  • Be responsible for trapping mice
  • Be responsible for controlling gophers and ground squirrels

Ages 12 and 13

Personal chores

  • Take care of personal hygiene, belongings, and homework
  • Write invitations and thank you notes
  • Set their alarm clock
  • Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
  • Change bed sheets
  • Keep their rooms tidy and do a biannual deep cleaning

Family chores

  • Change light bulbs
  • Change the vacuum bag
  • Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
  • Clean mirrors
  • Be responsible for the production of eggs and chickens for the table
  • Helping with the butchering of livestock
  • Help those that are cutting and splitting wood
  • Stack firewood
  • Mow the lawn with supervision
  • Babysit (in most states)
  • Read to the younger kids
  • Prepare an occasional family meal
  • Building and tending the evening fire
  • Help change filter in HVAC
  • Hunting to put meat on the table (We have many resources to parents and kids centered around hunting and shooting)

Ages 14 and 15

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages up to 13
  • Responsible for library card and books
  • Be responsible for finances of pet
  • Keep a budget and profit and loss of their finances

Family chores

  • Do assigned housework without prompting
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Be responsible for raising and butchering with livestock for meat on the table
  • Split firewood and cut firewood with supervision ‘ Maintain ax, chainsaw, lawnmower, all small engines
  • Babysit
  • Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
  • Sharpen Knives
  • Wash windows with supervision
  • Buck and split firewood
  • Check car fluid levels and air in tires
  • Change Oil
  • Start car on frosty mornings to warm up
  • Help mount snow chains
  • Change filter in HVAC and clean filter in cooktop hood
  • Clean carpet and seats in the back of the car

Ages 16 to 18

This is the final stage of fledging and your teen should be starting to designing their own chores that fit their needs and the family. They should do that which they see needs to be done. They should be doing major building projects.

Personal chores

  • Responsible for all personal chores for ages up to age 15
  • Responsible to earn spending money
  • Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
  • Responsible for purchasing your own food for lunches
  • Responsible for maintaining any car they drive (e.g., gas, oil changes, tire pressure, rotate tires.)
  • Responsible for taxes

Family chores

  • Do housework as needed
  • Do yard work as needed
  • Be responsible for firewood
  • Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
  • Deep cleaning of household appliances, such as defrosting the freezer, as needed
  • On your own drive into town to purchase something the family needs
  • Scrape Ice from car windows
  • Be responsible for mounting snow chains

After Fledging

Short Visits

To keep those family bonds strong when returning for short visits continue where you left off with stepping back into the role before leaving. This is all a part of kinship. As the grandkids develop have them do the same chores at the grandparents as they do at home.

Long Visits

For longer visits take on bigger projects that may have become too physically taxing for the aging parents. You the young adult now have new skills that the parents may not possess. Key is to be an asset to the family and be there when they need you, it really could be no more than sharing stories and returning the love that the family had for you growing up.

(Here is our 2Cents on the value of chores.)(

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