Age-appropriate chores for kids: Teaching your kids life skills by helping around the house

chores for kids in Singapore life skills
Getting your kids to help around the house has its benefits – and we're not just talking about a floor with no Lego pieces to tread on! Shape them into fab humans with some light chores that teach them all about responsibility.

As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, I did chores to earn my keep. As a result, I know how to wash a car, mow the lawn, boil an egg and make the bed. But do my own kids do chores around the house? Honestly, only intermittently. As a mum in Singapore, I’m very spoilt to have a wonderful live-in helper who takes pride in her role as housekeeper. I seem to have forgotten as a serial expat how hard it is to manage a home solo. The benefits associated with kids doing jobs around the house are so great – like learning life skills, feeling a sense of achievement and showing respect for adults and the environment they live in – that I’ve decided to take on the chore project in earnest.

The question is: what sorts of tasks are our kids capable of at what age? I’ve done my research and had a dry run at home with my little guinea pigs, and have nailed a list of age-appropriate chores for kids. If your junior workers are less than willing, dangle the carrot of a little educational screen time, or maybe a babyccino treat at your favourite kid-friendly cafe or restaurant. That should motivate them…

Chores for two- to three-year-olds

It’s never too soon to make your kiddo sing for their supper! Although just how helpful a toddler can be is highly questionable. At this age, it’s all about introducing them to the concept of chores and keeping little hands busy. Warning – it will involve A LOT of investment from you, but it will pay off long-term. My 20-month-old is actually a dab hand at sweeping, so you may be pleasantly surprised.

Try some or all of the following chores:

  • Pack away toys (sorting into boxes and shelves involves concentration)
  • Put books back on the shelf
  • Throw rubbish in the kitchen bin
  • Wipe stuff with a cloth/wipe (like themselves and their highchair)
  • Sweep
  • Make the bed
  • Pull the plug out of the bath and pack away bath toys
  • Throw dirty clothes in hamper
  • Help stack shoes in a cabinet by the door

Chores for pre-schoolers

Now your kids are at preschool, not only do they know the clean-up drill, but they’re super-keen to show off their new skills. Your life is about to get marginally easier. They’re also motivated by reward charts, so let them plaster on a sticker for a job well done and choose a token reward for reaching a 20- or 50-star target (like a visit to the Singapore Zoo or a new book, for instance).

Here’s what chores seem to work in my house:

  • All chores for the two- to three-year-olds
  • Get dressed and undressed
  • Wash hands
  • Set the table
  • Make a bowl of cereal
  • Take plates into the kitchen, throw away scraps and put plates in dishwasher
  • Dust
  • Empty internal bins into a central bin
  • Help with cooking and preparing food (measure and cut with blunt knife)
  • Help bring in parcels/shopping and pack in cupboard/fridge
  • Help with recycling
  • Hang washing on clothes horse
  • Water the garden
  • Clean up their crafting mess
  • Clean bedroom (including under the bed)
  • Feed pets
  • Bring in mail and newspapers (with supervision if in a condo)

Chores for primary-aged kids

Play on their need to feel helpful and independent. But also keep in mind they have school, extra-curricular activities and homework. And kids need time to be kids playing outside and swimming in the tropical Singapore heat. Sticker charts are probably not going to cut the mustard – it might be time to upgrade to pocket money.

Here’s how they can earn their coin:

  • All previously mentioned chores
  • Unload dishwasher
  • Help prep lunchboxes
  • Vacuum
  • Wash and dry pots and pans and put away
  • Mop
  • Be responsible for getting themselves ready for school each day with a checklist (sport or normal uniform, pack hat, library bag day, ballet or sports kit for after-school activity, brush hair, carry own bag, put on socks and shoes)
  • Help take care of younger siblings (like making baby bottle, dressing them etc.)
  • Help take care of pets (e.g. change fish water, walk the dog)
  • Take out ​the rubbish (under supervision if in a condo)
  • Take laundry off clothes horse, fold and put away
  • Help wash the car
  • Weed the garden (if you have one!), and sweep/rake outside
  • More advanced cooking with less assistance (e.g. make own toast and snacks, peel vegetables)
  • Wipe down surfaces in the bathroom
  • Shower and brush teeth
  • Learn basic life skills (e.g. sew on a button, hammer a nail, glue together a broken item)

Chores for teens

Your teens should by now be capable of pretty much everything (don’t let them fool you). The homework stakes are higher for teens, so don’t be too hard on them. Work light chores into their daily schedule and reserve bigger jobs for the weekend. You could even reward them with the promise of driving lessons

Restrict wi-fi privileges and movie money until they do the following:

  • All previously mentioned chores
  • Use the washing machine and dryer (regularly)
  • Take out and bring in bins
  • Help you with a weekly meal plan
  • Write a grocery list, help with budget and do the shop (with you nearby!)
  • Cook a meal for the family
  • Mow the lawns and cut back garden (if you have them)
  • Clean out the fridge and wipe down kitchen and appliances
  • Replace lightbulbs and learn basic DIY (e.g. hang a picture)
  • Help with child care for younger siblings
  • Wash windows and clean mirrors
  • Iron clothes
  • Change bed sheets
  • Be responsible for school work and learn time management (how to prioritise, etc)
  • Get out of bed before noon (good luck!)

Now all that is left for you to do is to enjoy your sparkling new house…

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