Can my toddler do the cleaning? Your checklist of fun, kid-friendly chores

Parents argue that even two-year-olds can help around the home

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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For as long as I can remember I’ve helped around the home.

It started with tidying my bedroom and moved on to washing up and cleaning the bathroom at a very young age.

I recall feeling very hard done by, aware that most of my friends didn’t have to lift a finger. Nevertheless, I have a wise and sensible mother and have since realised she was doing it for my own benefit.

Still, there remains a great disparity in parents and their attitudes to children doing the chores.

And when a list of jobs children could be doing from the age of two upwards went viral online recently, mums and dads were quick to voice their views.

With many arguing that children have years ahead of them to assume such responsibility, others suggested it was “only right that little ones help around the home.

One mum who thinks it’s good for children to get involved in the chores is Helen Pletts. She lives in Abu Dhabi and is mum to three-year-old Dylan who does his bit to keep his living space neat and tidy.

“Dylan helps me feed the cats and we have recently introduced setting the table for dinner,” she explains. “He sometimes helps take the rubbish out if there is a small bag he can carry. He asked to clean the windows the other day, only a circle in the middle of each door, but his heart was in the right place.

“Asking to tidy toys is hit and miss as he gets distracted and starts playing and it gets messier!”

British mum Megan Thomas Beauregard has two grown up sons and believes children learn vital life skills from the chores they do around the home.

“Start them young,” she advises. “Sam was two when he started just by setting the table, then, as he got older, I gave him other things to do. Teach them to cook and use the washing machine - It teaches them to have a bit of independence.”

As the founder of Munchkins, a company set up to help mum and dads improve their skills, author and Parenting Coach Andalene Salvesen says it’s good for kids to help around the home.

That doesn’t mean you can down tools and leave it all in the hands of your five-year-old though. The logic behind children and chores is that it makes them feel like part of the family and teaches them a sense of shared responsibility.

Andalene explains: “I am often posed with the question of whether children should be involved in chores in the home. My answer is always a resounding yes! But, clarifying the difference between jobs and chores is essential.

“Everyone loves to feel like they are part of a club, or group whether it be a book club or sports club. Children need to feel that belonging to their family, or club, is worth fighting for. Clubs have rules to make them unique and members have to comply to those rules to remain loyal members. Creating chores in the home does exactly that and there are many advantages to them. Firstly, children feel part of something outside of themselves, they experience a sense of accomplishment when they complete the chore, it fosters independence and it encourages them to take responsibility and ownership.”

Andalene, who runs the website and is hosting a parenting seminar in the UAE on 10 November, says children as young as two can play their part doing chores such as dusting with socks on their hands and picking up the laundry. She suggests working as a family, making a list of all the chores and letting your oldest child choose one first.

“Make sure the oldest gets more chores/responsibilities but also more privileges,” she advises.

“Decide together on a day or time when the chore has to be completed and have consequences lined up and discussed before the time for chores not completed. Consequences could be things like privileges being taken away or your sibling doing it for you but then an amount is deducted from your pocket money to pay him. This is a life skill – if you do not like doing a job, you pay someone else to do it, no dinner until your task is done or an extra job to do.”

And remember there’s a difference between chores – tasks they’re expected to do as part of a family, and jobs – anything extra.

Andalene adds: “When chores in the home have been clarified, I think jobs need to be defined as well. Jobs are identified as extra work that they can earn money for. A list can be compiled with the value next to it. This way children can work towards earning and saving money. Chores are just part of belonging to the family and should not be for payment. Make sure this is a family agreement and nobody is left out for any reason. Everyone contributes. Make it fun!”

Want to introduce your brood to a bit of housework but don’t know what they’re capable of? Founder of, Andalene Salvesen shares her list of age-appropriate tasks:

2-3 year olds – show them how and help them to do it on their own

  • An attempt at making the bed
  • Packing away safe items from the dishwasher
  • Setting the table
  • Clearing their own dishes from the table
  • Packing away toys/books
  • Help feed pets
  • Dust with socks on their hands
  • Pick the laundry

4-5 year olds – Using a chore chart becomes helpful

  • Dress themselves
  • Make their beds (with minimal help)
  • Help unpacking shopping
  • Pack away and sort toys
  • Set the table with supervision
  • Clear the table with supervision
  • Help with food preparation
  • Sort clothes for the laundry
  • Match socks
  • Be taught how to answer the phone
  • Feed the pets
  • Hang up towels in bathroom
  • Clean floors with a dry mop

6-7 (all of the above plus…)

  • Brush their own teeth
  • Comb their hair
  • Choose own clothing (within certain boundaries)
  • Write thank you notes
  • Not only feed pets, but extra work like cleaning cages, exercise pets
  • Vacuum individual rooms
  • Fold laundry
  • Pack away laundry
  • Totally unpack dishwasher
  • Help prepare meals
  • Empty trash cans

8-11 (all of the above plus…)

  • Understand and take charge of their personal hygiene
  • Keep their bedrooms clean
  • Do homework unassisted (except when help is asked)
  • Be responsible with and for belongings
  • Wake themselves up with an alarm clock
  • Wash dishes
  • Wash the car
  • Prepare a few easy meals alone
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Rake leaves
  • Use washer and dryer
  • Put all laundry away

12 and 13 (all of the above plus…)

  • Maintain personal items eg recharging batteries
  • Change bed sheets
  • Do occasional deep cleaning in bedrooms
  • Help in house with things like changing light bulbs
  • Fixing household items
  • Empty vacuum bag
  • Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms
  • Do dishes
  • Clean mirrors
  • Mow the lawn
  • Prepare an occasional meal (pre plan grocery list)
  • Be totally responsible for homework
  • Work in the garden
  • Babysit
  • Wash windows

16-18 (all of the above plus…)

  • Be responsible to earn spending money
  • Purchase their own clothes
  • Maintain car if they have a license
  • All housework
  • Garden maintenance
  • Preparing family meals
  • Deep cleaning of household appliances like defrosting the freezer

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