There are some household chores that almost anyone can do. And children, like older people, like to feel that they are useful. With proper training or guidance, children can do age-appropriate tasks and contribute to running the household.
Of course the chores a child can do will vary based on ability. And you should not expect a child who is not used to doing chores to instantly pick up lots of new chores. The first few times a child does a chore, it's probably best that he or she do it with someone. If possible treat it as fun or even as a privilege to be allowed to participate. Instead of saying, "now that you're 7, you have more chores", try something like, "do you think you're old enough to help me do this", or "I think you are mature enough to be allowed to..." Scale up a bit at a time. For instance, the first time a child makes a bed, her or his part could be to put the pillow in the right place, or pick the stuffed animal. And the adult or older child shows how they smooth the bed. The next time, the little one can move the pillow and select the animal and help pull up the sheets and blankets. After a few times, ask the child to try it. If all goes well, and you keep a good attitude, you might even get help on other beds too! Some of the chores listed below can be done by an even younger child, but that may require additional supervision and time to learn.
In some families, the successful completion of chores is a paid activity. In other families, chores are just expected of all family members. Still others use a mixed model, some tasks are required, while others, extra tasks, can earn the "worker" extra cash.
Suggestions by age
Some tasks can even be done by small children, ages 3-6. For instance, even a small child can put the pillow at the head of the bed and pull up the covers to make the bed. It may not look as tidy or smooth as an adult can make it, but it will look fine. A child can also "decorate" the bed with a stuffed animal to two that he or she would like to hold when going to bed.
A small child can also take some dishes to the table in preparation for setting it. It may help to store some dishes, maybe plastic or expendable, on a lower shelf where the child can access them. A small child can learn to put one cup or glass, a plate and a spoon, fork and knife (optional, depending on need and age) at each place. This can also be good practice in counting and matching skills. With children this small, you usually do not want them carrying dishes that hold food or are dirty, but as they get a bit older, you can add clearing their own place to the sink or counter when they are done eating.
Chores can be educational and fun. If you garden, give a small child a piece of the plot or a pot for their gardening. A child can help weed the garden, but you may lose a few other plants as a side effect.
Put dirty clothes into the hamper.
A small child can gather up toys, but if you'd like her or him to put the toys away, you may need to adjust the place they belong. A very small child may have trouble with the lid to a toy box or not be able to reach a higher shelf or see what belongs there. It can be useful to put pictures of the item that belongs there on bins or shelves. (You can also add the words to help encourage early reading.)
While a very small child may not be effective at cleaning up spills, it's often useful to involve them in the clean-up. It helps them understand that the spill is not a major catastrophe; it can be fixed. It also lets them know that there are consequences to spilling, so they don't think it's fun to spill and make someone else come pay attention. Over time, the child will get better at taking care of the mess by him or herself.
In addition to the chores above, a pre-teen can start to wash the laundry -- although you may wish to limit which items he or she washes.
clean his or her bedroom
cook a meal, watching younger children with other help available
An older teen can even be given some financial responsibilities -- a clothing allowance, responsibility for paying for a bill for something special, a cell phone, for instance, charging their own debit card.
- Age Appropriate Chore Charts from About.com
- Free Printable Chore Charts organized by year, with other information about other age-appropriate behaviors and motivations
Some sites support online tracking of chores, but some appeared to contain viruses or other "malware". And some sites bill for their charts. Use with care.