At age 5, a child can contribute to household tasks. What tasks can they take on?
At age 5, a child is able to participate in household tasks. In addition to being helpful to others, giving responsibilities to a child is beneficial to their development.
The benefits of household tasks for children
Some parents sometimes believe that their child is still too young to help with chores around the house. Others prefer to do the tasks themselves to ensure they are done faster and in their way. However, a child needs to feel useful to their family. This reinforces their sense of belonging and their spirit of cooperation.
When you entrust your child with tasks that are appropriate for their abilities, you foster their autonomy. You are also showing them that you have faith in their abilities, which in turn helps them develop self-confidence. Having tasks to do also helps your child develop a sense of effort and self-discipline that will serve them later.
Participating in household tasks also makes your child understand what work involves. This can help them understand why they sometimes have to wait when trying to get your attention while you are cooking, doing laundry, or cleaning.
Which tasks, at what age?
At 5 or 6 years old
As early as 3 or 4 years old, a toddler can, with the support of a parent, perform some simple tasks adapted to their level of autonomy.
In addition to the tasks that they can do when they are younger, your child can do some simple tasks on their own, such as:
Setting up the table for the meal.
Picking up dirty dishes and putting them in the dishwasher.
Putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
Sorting out clean socks (by pairing them).
Folding clean towels.
Wiping dust off a shelf with a cloth.
Watering plants around the house.
At 7 or 8 years old
At this age or as soon as they become more skillful, your child may be entrusted with other tasks, such as:
Participating in grocery shopping (helping you put items in the basket, carrying light bags).
Making their bed.
Folding and putting away their clothes.
Putting wet laundry on the drying rack.
Sweep or vacuuming.
Assisting in meal preparation.
Helping clean dishes.
Emptying the dishwasher.
Preparing their lunch for the next day of school.
Taking out the garbage.
Feeding the family’s pets.
Should you pay your child to do tasks?
Giving your child money to perform routine tasks is not a good idea. It is important to avoid associating daily responsibilities of family life with a reward. Explain to your child that everyone must do their part around the house and that you are trusting them with tasks because they are part of the family.
If you want to give your child a weekly allowance, choose a fixed amount based on their age without associating it with day-to-day tasks. However, you can offer a small amount to your child to help with seasonal tasks, such as raking leaves or shovelling. Pocket money, either as an allowance or as payment for special tasks, can help children become responsible.
How to encourage your child to do their tasks
When a child is accustomed to participating in family chores early, these tasks become part of their daily lives. Early on, they will even be happy to participate in household chores. They will feel like a “grownup.” However, after some time, they may become less collaborative and refuse to do their chores. What can then be done?
- Don’t ask too much of your child and have realistic expectations. The point is not to overburden your child with work, but rather allow them to participate. For this reason, give them some simple tasks adapted to their age which require a minimum of time and skills.
- Adopt a positive attitude to avoid discouraging your child. Your child is learning, at their own pace and in their own way. They are undoubtedly slower and less diligent than you. What matters is that they are making efforts to do their chores until the end. When necessary, kindly ask them to redo some of the work, and show them how to improve.
- Be patient and consistent in your requests. Repeat if necessary and allow for a little more time if your child needs it, but do not do the chore yourself.
- Establish rules from the start. This way, your child will know they are not allowed to go play with their friends before their room is clean, or that they cannot watch TV before clearing the table.
How to motivate your child
Here are some tips that could help you if your child is unwilling to do their chores.
- Break the task down into small steps to help your child become organized, and thus make their work easier and more efficient. This will help them persevere and finish the job.
- Let them pick a task they prefer doing among 3 or 4 choices when possible. This empowers them regarding the task(s) to be performed, which can increase their motivation.
- Congratulate them or give them a word of encouragement when they complete a task. If you have created a checklist of their tasks on a sheet, tell your child they can put a check mark or sticker next to each task they have completed. Being aware of what work has been completed is always encouraging.
- Turn the task into a game, not a chore. Because children 5 years and older often love racing and competition, you might want to time how long your child takes to clean up their room, and record their progress from one time to the next. You could also challenge them to find out, for example, who is able to fold the most clothes in 10 minutes.
- Regularly switch up your child’s tasks, such as every two weeks or every month. The tasks will feel less repetitive, and the appeal of novelty could motivate your child.
- Take advantage of tasks such as washing dishes or preparing meals to talk with your child. This is a good time to ask them how they feel or what they did at school, for example.
- Set the example by doing your own tasks cheerfully. For example, put on music for a more pleasant atmosphere.
What should you do if your child does not do their tasks?
Avoid having a negative attitude or punishing your child if they do not do their tasks. Instead, try to value their efforts. Calmly insist that the task be done, but do not yell or scold your child. Simply make it a condition to be allowed leisure time. Do not blame your child if they did not perform the task up to your standard. Congratulate them and explain how they can do even better by showing them how to do it.
Things to keep in mind
Participating in household chores helps children strengthen their sense of family belonging and their spirit of cooperation.
Giving tasks adapted to the child’s age allows them to develop skills.
As your child is still learning, it is important to value their efforts and not to blame them if the task has not been performed as well as you would have liked.
Scientific review: Solène Bourque, psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: December 2021
Useful links and resources
BOUCHARD, Caroline. Le développement global de l’enfant de 0 à 6 ans en contextes éducatifs. 2nd ed., Quebec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2019, 516 pp.
DUCLOS, Germain and Martin Duclos. Enfants et ados responsables. Montreal, Éditions CHU Sainte-Justine, 2021, 222 pp.
PREMIERE RESSOURCE - Aide aux parents: 1 866 329-4223 ou premiereressource.com
RACINE, Brigitte. La discipline, un jeu d’enfant. Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 156 pp.