As I prepare for a talk next week on Montessori home environment, I thought I would share my handout on children's responsibilities and chores by age.
In today’s changing society,
children are challenged to become “working partners” with their parents.
Challenges such as this can be met in many ways: mutual respect, sharing of
opinions, acceptance of decisions, cooperative setting of goals, standards, or
limitations, and permitting certain rights and privileges.
As the child learns the benefits of order resulting from cooperation, he
begins to view himself as a person who is capable of making a contribution to
others. Growth in this area is best acquired developmentally, whereby the child
becomes useful and needed at early age, with the expectation of becoming
more self-reliant and independent as time passes.
The adult’s personal experiences and situations may lead him to find
many ways in which a child can contribute. Sometimes parents, aware of the need
for giving the child responsibility, are stymied at knowing what to do and what
to expect. The following list is intended to meet this need.
The list is CUMULATIVE. As the
child advances in age or grade he can continue to maintain past
responsibilities as well as assuming new ones. Sometimes a child no longer
finds it fun to complete a task once it is no longer a new challenge. Tasks that are the child’s own personal
responsibility, such as making his bed, doing his laundry, and tidying his
room, we should no longer do for him.
Tasks that help the whole family may be rotated, or a choice of chores
may be given.
The list, meant to
suggest possibilities, is only a starting point subject to the situation and
creativity of the adult observing the child.
In training for these
responsibilities, it may be wiser to proceed gradually. First, establish or
strengthen the relationship, and then through friendly discussions, the adult
and the child together may determine the manner in which the child can become a
contributing member of the family.
assigning duties, it would be helpful to keep the following principles in mind:
Children have rights as well as responsibilities. If these rights as well as
arbitrarily and impulsively withdrawn by the adult, the child may feel
dominated or revengeful and will resist
any efforts to elicit his cooperation.
2. Children should be consulted about the jobs
that need to be done. After they have helped identify the work, they help set
the standards for work, and be involved in the evaluation of the completed job.
Allow the children choices in which jobs they would like to do. To do nothing
is NOT an acceptable choice. They follow through with the choice or accept the
Allow the consequences to follow logically from the uncompleted job. Do not
discuss before hand what will happen if someone does not fulfill the
5. Set appropriate time limits for completion of
a task. If the child participates in
setting these limits, he will be more willing to meet them. I ask, “How much time do you need?”. Use of a kitchen timer helps. Some timers can be clipped to the child’s
6. Vary the tasks. Children become easily bored with the same
chores. They like new challenges.
7. Children like to move on to more challenging
work; new privileges that they can take on now that they are
8. Use common sense in the number of tasks
expected of each child. He may stage a
“sitdown” strike if he feels used.
9. Remember that you are the model of
“order”. Do not expect an orderliness
and cleanliness from children that you do not expect of yourself.
10. Examine your personal standards. Perhaps you are a perfectionist, you feel
uncomfortable if things are slightly out of order, or are concerned about what
others think. Learn to accept the house
as a place of activity for family members, not as a reflection of your personal
11. Probably most difficult: never do for the
child what he can do for himself.
HOME RESPONSIBILITIES FOR CHILDREN
Home Responsibilities for Ages 18 Months to Two-and-a-Half
1. Joins in with
adult in putting away toys (adult must limit the number of toys, and remain
cheerful while modeling picking up).
2. Fulfills some
simple requests, such as, “Would you please throw this in the trash?” or
“Please put this away” (adult points to the location).
(imperfectly) in household tasks as interested, usually not yet completing the
task. May attempt to sweep, mop, wipe
table, set table, vacuum, etc.
4. Participates more
and more in dressing self (adult provides easy-to-manage clothing). Undressing comes before dressing.
5. Loads washing machine and dryer, pushes start button.
6. Diapers are phased
out by the second birthday, and the child uses the bathroom with occasional
7. Feeds himself
independently, using fork, spoon, small (less than 8 oz.) pitcher, and small
(approximately 6 oz.) cup without a lid.
8. Participates in
simple food preparation, such as slicing soft foods, peeling, and spreading.
9. Arranges flowers
in a small vase.
Home Responsibilities for the
1. Pick up toys as
finished and put in proper place (adult provides low shelves and containers for
2. Put books and
magazines in a rack.
3. Sweep the floor or
sidewalk with a small broom, use dustpan with help.
4. Place napkins,
plates, and silverware on table (not correctly at first).
5. Clean up what they
drop after eating. Clean up spills.
6. Choose a snack or
breakfast from two or three options.
7. Clear dish from
the table, scrapes leftovers, loads dishwasher, helps wash dishes.
8. Independently uses
the bathroom, washes hands, brushes teeth and hair.
independently except for small buttons or ties.
10. Puts away
groceries and dishes in low cabinets.
11. Involved in food
simple manners, such as “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”.
Home Responsibilities for Three- and Four-Year-Old Children
1. Setting the table.
2. Putting groceries
3. Help with grocery
list and shopping.
4. Polish shoes and
clean up after.
a schedule to feed pets.
6. Assists with work
in yard and garden.
7. Sweep, mop, and
own bed (keep linens simple).
9. Helps load
dishwasher and wash dishes.
10. Dust furniture.
11. Prepare food and
learn simple recipes.
12. Share toys with
13. Getting the mail.
14. Tell parent his
whereabouts before going out to play.
15. Should be able to
play without constant adult supervision.
16. Polish silver.
17. Wash and polish
18. Sharpen pencils.
19. Enjoys a sense of
accomplishment upon completing tasks on a chore chart.
Home Responsibilities of the Five- and Six-Year-Old Children
1. Help with meal planning and grocery shopping.
2. Help prepare lunch to take to school.
3. Set the table.
4. Peel carrots and potatoes.
5. Involved in more challenging preparation of
food, including baking and cooking, with assistance.
6. Make bed and straighten room.
7. Choose clothing the night before, dresses
8. Ties shoes.
9. Attends to personal hygiene.
10. Fold clothes and puts them away.
11. Answer the phone properly.
12. Yard work and gardening.
13. Feed pets and clean their living area.
14. Assist in caring for younger sibling.
15. At busy times, the child may offer, “How can
Home Responsibilities for Ages 6 to
of the above with increasing challenge.
a simple meal independently.
for own belongings.
money for special jobs, perhaps receive an allowance.
money management: saving, giving, spending.
thoughtfulness toward others, appropriate manners.
Home Responsibilities for Teens
1. Earn money through
jobs such as helping neighbors and babysitting.
2. Create and follow
own budget, including giving.
3. Participate in
4. Help with home
repair and maintenance.
5. Yard work and
mowing the lawn.
respectful family relationships.
7. Take on greater
responsibility for his or her own life and choices, gaining independence while
maintaining safety and communication with parents.
Marjorie Barksdale was my daughter's teacher 20 years ago. She gave some of these suggestions to parents back then, and I have expanded them over the years. You may share this list with other parents if you include a link to www.learningtogethereducation.org