What a Child Can Do at a Given Age

One of the after effects of a serious car accident, much like breaking my foot a year and a half ago, is that I’ve had lots of time to observe the practical results of my parenting decisions.  When I couldn’t walk for two months, my kids stepped up and took on a lot of personal responsibility for housework, self care, and taking care of the toddler.  This time around, I’ve been pretty discouraged by how much I unthinkingly do for my children, cruelly enabling them to not do it themselves.  We’ve regressed!  So here’s a reminder for me (and anyone else who is feeling overwhelmed by all they do for their kids) of what kids in our family’s age range can and should be able to do for themselves.

Age 3-4 (**realizing that some of these are hard to do when overtired**)

  • Dress herself in appropriate clothing (long sleeves/play clothes/church clothes/pjs) as directed by me
  • Put on shoes herself
  • Come when called (in house/at playground/at church nursery/etc)–our family standard is that we “obey right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart,” and this is definitely a work in progress at our house.
  • Unload silverware and kid items from dishwasher every morning (we keep all our plastic kid cups/plates/bowls in a low drawer so that even the little ones can reach them)
  • Load dishes directly into dishwasher or cup back in fridge at the end of a meal
  • Put away art supplies such as construction paper, crayons, colored pencils, in designated bins.
  • Put away books on shelves with their spines facing out
  • Put away dolls, legos, duplos, blocks, trains, etc in designated bins when done playing with them
  • Get into carseat right away and buckle top part by herself
  • Help herself to easy-to-eat snacks such as cheese sticks, bananas, cuties, baby carrots
  • Fold clean washcloths and put in bathroom cabinet, fold dishcloths and put in kitchen drawer
  • Put dirty clothes directly into the dirty clothes basket in the laundry room
  • Put clean clothes away in proper drawers, as long as someone else has done the folding
  • Organize family shoes into our storage cubbies in the hall closet

Age 5-6

  • All of the above
  • Brush her own teeth after breakfast
  • Brush own hair and put it into a pony tail (I honestly had no idea she could do this–it was a revelation a few weeks ago when she came up to me with her hair done…with four of us girls in the house, all with long hair, this is a huge time suck every morning!)
  • Set table, as long as the grown-up dishes are handed down from the tall cabinets
  • Dust shelves using fleece dusting rag
  • Organize random toy mess into appropriate places
  • Get into carseat/booster as soon as she gets into the car and buckle herself up
  • Make toast or sandwiches with pre-cut bread (we primarily eat homemade, and she has had to get stitches for using knives, so the big kids or I still have to slice it for her)
  • Pour milk without spilling
  • Fold cloth napkins (which we use instead of paper) and put away in proper drawer
  • Sort clean clothes into piles by child in order to be folded
  • Hang up clean dresses
  • Bathe self except hair

Age 7-8

  • All of the above
  • Tie own shoes (we just seem to have velcro or slip-ons until this age, so shoelaces are a late-learned skill at our house)
  • Dress self in weather-appropriate clothing without being told; wear appropriate combos (still working on this one with my print-on-print loving girl!)
  • Floss and brush teeth at night
  • Bathe including hair, wash and rinse out sisters’ hair
  • Fix breakfasts not involving boiling water for little sisters
  • Fetch and put away food while I’m cooking (eg, knows her way around the pantry) and unload groceries to appropriate places
  • At grocery store, help me get produce (often in the fruit aisle, I’ll have her pick up apples while I’m getting the bananas, etc)
  • Crack eggs without getting the shell into what we’re making
  • Microwave leftovers without help
  • Wipe up spills on floor
  • Cut bread for sandwiches/toast, help little sisters with breakfast/lunch
  • Fold and put away clean clothes
  • Read to younger siblings when I need them occupied (eg, when I’m doing schoolwork with big brother)
  • change diapers (Yay!  No diapers have needed to be changed in our house for a couple of months now!)
  • Take younger sibling to the bathroom if we’re out at a park (they don’t need help any more, I just want them to have a buddy in public bathrooms)
  • Switch clothes from washer to dryer and pull out of dryer when done
  • Sweep kitchen floor (multiple times a day)
  • Collect trash all over house and replace trash bags
  • Vacuum rugs and empty roomba when we’ve run that
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces with clorox wipes for quick clean before company comes
  • Navigate around the children’s account on the computer to pull up audiobooks/music so that I don’t have to drop what I’m doing to do it

Age 9-10

  • All of the above
  • Do the boiling water part of breakfasts (oatmeal/tea) for mom/sisters/self
  • Pack our lunches (make sandwiches, wash up apples, fill up water bottles, etc) when we’re going to be out for the day
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and table after cooking/eating
  • Make macaroni and cheese or other stovetop lunches
  • At the grocery store, go off and pick up specific items for me while the girls and I are getting other items–note that this only works well at a place like Sprouts where I can see across the store.  I would not send him off on his own at Costco!
  • Read schoolwork directions to one sister while I’m doing schoolwork to the other, lead sisters through CBS (Community Bible Study) homework by reading the passage and telling them how to spell big words in the answers, usually while I’m getting other schoolwork ready
  • Do math and writing on his own, just needing me to check work or help when stumped.
  • Sort and start a load of laundry (then transfer to dryer, take out, fold, put away)
  • Take out trash and recycling to our community dumpster (we don’t have individual trash pick-up, so this isn’t on a certain day)
  • Scrub or mop kitchen floor as needed
  • Scour toilets, clean bathroom, scrub tub/shower as needed
  • Vacuum out car with shop vac
  • Buckle youngest sister into her carseat and check that it’s appropriately tight; unbuckle her before getting out of the car
  • Put away bike and outside toys in the evening when all the neighbor kids are coming inside for dinner — this is a huge struggle for us!
  • keep room tidy and organized (ha!)

 

As you can see, I obviously expect the responsibility to grow with age.  There is a LOT of training at 2-3 that gets many of the skills going.  Do these sound like reasonable expectations for you, or are they too lenient?  What other important skills am I missing here?  Or if your kids are past this stage, what did you do right to help your kids learn these skills?

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3 Responses to What a Child Can Do at a Given Age

  1. Anitra says:

    Sounds about right… although we are still struggling to get our 8 year old to brush/style her own hair, and our 5-6 year old can do a few of the “older” skills (collecting trash, some vacuuming, folding clothes).

    • Emily says:

      You’re right, I think our five year old could do some more of those chores if she didn’t already have two older siblings doing them!

      • Anitra says:

        I broke down and realized “why aren’t my children putting away their own clothes?” when pregnant with my youngest and perpetually exhausted. At the time, the older kids were 5 and 3. I started training them to fold their own clothes at that point – at 8 and (almost) 6, they know that my folding clothes is a favor to them, and they are able to do it when I ask.

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