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From Toddlers to Teens: 5 Kitchen Tasks Your Kids Can Do

A toddler washing a dish in the kitchen sink.
Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock

Looking to involve everyone in daily household chores? Let’s start in the kitchen, the hub of most homes. Here’s a handy list of tasks everyone—from toddlers to teenagers—can help with.

Think your kids are too young to help? Children as young as two (or even younger) can pitch in. As they get older, you can delegate more advanced tasks. We recommend you start early, so chores become part of their daily routine. We’ve got five categories to get you started.

Under each task, we’ll cover what to expect, given your child’s age. Remember, every kid is different, so it’s okay if yours isn’t quite capable of doing a certain job yet—help him out if needed. Or, perhaps, your 9-year-old does the work of a teenager! That’s awesome—tell her to keep up the good work!

Either way, you want to make family chores fun and essential, and show your kids that contributing to the family is crucial for everyone’s happiness (and sanity!).

Offer lots of praise and encourage them to take pride in their work. It’s also a good idea to print a kitchen chore list to remind everyone what it takes to maintain a clean kitchen.

The Kitchen Table

There are plenty of chores that revolve around the kitchen table. Don’t let your toddler off the hook just because she’s young or desperate to get back to her toys. Remind your children that everyone has a responsibility, and if you all work together, it’ll get done faster.

We’ve broken down some jobs based on ages, but remember these are just suggestions. Go ahead and delegate more to your child if he seems up to it.

Ages 2+:

  • Set the table: Use plastic plates if you’re worried about breakage.
  • Clear the table: Have an older sibling scrape the plates clean, and then let your younger child take them to the sink or dishwasher.
  • Set out cloth napkins: Don’t expect precision here. As long as the napkins end up on the table, it’s all good. We suggest cloth because some toddlers like to tear apart paper napkins and make confetti.

Ages 4+:

  • Fill drink cups: Give them a small pitcher to work with and keep a towel handy in case of spills. Plastic cups are a great way to start.
  • Set the table: Let them set out silverware and anything else necessary for the meal.
  • Fold cloth napkins: They can take cloth napkins to the next level, and fold and set them next to each plate
  • Put away leftovers: Store your containers in an easy-to-reach cabinet, and allow your child to grab them by herself.

Ages 6+:

By the time your child has reached this age, he should be able to do all the tasks outlined above. Now, you can add a few extras:

  • Wipe down the table: He might need a stool to stand on if he can’t reach the center.
  • Push in chairs: If you put felt pads under the legs, it helps them slide more easily (and prevents scratching the floor).

Dishes

If you want to involve your young children with handling dishes, consider getting some sturdy plates and cups. You can get plastic, wooden, metal, or anything durable. This way, your toddler can help without you fearing a shattering disaster.

Ages 2+:

  • Help to load and unload the dishwasher: This task must be 100 percent supervised at this age. Make sure you remove all knives, sharp objects, or heavy dishes beforehand. If your child can’t put away the items, have him hand them to you one at a time. It might take longer this way, but it teaches him this is an important part of life.
  • Put away dishes: Try to have a few drawers or cabinets your child can access by himself. This way, he’ll feel proud he can help out independently—at least for part of the task.

Ages 4+:

  • Hand-wash dishes: Start them off with easy things, like plastic bowls. Use a stool if they can’t reach the sink.
  • Sort silverware: Let her sort it and put it away. Make sure you remove knives and sharp objects in advance.
  • Put away dishes: Get a stool if he needs help to reach the higher cabinets. Supervise this task, and allow him to handle the more durable items, like metal bowls or plastic plates. Don’t expect him to handle Grandma’s expensive China.

Ages 6+:

By this age, most kids can successfully load and unload a dishwasher by themselves, as well as put away most of the dishes. You should still remove knives and sharp objects in advance. Also, don’t let them handle the dish detergent—that should still be your job until they’re around 8 or 10 years old.

They can also hand-wash dishes, but they might need help with bigger pots and pans.

Ages 13+:

Teens can handle all aspects of dishes, including adding detergent and starting the dishwasher.

General Cleaning

A young boy wiping down a counter in the kitchen.
Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock

Kitchens get messy and grimy, especially with little handprints everywhere. Delegate jobs daily and get those kids involved in the cleanup.

Ages 2+:

  • Sweep the floor: Get a small broom if they can’t handle the full-size one. Delegate small areas to them, rather than expecting them to sweep the entire kitchen floor.
  • Wipe down surfaces: Let her have her own sponge, and store it within reach, so she can grab it when she needs it.
  • Put stuff in the trash: Your young child can easily put things in the trash can. Just make sure they don’t make a game of it and pull things out!
  • Learn about recycling: Show them that things like glass, plastic, and cardboard go in the recycling bin. Have them help you flatten boxes and rinse out yogurt containers.

Ages 4+:

  • Sweep the floor: At this age, they should be able to sweep the entire kitchen or, at least, a few areas.
  • Wipe down surfaces: Let them wipe down the table, counters, fridge (including the handle), and other appliances.
  • Take out the trash and recycling: They probably can’t handle a big trash bag, but they surely can handle smaller ones. You can also fill up a paper bag or a small box with recyclables, and ask them to dump it in the bigger bin outside. Make sure you remove sharp cans in advance.

Ages 6+:

  • Mop the floor: Get two mops so you can do this job together. Slowly let them take over once they feel confident.
  • Take out the trash and recycling: Most kids can handle full-sized trash bags at this age. Help them if they feel unsure about it.

Groceries

Staying on top of groceries is a job in itself. You have to write up lists, shop, and then put everything away. Delegate as much as possible to your kids and increase their workload over time. Kids often enjoy this chore because who doesn’t like food?

Ages 2+:

  • Unload the groceries: Have an easy-to-reach cabinet, where they can stack small cans, bags of pasta, and unbreakable items.
  • Put items in the fridge: Open the fridge for them and point out where you want items to go. Or open the veggie drawer and have them dump in all the new items. Supervise to make sure they don’t pull things out again.

Ages 4+:

  • Help write the grocery lists: Include them in the meal planning process. Ask what they’d like more of, which fruits and veggies you should buy this week, and what items are running low. Have them look in the cupboard and see if you need more beans, rice, pasta, etc.

Ages 6+:

  • Put away all the groceries: By this age, children should be able to empty all the contents from the grocery bags. You’ll have to help with the higher cabinets. Always supervise—especially if you have breakable or perishable items.

Ages 16+:

If your teen can drive, have him do the grocery shopping. Give him a debit card, a budget, and the list.

Meal Prep

Getting your kids to help with meals is a big step. We’ve got some ideas for every age group.

Ages 2+:

  • Assist with basic cooking: Have them grab items from the cupboard, stir stuff with your help, or even sort the measuring cups. If your child can’t reach the counter, consider getting a standing tower. At this age, it’s really about them being present, watching the process, and helping with the easy tasks. Keep them away from the oven and stove at this age.

Ages 4+:

  • Help plan meals: Have them help you come up with the menu each week.
  • More responsibility with meal prep: They can scoop batter into cupcake tins, stir, measure, pour, or even flip something on the stovetop (with constant supervision, of course).

Ages 6+:

  • Plan the menu: Once they can write, have them plan the menu for the week on their own.
  • Chop with a dull knife: They can start chopping easy-to-cut fruits and veggies, like bananas, with a butter knife. Always supervise this task and help them as needed.

Ages 13+:

  • Cook full meals: Once your child is a teen, she can easily cook a full meal. Make sure you’re always present to help and teach her about kitchen safety, such as where the fire extinguisher is, etc. She can start with easy meals, like chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. Never let her cook alone or with smaller siblings underfoot.

Sometimes, it seems easier to do everything yourself in the kitchen. Over time, though, this leads to exhaustion. It also teaches your kids that everything is your responsibility. Instead, encourage them to become active members of the household by helping in the kitchen with basic chores, meal prep, and more.

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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