Three Chores for Three Year Olds

Somewhere along the way, I heard this piece of parenting advice: give your child one chore for each year they’ve completed. A five-year-old gets five chores, a ten-year-old gets ten chores. Thirty-one-year-olds get thirty-one chores. Unfortunately.

Anyway, that advice stuck with me and the kids are each in charge of their own chores. Well…in all fairness, Calvin’s “chore” right now is to finish his lunch, which is not so much a chore as a life requirement and often not so much “accomplished” as it is “thrown all over the floor.” I’m hoping that once he starts walking we can move on to helping Mom put toys back in the toy basket, which was Eva’s chore when she was one.

Eva does great at her chores. They are:

1 /// Folding all of her own clothes. She sits on the bed while I fold the laundry and her job is to pull her clothes out and fold them so I can put them in her drawer. This involves (1) identifying which clothes are hers, (2) turning them right-side-out, (3) folding them, and (4) stacking them once folded. It’s true that the folding jobs are a little lumpy but she’s getting better every day!


2 /// Putting her dirty clothes in (or near) the washing machine. For a while, I had little piles of little clothing all over because Eva would wriggle out of things and then just drop them in a heap. It’s a huge time-saver that she can get herself dressed, but the little piles of clothes were unacceptable (and sock-losing) so now she’s responsible for putting them in the wash.

3 /// Cleaning the playroom by bedtime. This is Eva’s biggest chore and the one we’ve had the most trouble with. All of the toys in the playroom need to be back in their proper place before the kids go to sleep, so we always stop whatever we’re doing an hour before bedtime to clean up. If the room gets clean, we play a game or read books. If it doesn’t, we stand over her and threaten to put scattered toys in storage.

It’s a rotten job for everyone involved because we (the parents) sound like grouchy nags and Eva is fully aware of how unfair it is that Calvin does most of the playroom destroying and absolutely none of the cleaning up. In a more just world, we wouldn’t expect her to clean up after Calvin, but it’s impossible to detangle the chaos at the end of the day and it really doesn’t take that long to clean the room once she focuses and stops playing with everything. Oh well…it’s not like she’s Cinderella.

Other ideas for three-year-old chores: wiping down the table with a wet dishrag after meals, sweeping dirt off the porch, pulling groceries out of grocery bags, washing mirrors with newspaper and white vinegar, wiping down baseboards and doorknobs, and/or turning off all the lights before leaving the house.

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  • Reply Jennifer @ Brave New Home

    One chore for each year of life is a great rule of thumb. Eva sounds pretty advanced and helpful! I have a somewhat unusual method for getting my almost four year old pick up huge messes. I let him direct me to do about 10% of the work and it somehow makes him feel empowered to manage his mess and he does the other 90% efficiently and without zero prodding.

    October 13, 2014 at 9:16 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      That’s a great idea! I’m definitely going to try it…she’s had helper fatigue lately when it comes to picking up toys.

      October 16, 2014 at 1:26 am

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