PHOTO: djedzura/iStock/Thinkstock
February 15, 2016

Winter is about the only time we have to really take a look at the inside of our farmhouse. All through spring, summer and fall we’re just too busy outside to worry about all but the basics inside. Things can get messy inside when you have a lot of creative, intelligent children, and it’s important to keep on top of daily chores, as well as assess some special ones that might need to be done throughout the year.

I find that I’m often guilty of underestimating how much my children really can do. I’m also guilty of being unorganized. It took me many years to find my groove with kids and house chores. Although I’m happy with our current organizational system, I really appreciate hearing what chores other parents have to their own children do, especially by age.

Here are some ideas on how to engage children in different house chores by their age. If these chores are new to your kids, then you’ll need to spend some personal time training them in each task. I know that can seem daunting, especially when you’re in a hurry. However, where children are concerned, it’s especially important to keep your eyes on the forest and not get lost in the trees. Training your kids to be useful, happy adults is what childhood is all about and the reason you had the children in the first place. Don’t lose heart or get too overwhelmed—just take it one task at a time. Included here are a few things that lend themselves well to the winter down-time on the farm.

Chores For 2- To 3-Year-Olds

  • Refill pet food; change water
  • Put away clean silverware
  • Put books back on the shelf
  • Put away crayons and paper where they actually go (not thrown under the table)
  • Put away own clean laundry
  • Put away own toys, plus one other person’s (because we want to help others)
  • “Make” their own bed by straightening their blanket and arranging their stuffed animals
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Flush the potty every time
  • Place dirt inside seed starting trays (and quite possibly in their ears, but life is give and take)

Chores For 4- To 5-Year-Olds

  • Refill more difficult pet food like caged birds, rabbits and fish
  • Change the tablecloth and put out new cloth napkins
  • Knead bread dough
  • Pick out own clothes and get dressed on their own
  • Brush the dog and cats
  • Put away all shoes in the shoe basket
  • Play with the baby
  • Roll beeswax sheet candles

Chores For 6- To 7-Year-Olds

  • Sweep the house
  • Set the table
  • Wash windows
  • Wash all baseboards
  • Turn off lights in the house when they aren’t being used
  • Take out compost and livestock treats
  • Practice letters and draw with the younger children
  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Sort recyclables
  • Dry dishes and put them away
  • Shake cream into butter
  • Roll oats
  • Make upcycled fire-starters

Chores For 8- To 10-Year-Olds

  • Load the dishwasher
  • Mop
  • Dust
  • Empty small garbage bins around the house
  • Clean the cat box
  • Wash and clean out window sills
  • Clean all doors, front and back
  • Make bread once a week
  • Read to the baby
  • Wash and hang the laundry on the line or rack
  • Dust
  • Cut fruits and veggies for daily snacks
  • Fill the wild bird feeder
  • Take out the garbage and recycling
  • Make breakfast twice a week
  • Remind everyone to wash their hands before eating

Chores For 11- To 15-Year-Olds

  • Scour bathrooms
  • Clean fan blades
  • Remove high-hung spider webs
  • Take the laundry down from the line and fold
  • Bake crackers and make granola each week for snacks
  • Make yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk once a week
  • Make jam with early season fruits
  • Dehydrate extra early season fruits
  • Make lunch several times a week
  • Dress baby and change diapers
  • Water indoor started seeds
  • Spearhead candle making for the year’s supply
  • Help stack firewood

Chores For 16- To 18-Year-Olds

  • Make soaps and personal care products like lotions and toothpaste in large batches
  • Make household cleaners like laundry soap and shower cleaner
  • Make herbal salves and tinctures for family use during the year
  • Touch up interior paint on walls and doors
  • Inventory and list those products in the root cellar and see that they’re used by spring
  • Inventory seeds storage and make a list of what’s needed for the year
  • Help younger children plan their gardens for the year
  • Make sauerkraut once a week
  • Clean the ash out of the fireplace or woodstove and add to compost
  • Make dinner three times a week
  • Make hard cheeses several times a year
  • Put up winter meat harvest; either canning, freezing or dehydrating
  • Make bone broth once a week
  • Sprout fodder for livestock
  • Help chop firewood

Chores For Children Of All Ages

  • Put away homeschool or art supplies
  • Tidy central rooms
  • Create holiday decorations
  • Participate in family service projects
  • Help with deep-cleaning projects, like closets and carpets

One of the most effective methods in our family has been to put older children in charge of helping the youngest. If they’re too close in age, this usually ends in fighting and/or tears. However, if there’s a sufficient age gap, it can often work very well to have older children help the youngest accomplish their own chores or school work. The littles want to feel big enough to help, but they still need a good amount of guidance and help with reaching things. The older children are able to enjoy the satisfaction of being in charge in a constructive way. If your kids are able to handle this method, it might have the added benefit of freeing up a bit of your time, too.


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