Including kids in family routines and chores is an important habit to start even with toddlers and preschoolers. Our guide to kids’ food prep and kitchen chores will give you tips on how to get kids involved, helpful tools, and age-appropriate chore ideas for ages 2-12.

Graphic for post - kids food prep and kitchen chores - appropriate for all ages

Medically reviewed and co-written by Lauren Braaten, Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT).

Why Getting Kids Involved Is Important

Depending on your child’s age, involving them in chores might seem like more of a hassle than a solution at times. But getting your kids in the habit of contributing to daily routines is often easier than you might think. Even toddlers and young children love to imitate their parents completing household tasks.

There are many benefits of getting kids involved in family chores and routines. Regularly engaging in chores helps kids gain confidence and a sense of meaning in their role as a family member. Kids learn responsibility and important social skills, like cooperation, communication, and working as a team.

Chores also help kids develop important self-regulation and executive functioning skills, like planning, self-monitoring, working memory, time management, and organization. And chores that involve food prep and helping out in the kitchen provide all these benefits too.

Tips to Get Kids Involved in Chores

  • Start with simple chores (like bringing their plate to the sink) and choose activities that are age appropriate
  • Give step-by-step and hands-on instruction to start and then gradually decrease your level of assistance
  • Chores that benefit the whole family can help your child feel included – tasks like helping set or clear the table
  • Talk about why helping is important – even young children understand when discussed in simple terms
  • Involve older kids in making a chart or keeping track of chores on a calendar
  • Give encouragement and praise for helping out. Remind your child of how much they are helping their family.
  • Consider different rewards as needed (extra screen time, money, or special privileges) to help motivate your child

Should I Pay My Child for Chores?

While this decision will be personal for each family, it’s something you will likely need to consider at some point. As your child gets older, they may be surprised to learn that some of their friends get paid to do chores, while they’ve been contributing for free!

You might decide to have a discussion about why your family chooses not to give money for chores. Or you might decide on a compromise of providing payment for chores that are above and beyond the typical daily or weekly tasks, such as cleaning out the garage or washing the car. Make sure to explain the expectations clearly, and in written form, as needed, so there’s no confusion later on.

Helpful Tools

Chore Ideas for Different Ages

Always provide instruction and supervision, especially when teaching a new chore and for younger children. Use discretion about what chores you are comfortable with your child completing based on your child’s development.

Toddlers (2-3 years)

  • Bring water bottle or cup to their highchair or table
  • Set placemats on the table
  • Bring plates and bowls to the sink
  • Sort utensils, including spoons, forks and butter knives
  • Put away groceries, such as canned goods
  • Help with washing produce at the sink
  • Pick herb leaves off stems
  • Pour pre-measured ingredients
  • Stir dry ingredients for breads, muffins or cookies

Preschoolers (4-5 years)

  • Set the table for meals
  • Scrape food or garbage into the trash
  • Help load and unload the dishwasher
  • Spray and wipe the table
  • Help put away groceries
  • Fold dish towels
  • Help with grocery shopping
  • Mash potatoes
  • Scrub vegetables
  • Crack eggs (break into a separate bowl first, to get any pieces of shells out)
  • Measure and pour ingredients
  • Cut soft foods with dull knife

School Age Kids (6-12 years)

  • Take out the trash
  • Load and unload the dishwasher
  • Pack school lunch with assistance
  • Help plan and shop for meals
  • Help calculate food costs and read nutritional labels
  • Organize the pantry
  • Make simple snacks
  • Sort the recycling
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Vacuum
  • Peel produce like cucumbers or carrots
  • Cut firmer produce, like strawberries, melons, or peppers
  • Peel hard-boiled eggs