Getting the whole family to pitch in and help with dinnertime tasks is important to family dinner success. Not only do kids learn responsibility and important life skills through helping with meals, but parents often feel more relaxed and positive about sitting down to eat as a family when the workload is shared. But as family life gets busier, it seems there are fewer opportunities to engage kids in helping and learning to manage different tasks. Parents can end up frustrated and confused about what’s developmentally appropriate to ask of their kids; what tasks can their preschooler, elementary-aged child or teen safely tackle? Here, we’re providing a sample list of age-appropriate family dinner chores for kids that parents can use as a guideline.
It’s important to remember that not every child will be ready for these jobs at the same time. You know your child best, and can adjust as needed. Kids with special needs, for example, may need more time to grow into some chores. Other children achieve competence with skills earlier than their peers, and can do more at a younger age. But most typically developing kids will be able to do the jobs on this chart — and others — around the ages listed. It’s important for parents to let them try, to model the right way to accomplish the tasks, and to let go of the idea that they should do things perfectly. Learning can involve a lot of messes and mishaps! But with time and patience, they’ll become great helpers, making family meals easier for everyone.