| |

Chores for 5 Year Olds: How to Raise a Happy Helper

There are many a chore list on the internet, but what really are the best chores for 5 year olds and how do you teach them so you raise a happy helper? 

Some things need to be understood before we get to a list. A list with no explanation is not going to raise a confident and happy helper. This is more than a list. Don’t worry- there really is a list at the bottom of this post to give you a guide, but don’t skip right there!

two kids standing on stools in the kitchen for chore time

Background on Chores for 5 year olds

When kids are younger (2-4yrs old) it seems like they always want to help. And when I say help I mean they want to be a part of whatever their parents are doing which makes it take twice as long and ensures it is not done with any kind of precision. So you know, “helping”.

The good news is that kids do learn and by 5 years old if, we have nurtured their desire to help, they are VERY capable! By 5 years old they are nearing the end of Erikson’s 3rd stage of development: the play stage which focuses on Initiative vs. guilt+. Do not run in fear if I sounded too technical there. We can figure this out together! The whole idea is to help kids develop the confidence to try new things rather than being afraid to fail.

5 year old helping with dishes during chore time
Literally, it is so fun when they can actually DO THINGS!

Understanding 5 year olds developmental stage

The play stage started around age 3+. So check out my post on Chores for 3 year olds here for a little more foundation. But, basically, their goal in this stage is to learn to take action and initiative in their lives and daily tasks*. If they do not do that the other side of this is guilt. If they are not given opportunities to try new skills, use their own ideas, and try again, they may learn to be worried about taking on new challenges. In school, this can look like a child that does not want to try. Remember, all school learning is new! Let’s make sure new things feel fun rather than provoke anxiety. So let’s give our 5 year olds chores! This helps them experiment with new tasks. If we help them through it, they will learn to love trying new things. Success! And school ready!

 If you are new here, I also have posts on chores and strategies to raise happy helpers specifically for 2, 3 and 4yr olds (I talk a little about their development and how to encourage them at those ages). Don’t worry if this is a new idea for you. Just start now! Dive into this journey with me.

Think school ready for 5 year olds

So their current stage is learning/developing initiative. At this stage it is important to think about being school ready. Although I homeschool, there are a lot of teachers in my family so we have many conversations about developing kids that are school ready.

How to add in their developmental stage to chores for 5 year olds

How do we encourage initiative? Well, chores are a great way to start! Knowing what the family needs and how they can be a part of their family then taking initiative fits perfectly into this stage. Strong family relationships are still their biggest desire at this age, friends and other relatives are secondary. Feeling very connected to you, their close, immediate family is a huge priority. So, by having chores to support the family, they connect more with you (if you encourage that), and develop initiative.

Side note: you can also encourage initiative by showing them what they can do for themselves (dressing, snacks ect.). We will talk more about specific activities below.
4 year old zipping his own coat

The main goal when teaching chores for 5 year olds

Now that we know where they are at developmentally, let’s use that as we dive into chores. If you’ve been around here a while, you know I love to make a main goal and use that as my guide.

The main goal for chore time is to raise a happy capable helper. Notice the goal is NOT perfection, excellence in all activities or anything in that vein. This goal will guide my thoughts, feelings and actions as I start to encourage my kids to do their chores and family life.

When I start to feel frustrated, when things aren’t done to the same level of perfection as I would do them, I take a deep breath and go back to my goal.

My son recently surprised me by putting all the groceries away without being asked. It was so cool to see him jumping in and helping…and doing a good job! THis has now become his job, and he loves it. (real-life messy house in the background)

Step 1: Remember the goal and invite your kids to chore time

Remember the goal-raise a happy capable helper. With this goal in mind, bring your kids into everyday life. Invite them to join you in your tasks, and provide the time and the space so together you can go slower and explain/teach as you go. This can start at a very young age, and I talk about it in my post “what to teach 2 year olds”, but if you are just starting now, that is ok too. Still start with this step of inviting them to see you doing the work. Have them walk with you in the tasks of keeping the home. Take them with you to the grocery store. Let them help to make choices and load the cart. For example, say “Should we get red or green apples this week? Please put 4 in this bag.”

Step 2: Slow down chore time

I have said it before in my article on simplifying life but as kids learn new skills they need the time and space to do that. We can’t rush it. That undermines their confidence and they may be fearful to try again or worried they wont do it fast enough or do it right. Please check out that post here if you need some help simplifying your life to make space for this step. It creates a backdrop for the whole thing.

Step 3: mindset check

Kids helping really means new tasks for them take longer and often are not done as well as you do them. After all, you have years more practice. Accept that. Surrender to that. Let go of the frustration, breathe it out. Step away for a second if you need to  (I hide in the bathroom when I need a second), then come back and try again.  Let that little person be your helper when possible so they can learn and practice. BUT sometimes life is busy and you haven’t slept and slowing down feels like too much. If you can’t get into this mindset sometimes, then work on meeting your needs first so you can then meet your kids needs. It is very hard to keep giving to our kids when we are on empty (and you’re not alone, every parent is in that place sometimes).

Step 4: Chore time really starts

Choose 2-3 tasks that they can start doing themselves. If they are new to the task, do it with them at first. This ensures you are teaching for success. Then slowly step back and let them try, let them figure it out. Be there to guide as needed. Be sure to give them the time and be there to cheer them on. Below I give you some ideas on what tasks would be good for this age.

Make teaching chores a mix of learning and fun, and let them do as much as they can on their own. Give them the time to figure out how they can do it. For example: how they can climb on top of the washing machine!

The bright side to chores for 5 year olds

The things that were new at 3 and 4 years old (check out my whole series on chores!), aren’t new anymore. Now they are 5 years old…they can put all the silverware away, they can lay out napkins at each dinner place. They can get their smaller siblings simple snacks or drinks. The old tasks that you spent extra time teaching have been learned and you can reap the reward! Now when your two year old asks for water their older sibling can help them. Which is doubly wonderful 1. It builds teamwork and love into the sibling relationship, and 2. YOU don’t have to get up and get the water! You can keep doing whatever you were trying to do, like go to the bathroom for once or finish your coffee while it is still hot!

brother holding his sister and teaching her
my son LOVES teaching and helping his sister. He started way back at 3 years old. Here he is holding her little face with his little hands and telling her how she can be brave at the doctor’s office. excuse me while I go cry…

don’t focus on perfection with 5 year old chores

Please remember though, that even though they have lots of practice, they may still spill some water or the silverware may be less neat. It’s ok. Patiently teach them while encouraging the skill. Even better is if you can choose not to worry about it at all. If water spills you can just say “it’s ok that happens to me too sometimes”. Then clean it up together and move on. Better yet, notice and comment on when you make a mess or something doesn’t go right. Show them it’s ok, they can keep trying. This helps relieve any guilt that may occur.

Avoid parent guilt

We as parents aren’t perfect. I get tired, want things done quickly and hear myself using a sharp voice some days. We have all been there. It’s ok to apologize to your kids for it, and try and reset the tone (also maybe take a minute to yourself, even if it’s hiding in the bathroom like me! To collect and breathe). You can also check out my post on nourishing yourself as the parent for even more ideas (here)! Its much easier to remain calm and in a positive headspace if you yourself are taken care of.

A real life example happened to me recently. We were in the process of moving (yuck!!) and in the final week, my son said to me, “Mommy, why are you grouchy all the time?”. Thanks buddy… Somehow he thought moving to a new house was supposed to be fun! That was really an eye opener for me. I needed to reset my attitude!

father and son snow-blowing the driveway
This will be a buddy activity for a LONG time, but my son loves helping his dad outside. This is a way to help him feel valuable in the family. He knows his role as a helper is important.

Ok now on to the list of chores that you were looking for in the first place!

Family Chores: 

  • Small trash or recycling (might not be able to lift larger bags out of trash cans that are too tall for them, but should be able to take the bag once its out of the can and put it in the garage or outside. Certainly they can sort the recycling.
  • Feeding animals 
  • Setting table with silverware and napkins
  • Simple meal prep: things that involve pouring (like cereal, drinks ect)
  • Things they can easily lift/move but without a lot of steps (steps as in different parts to the task, not as in taking steps with their feet…they can take many steps with those fast feet)

Personal tasks:

  • Getting dressed
  • Wiping themselves after going to the bathroom (Necessary for school-teachers aren’t expected to wipe buts).
  • Getting their own snacks/drinks (I have a place where I keep “anytime snacks.” These are healthy choices that kids can access whenever they want.)
  • Keeping personal items tidy and in the proper place: coat, shoes, backpack, lunchbox, dirty clothes

Buddy activities (things they are still learning and you can do together):

  • Assisting with more meal prep or snacks: learning to cut things with age appropriate knives (my son loves banana slices and peanut butter, so he can now slice his own bananas)
  • Chores that take longer amounts of time: vacuuming one room
  • Folding simple laundry
  • Sorting laundry
  • Fine tune tasks that were learned at 4yrs old:
    • expect more proficiency with wiping down tables
    • More ingredients stay in the bowl when helping to mix/stur 
  • Help with younger siblings tasks: this is great because now they feel like the expert and they are guiding their younger siblings on how to do the things they already learned. It helps build that sibling bond. 
boy climbing on counter to help put away groceries
What’s not fun about putting away groceries when you get to climb on the counter to do it?!?

Go at your 5 year olds pace

The more they do with you and the more practice they have, the quicker they will pick up new tasks. So don’t be discouraged if they aren’t able to do these things yet. Start doing more and more, be patient and calm even in big messes. They will learn from your attitude as much as from your instructions. 

If you started young and have been working on their independent skills for a while, they might be able to do even more. More complex things in the kitchen or more gardening/yard chores. Just keep advancing them at their own pace and interest.

Your turn!

What chores do you have for your 5 year olds? What things are still buddy activities?Can’t wait to hear from you! I would love to support you on the incredible journey building strong family connections. So bring on the questions and let’s brainstorm!

Helper stools

Fun kid socks

Family Aprons

Fun kids socks


*McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

+Orenstein GA, Lewis L. (2022 Nov 7). Eriksons stages of psychosocial development. StatPearls Publishing; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556096/

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *