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The best chores for 4 year olds and how to teach them

Yahooooo we made it to 4 years old! Join me as we dive into what are the absolute best chores for 4 year olds and how we can teach them in away to support their developmental growth.

two kids standing on stools in the kitchen for chore time

not your typical list of chores for 4 year olds

This is not your typical list of chores for 4 year olds. I go into what their developmental stage is and how we can use chore time to help them reach their developmental goals. I never give out generic lists. These don’t work and I often find they just make parents feel guilty that their kids aren’t doing ALL the things they’re “supposed” to be doing. So let’s break away from the generic lists and the guilt and get some age and developmentally solid ideas!

FYI this is part of my mini series on chores for little ones. If you want all the details on teaching chores for ages 2, 3, 4 and 5 then club below!

Magic of 4 years old

This is the age that I personally feel kids start to make more sense. We have less unexplainable outbursts, grumpy moods have a reason. We can talk and work things out and when I say cardboard isn’t food they actually understand! It’s a beautiful thing! Ok back to the topic at hand. We have made it to 4 years old and these little nuggets aren’t so little and are certainly ready for independent chores.

There’s no “one right way” for chores for 4 year olds

Before we go into the chore list, please remember that all families are different. Each family has their unique way to get things done. That means a generic chore list may not fit everyone just right. As you are reading through my ideas, be thinking about what might work for you and your special tribe. Let’s double-check what developmental stage they are in and use this chore time to help them grow.

Chore time based on their developmental stage

At 4 years old they are in the play age and their goal is now to develop initiative and a sense of purpose (according to Dr. Erikson)+. Chore time is the perfect opportunity for 4 year olds to develop initiative and we can give them a sense of purpose right in their own homes. They can know they are valued members of their family unit. And bonus, 4 year olds crave recognition and need to be valued by their caregiver. So this time, if done right, can fill their basic need to be seen and valued by you!

Plan for teaching chores for 4 year olds the right way

If you have already read my post for 2 yr olds and 3 yr olds this will be a review so you can skip right down to phase 2. If you are just starting to introduce chores at 4 years old, Good for you! It’s never too late! You can begin this journey of connecting as a family right now. Keep reading!

boy sitting on counter excited to help do family chores
this nugget is ready to help!

Phase 1: make space for teaching chores

Step 1:

Start with creating space in your schedule so you have time to teach your 4 year olds these new skills. This is crucial.  Instructional time needs to be relaxed. Try to see the world through their little eyes. “I am a helper” may be a new thought for them. How exciting! If you are rushing them or expecting perfection right out of the gate so you can quickly move on, they will not feel more connected to you. They will not build initiative. They will be afraid to try and fail, and they may easily develop feelings of guilt. So let’s make some space or pick times where you actually have the time. You don’t have to teach every second of every day. Pick a time of the day where you can be in a relaxed headspace. If you need tips, check out my post on making space in your day here

Step 2:

Invite them to join you in daily tasks. As you do the tasks speak out loud about how you knew the task needed to be done and then the steps you are taking to actually do it. Talk about the benefit this chore is to them. For example, “I want you to have a healthy snack. We better get some muffins made.” Or “You need clean clothes to wear. Let’s get this laundry done!”

Invite them to do parts of the tasks as they are able. Press buttons, mix/pour things. Anything they are interested in, be the guide, but let them try. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry, I made a whole list to give you some ideas. Just keep on reading my friend.

Once you have done that and your kids are familiar with the tasks (and those two things can start at a young age, about 2 years old), start Phase 2

Phase 2: time for your 4 year old to jump into chore time

Now that your 4 year olds are familiar with the tasks of the home, and for their personal care. Pick 1-2 items that they are physically able to complete and they might have gravitated towards during phase 1. Start small, but assign them these tasks (or parts of them) to start doing by themselves. You can make it a cool thing (at this age they still think chores are cool!). They are bigger now and such an important part of the family, they can start helping the family too just like their parents!

Go slow

Take this phase slowly, start by doing the task with them. We always want to use success-based learning. This means ensuring they can do it before expecting them to complete a task independently. Then slowly take steps back. Be prepared to jump back in and help, some days are just harder than others and they might need a buddy again. That’s ok, don’t yell or get frustrated with them. Understanding regression is part of the process. Love them through the hard times, give them the comfort and closeness they need and be ready to take the steps back again when you feel they are ready.

And that’s it!

At this age, stop here, just 1-2 things they can do. Continue to invite them to join you in daily life so they can continue to see what real family life is like (check out why that is important here). As they grow, they will be able to do more and more! So, this means 1-2 independent tasks are plenty, but they can do as many tasks as your little buddy. If you have the time then keep inviting them, teaching them, showing them, and explaining each step to them of real-life tasks.

And I do mean only do what you have time for. We all have busy days or tired days, it’s okay if sometimes you just aren’t up for teaching. It would be better to get yourself a snack and rest than to force yourself to teach more when you aren’t in the right head space. You matter too!

4 year old zipping his own coat
getting dressed may not feel like a chore, but it is something they can learn to do for themselves that then frees you!

and finally, the list of chores for 4 year olds

if you aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas of things your 4 year old may be able to do: 

  • Getting dressed: maybe not the whole outfit yet but many 4 year olds can at least do parts of their outfits (especially if you started showing them how at a younger age). Start with just socks or teach them how to know if their pants are facing the right way (my 4.5 year old frequently has his pants on backwards, but he is so proud that he can get his whole outfit on himself we just accept it)
  • Picking out their own clothes (if miss-matching is hard for you, offer a few choices that all match.)
  • Brushing their own teeth
  • Emptying parts of the dishwasher: silverware, and other things in lower cabinets
  • Getting shoes on (if they are slip ons, tying laces will most likely still be a challenge) 
  • Easy snacks:
    • cereal (involves getting a bowl, milk and cereal and pouring)
    • Spreading simple things like peanut butter and jelly
  • Parts of family meal prep
  • Setting the table with silverware and napkins
  • Putting toys away
  • Stacking books
  • Making their bed
  • Hanging up their coat (if its on a hook they can reach) and putting their shoes in the shoe bin

These are just some ideas to get you thinking. Pick 1-2 you think your 4 year old would be interested in and start doing the task together. Then slowly build their confidence until they are able to do it themselves.

mom standing in kitchen with 3 and 4 year old helping with chores in the kitchen
It can be kinda fun to be a family team!

Watch them thrive!

It’s a beautiful thing when they start growing, thriving, and turning into helpers! My kids stay at my mom’s sometimes on Friday nights. All on his own, my 4 year old started waking up and getting himself all dressed to “surprise” Grammy and Grandpa. He feels so proud of himself!

What is the hardest part of attempting chores with your 4 year old for you? What types of chores work in your family? Be sure to let me know! Ask me questions- I would love to support you on the incredible journey of building strong family connections.

Helper stools

Fun kid socks


Family Aprons

Fun kids socks

Reference

*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

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