Developing healthy habits from an early age sets children on the right path to cope independently and thrive in life. Assigning age-appropriate tasks to preschoolers can provide them with confidence and a profound sense of mastery which develops confidence and a sense of belonging.
If you struggle to know what chores you can give your 3-year-old, we have created a list of ideas that you may find helpful.
- Pick up toys
- Put laundry in the hamper
- Help make the bed
- Fold their own pajamas
- Wipe spills and messes
- Put shoes away
- Hang laundry
- Fold laundry
- Empty waste paper bins
- Help to set and clear the table
- Dust the furniture
- Take cups to the kitchen
- Wash plastic items
- Help rake leaves in the yard
- Water plants
- Plant or harvest veggies
- Tidy the car
- Help with pets
- Divide plastic bottles and paper into recycling bins
- Carry groceries inside
With a little bit of creativity, a dab of fun, and some encouragement, little ones will love helping, and helping with household tasks will become a part of daily life. Let’s go through some chores that may be suitable for your 3-4-year-old.
20 Chores for 3 to 4 Year Olds
Making everyday chores part of a routine can provide a lot of stability to a child’s experience of the world. Our little ones are eager to mimic us, and every activity that can add value can be celebrated as an achievement that will go a long way to creating a sense of belonging.
As young as they are, kids love to feel like they are helping run the household and making a meaningful contribution. Assigning small routine tasks gives them the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. This is valuable in developing healthy self-esteem.
Before we start, let be clear, three to four-year-olds can do simple chores but should never be expected to do tasks that are not age-appropriate. Young children need time to fully understand and process each task before it can become a regular chore that they can perform independently.
Also, don’t add too many new chores at the same time. Instead, break everything down into simple, easily attainable tasks.
Each child is unique, and chores should fit the child’s capability and the home environment. This list serves as a guideline, and what one child may be capable of at age three may not be suitable for another child until they are a little older.
Build chores into a routine, so little ones know what is expected and order activities in their minds. As a chore becomes part of a routine, it may not be as exciting for the child as when it was first introduced.
If you create a consistent routine, it will be more likely that the child will continue to perform the task long-term. For example, if storytime only happens after all laundry is placed in the hamper. It is more likely that laundry will consistently get put away correctly without any resistance after the novelty of the new task has worn off.
It is important that household chores are not regarded as ‘jobs’ for which a child will receive any reward. Chores are a necessary part of day-to-day life that the family needs to get through to maintain a clean and healthy environment.
Kids are smart, and the moment you start attaching an incentive to behavior that should become a habit, you might create an endless cycle of needing to bribe your child with the promise of a reward to get anything done.
Let your child understand that basic chores are a part of everyday life, and the whole family needs to pitch in to keep everything clean and tidy. Even three-year-olds want to be involved and help with everything – one frustration can be that our little helpers often make routine tasks take 10x longer than if we just did them ourselves, but cherish every precious moment with your little one.
Empower them and give them small chores.
Repetition and encouragement will build mastery of basic tasks that can be built on as the child gets older. Every chore can be a learning opportunity, so don’t underestimate how much your little one is learning even by being assigned the most basic tasks.
Three to four-year-olds have very tiny bodies, so you might need to get a few kid-friendly-sized cleaning items so they can help with specific chores. For example, a garden rake or kitchen broom is far too heavy and long for a three-year-old to use comfortably. Fortunately, most mini- items are readily available at any dollar store, so it is easy to set them up to help.
Keep in mind that although children aged between 3 and 4 can do various chores, don’t expect too much from preschoolers in terms of skill or commitment to lengthy tasks. Their attention spans are short, so when you are working on a long job, like raking leaves in the yard, don’t expect a 3-year-old to keep going for very long.
With time-consuming, labor-intensive, or repetitive tasks, create small attainable goals. For example, ask the 3-year-old to fill one bucket with raked leaves when raking leaves. Remember, the aim is to develop the helping habit and make them feel included in all activities, but they are still very young and won’t be able to concentrate for long.
Developing healthy work habits are the building blocks to the future, so let’s get started! Take note that some of these chores are personal chores that the child should be expected to do independently, while others are group activities where the little one will need some help.
1. Pick Up Toys
Toys are fun, and everyone loves to unpack and play, but creating a pack-away routine can be just as essential.
Three to four-year-olds can pick up toys that are scattered across about after a busy day of play. If they are very young, even starting them with collecting items and placing them in a general collection area forms the basis of the habit in the future.
2. Put Laundry into Hamper
Putting their own dirty clothes into a hamper is a basic task that is easy for very young children to master. Ensure that the laundry basket has a lid that isn’t tricky to open, and let your 3-year-old put their own clothes into the hamper before bathing.
Initially, start only with just the items they are wearing. Once they are in the habit of adding items to the hamper, ask them to collect any other clothing items that come out of school bags or might have been left in other areas in the home.
3. Help Make the Bed
Making a bed neatly can be very difficult at such a young age, but it is a habit that must be formed as early as possible rather than the perfect outcome.
A 3-year-old can help by pulling up the bedsheet with assistance, which is the foundation of the task. They can also puff up the pillow and place it neatly at the top of the bed. As the child matures, they will be able to perform this task more independently.
4. Folding Their Own Pajamas
No matter where your family usually stores their pajamas during the daytime, even a young child can fold their own sleepwear to put away neatly for the day. A three-year-old can fold their pajamas to place under the pillow or in a basket or closet.
5. Wipe Up Spills and Messes
Messy spills are a part of life, especially when you have a busy preschooler in the home! Cleaning up after themselves is an essential lifelong habit that you want to instill as young as possible.
While you can’t expect a perfect clean-up job, the child can use a small water-filled spray bottle and cloth to wipe up most splashes or spills that you will need to go over to do a thorough job.
By the age of 4, a child can usually recognize if they need a cloth to wipe up a spill or a dustpan and broom to sweep up a dry mess. Remember that accidents happen, everything is a learning opportunity, and your reaction will also play a big part in future clean-up operations!
6. Put Shoes Away
The same as folding pajamas after they are taken off, three-to-four-year-olds can put their own shoes away. Create a tidy shoe rack in a closet, and show the child how to put the shoes neatly together and face the same way each time they put them away.
This is not only a neat habit, but these types of activities form the early foundation blocks of learning about matching pairs and differences.
7. Hang Laundry on a Washing Line
Hanging small pieces of laundry is not only a great chore for a 3-year-old to feel included, but it is also an excellent fine-motor skill activity. Your little one may need a little step stool if you are hanging items on a high line, but it might be fun to create a short, low line or use a fold-out drying rack where the child can peg their own socks and underwear.
The entire laundry process will be with kids for their whole life, so make this task as natural as brushing teeth or bathing. If your little one can’t yet manage to peg things onto the line, they can hand you pegs as you do it or stand by to return pegs to the peg basket as you take down the dry laundry items.
8. Folding Laundry
Inside the laundry basket are many small items that even very small children can sort and fold. Make finding matching socks into a game, even if you have to do the actual folding.
Dishcloths, underwear, and small towels do not require advanced folding skills and can be done by 3 – 4-year-olds. You may well have to go later and make neater folds in some items, especially when they start helping, but at this age, your main focus is to make them feel included as valued members of the household.
Remember to focus on the activity rather than the perfection of the result.
9. Empty Small Wastepaper Bins
Routine chores for a 3 – 4-year-old can include emptying small wastepaper bins from specific rooms. Of course, like all chores you are teaching, you will have to perform this activity jointly for a long time before you can ask them to do it independently.
A three-four year-old may need a bit of help to dispose of papers into the larger container neatly, so break it down and start with simply asking the child to fetch one small wastepaper bin at a time. Once you have emptied it, they can return it to the designated area.
10. Help Set and Clear the Dinner Table
Mealtimes are family time, and your 3 – 4-year-old is able to become a part of this daily activity. Decide on age-appropriate items that the child can carry to the table and let them contribute to the setup rather than just playing until they are called to eat.
They are not ready to carry cutlery to the table at this age, but they can fold napkins to place at each setting and do similar safe chores. At the end of the meal, they can assist in clearing away whatever they brought to the table and help wipe the surfaces using a small spray bottle of water and a cloth.
11. Dust the Furniture
Your 3-year-old doesn’t have to watch as you clean the house – get them involved! It will be very difficult to train a moody teen to clean furniture, so start while they’re eager and willing! Preschoolers may not be of any real help, and their enthusiastic ‘helping’ may make everything take longer, but creating these good habits while they are young, is an investment for the future.
Of course, you can’t give your 3-year-old actual furniture polish, but they are usually only too thrilled with a small water spray bottle and a soft cloth so they can work alongside you. Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose is to develop the habit, so heap on the appreciation and acknowledgment for their efforts and your little one will beam with pride.
One clever mom tasked her 3-year-old with cleaning the baseboards in the living room using a small spray bottle and a cloth while she dusted furniture. The little one absolutely loved the chore and scooted about on her bottom, happily cleaning all the way around the room.
12. Take Used Cups to the Kitchen
A 3 – 4-year-old may not be able to do the dishes independently, but they can carry their own used items to the kitchen sink. Provided that cups and bowls are kiddy-friendly, your child should always return used items to the sink-up area.
If the child keeps a cup of water on the bedside table at night, they can be responsible for emptying it and refilling it again each day.
13. Wash Plastic Items at the Sink
Helping with the dishes should start as early as possible. Of course, a 3-4-year-old will need a step-stool to reach the sink, but they can work alongside an adult to help wash and rinse plastic items.
Washing dishes can be another great tactile experience as there are many different textures to experience during the process. Steel scourers, sponges, and brushes all have distinctive and interesting surfaces, and washing up can be another excellent learning experience for a three-year-old.
14. Help to Rake Leaves in the Yard
Chores for a 3 – 4-year-old need not only be limited to inside the house. Most kids love being outdoors, so get them involved in the yard too! You will need some smaller equipment to get them active in the garden, but fortunately, these are available inexpensively from most toy stores and garden centers.
Raking leaves in the yard can take a long time, and a 3-year-old will not be able to focus for a prolonged period so keep the end goal attainable. Let the child fill one packet or a pail with the leaves to complete the chore.
15. Water the Plants
While 3 -4-year-olds are too young to care for plants independently, they can certainly be allocated a small section of the garden or a few plants on the porch that they are responsible for watering. Kiddy-sized watering cans and gardening equipment are inexpensive, so while you are taking care of the garden, your child can attend to their own section.
If they are a little over-enthusiastic with a watering can, you can revert to a spray bottle filled with water. The goal is to get them involved o actively participate in household tasks from an early age.
16. Help to Plant or Harvest Veggies
Get your little one involved as early as possible if you have a veggie garden. 3-Year-olds love to drop individual seeds into preformed holes that you make in the soil. You can also ask them to gently cover holes using a little trowel.
Preschoolers can also help when it is time to harvest. You can show them how to cut off spinach leaves or choose red tomatoes to carry to the kitchen.
17. Tidy Their Area in the Car
Everyone uses the family car, so it should be everyone’s responsibility to keep the interior clean.
A 3 – 4-year-old can assist with regularly removing any big pieces of rubbish or dropped items that might collect in the car. Keep chores simple, and don’t expect a little one to be able to clean out the vehicle entirely – just get them into the habit of picking up any large wrappers or waste each time they arrive at a destination.
18. Help with Pet Care
Looking after the family pet should be everyone’s responsibility. Although a 3-4-year-old may not be able to manage significant pet-related tasks, they can regularly top up the water bowl using a plastic jug or add a measured scoop of pellets to a dish. Just be ready for some inevitable spills around the sides of the pet bowl while they are learning.
A 3-4-year-old can also be involved in regular outside playtime activities for dogs and helping with pet care activities like brushing fur. Pet care at this age is always an assisted chore, but getting them into the habit of taking care of the family pet will go a long way to teach responsibility and empathy.
19. Help Sort Recycling Items
Calling all eco-warriors! Recycling can be a fun chore that your 3-year-old can have fun helping with and at the same time learn about shapes, patterns, and different materials.
Even very young children can pop plastic bottles or paper into the correct container, and you can have fun asking them if they remember which the correct one is and watching them glow with pride as they show you. They will soon have the hang of it!
20. Carry Groceries Inside
When you arrive home after a trip to the grocery store, ask your 3-4-year-old to assist you in carrying a few items from the car. It may only be a package of kitchen towels or some small light item, but getting them into the habit of assisting with this chore is a great habit to instill from a young age.
It is never too young to start including basic chores into your child’s routine. By the age of three, a child can do many simple tasks, some of which can be done independently. Most will, however, still require partnership or close supervision.
Incorporating achievable chores into a child’s routine can instill a sense of belonging and self-worth, which is invaluable for developing healthy self-esteem. All tasks that are accomplished should be valued and celebrated with the express aim of developing good habits and building confidence so that simple chores can be expanded over time.