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Independence in kids: What to expect and when

It's hard to believe that our young children will one day be grown up and independent. But with time and patience, it will happen. Giving children opportunities to do things for themselves and pitch in around the house will help.

That's good news for parents. It's also good for kids. Research shows that when children learn to take care of themselves and complete simple chores, it instills a sense of mastery, self-reliance, responsibility, empathy and respect for others.

So, what can you expect of your child and at what age? Here are some ideas.

1-2 years 

  • use a fork and spoon to eat
  • take off socks and shoes
  • throw away items (diaper, food wrappers)
  • help you put laundry in washer or dryer
  • pick out their own clothes to wear
  • help feed pets
  • cut soft foods or pour liquids from a small pitcher

 2-3 years 

  • use toilet with assistance
  • use a napkin to wipe their face and hands
  • wash hands with soap and water
  • take off some clothes (unbuttoned shirt or jacket, elastic waist pants)
  • hang a swimsuit or clothes to dry
  • fold washcloths and towels
  • clean up spills
  • help prepare snacks and meals
  • pick up toys

 3-4 years 

  • dress and undress with pullover clothing
  • brush teeth with supervision or parent check
  • put on socks and shoes without fasteners (although they may be on wrong foot)
  • button large front buttons
  • wipe table, set and clear dinner table

 4-5 years 

  • choose weather-appropriate clothes
  • dress completely, including buttons, zippers, snaps, and identifying front and back of clothing
  • zip jacket independently
  • open packages (juice box, fruit snacks, string cheese)
  • make the bed
  • help wash dishes

 5-6 years 

  • complete a morning or evening routine (brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, etc.)
  • tie shoes
  • clean mirrors and windows
  • help vacuum and sweep
  • help prepare meals and snacks

 6-7 years 

  • shower or bathe independently
  • pack a bag or lunchbox
  • prepare simple meals or snacks (cereal, sandwich, easy mac)
  • dust

 7-10 years 

  • complete chores with minimal supervision or prompting
  • display time management skills
  • understand money
  • help with lawn care
  • clean the bathroom
  • take out trash and recycling

 Ages 10 and up 

  • do the laundry
  • help fix items around the house
  • lawn care: mowing, gardening, weeding
  • help write out a weekly meal plan and shop for items
  • prepare and cook simple meal for family
  • complete most "adult" chores


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