Age Appropriate Chores on the Homestead

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A part of making the homestead life a success is teaching our children to come along side us and take part in maintaining the farm.  If you are new to homesteading or feel so tired of doing everything yourself while your children look on, this post might be of some help to you.

Before I start listing age appropriate skills, let me just say that every child is different.  This is just a guideline to give you some ideas.  One thing I cannot stand is seeing age-appropriate chore lists that are so out of touch with reality.  The reality is most two year olds cannot clean their own rooms, take out the trash or when it comes to the farm; milk a goat, feed the chickens or gather the eggs all by themselves.  
Unless they are super toddler, don’t expect a whole lot of help. What you can expect is  ‘weeds’ pulled that were actually bean seedlings, a few plants drowning from being over-watered, cranky impatient goats who are tired of a little child tugging and pulling on their teats just to get two squirts of milk, cracked eggs, overfed chickens and loose goats from an unsuccessful attempt to shut the gate, just to name a few.
Although they aren’t helping you, they will in the long run.  As hard as it is sometimes and I am just as guilty in wanting to get the job done, like yesterday, letting our young ones take part in this farm has been such a blessing!
Toddlers and even preschoolers cannot be expected to take sole responsibility in animal care.  They need guidance and mentoring, so that one day it can be their responsibility.

Again, this list is just to give you a guideline to give you some ideas. You know what is best for your child and what he/she is capable of.  The following chores are/were done by my own kids at these specific ages.

Ages 2-4

1.  Follow us or older children around the farm and observe.

2.  Allowed to help gather the eggs with supervision with an older child who is responsible in gathering all eggs.

3.  Help pull a few weeds in the garden or dig potatoes, harvest veggies, etc. with a parent.

4.  Try their hand at milking a goat with supervision whenever they have the desire to do so and it is indeed milking time.

Ages 5-7

Observation is still key here along with hands-on learning.

1.  Have a more responsible role in gathering eggs with an older child who is still in charge of this chore.

2.  Given a tiny portion of the garden to weed.  They should have a good idea of what a weed looks like, but it is important to give them a veggie identification lesson every time they weed.

3.  Allowed to plant along side of parent.  I just let them plant until they get tired of it.  When they plant something, they appreciate it more.

4.  Harvest time is important for young children.  They need to be involved in picking produce, digging potatoes, etc. so that they know there is a reward for their hard work.  Again, I don’t push them to pick a lot of veggies.  When they are bored or tired of it, they can quit.

5.  They are welcome to milk a goat if they want to, but the child or adult responsible for that goat needs to be present.

6.  Help clean out stalls, coop or barn.  They should be there to help at least for a little while.  My then five-year old helped scoop out the goat/horse area of the barn all day with us, never stopping for a break!  But, the next day, he only helped for a little while.  He apparently had had enough of manure shoveling fun for awhile.

Ages 8-10

At this age span, we give them sole responsibilities, but our oldest son is the farm manager, so he checks to make sure everything is done correctly by his younger siblings.

1.  Responsible for milking one goat.  Around eight or nine years of age, our kids are in their first year of 4-H.  My philosophy is they take sole responsibility of the animals they show.  That means they feed and milk the goats they show in 4-H, feed their wether and train the goats to lead.

2.  Feed and water all dogs.

3.  Full chicken care:  Feed and water the chickens and gather eggs.

4.  Full chick care:  Feed and water chicks and clean out bedding in the box.

5.  More garden responsibility such as weeding certain rows, planting and harvesting with supervision.  Also, at this age they should be able to identify most bad bugs and dispose of them.

6.  Help clean out chicken coop and goat barn.  We usually expect them to help us out most of the time that we are scooping out manure.

Ages 11-13

These chores are added on top of the chores for the 8-10 year olds.  Although we do not make them do all of the above chores in addition to the ones listed below, sometimes we change things up to give everyone a break from doing the same thing over and over again.

1.  Feed and water horses.  Put in stalls if needed.

2.  Help load and unload hay.

3.  Have a more prominent role in garden maintenance.

4.  Help younger siblings if needed and guide and direct them with chores that they have passed down.

Ages 14 and above

We’ve given our son the title of farm manager at this age.  He is responsible with overseeing the younger siblings and their chores.  If things aren’t done right, he is partially to blame.  That’s just real life and teaches them how to be a leader with good communications skills!  The skills below are added to any of the skills above.

1.  Feed and water meat chicks and move chicken tractor.

2.  Feed and water feeder pigs.  We have had younger children do this, but usually with the bigger investments, we give those jobs to the older kids.

3.  Fully capable of loading and unloading hay.  Also, at this age, they are strong enough to unload grain and put in the grain barrels.

4.  Overseer of general farm pick up.  Those buckets have a mind of their own!

5.  Wheel hoe the garden and plant with the planter.  They are my right hand sidekick with farm maintenance and garden work.

6.  Tighten field fence and install t-posts.

7.  Help with beekeeping.

Again, this is how we have progressed with farm chores in our family and these are the main chores that we do on the farm.  Of course, there’s always something to do that might not be on the list, like chasing goats that escaped.  And that is when we all work together with happy hearts, frolicking as we try to catch each goat, singing along the way….

Okay maybe that is stretching it a little.