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Should Kid Have Chores: Then and Now! | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Should Kid Have Chores: Then and Now!

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What chores did children do in the past?

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What chores did children do in the past? Here’s what a child was expected to know in the year 1867—with a boy’s list and a girl’s list! Judging from these tips from 1867, the expectations of children between then and now have certainly changed quite a bit!

Childhood was very different over a century ago. Many kids lived on farms in North America. There may not have been formal schooling, so kids learned everything at home and would often work alongside their parents to care for the farm animals and do household tasks.

What chores did children do in the past?

What Every Farmer’s Boy Should Know

  • To dress himself, black his own shoes, cut his brother’s hair, wind a watch, sew on a button, make a bed, and keep all his clothes in perfect order and neatly in place
  • To harness a horse, grease a wagon, and drive a team
  • To milk cows, shear sheep, and dress veal or mutton
  • To reckon money and keep accounts accurately and according to good bookkeeping rules
  • To write a neat, appropriate, briefly expressed business letter, in a good hand, and fold and superscribe it properly, and to write contracts
  • To plow, sow grain and grass seed, drive a mowing machine, swing a scythe, build a neat stack, and pitch hay
  • To put up a package, build a fire, whitewash a wall, mend broken tools, and regulate a clock

​What Every Farmer’s Girl Should Know

  • To sew and knit
  • To mend clothes neatly
  • To dress her own hair
  • To wash dishes and sweep carpets
  • To trim lamps
  • To make good bread and perform all plain cooking
  • To keep her room, closets, and drawers neatly in order
  • To make good butter and cheese
  • To keep accounts and calculate interest
  • To write, fold, and superscribe letters properly
  • To nurse the sick efficiently and not faint at the sight of a drop of blood
  • To be ready to render efficient aid and comfort to those in trouble, in an unostentatious way
  • To receive and entertain visitors when her mother is sick or absent

Talk about responsibilities!

What chores children do today

We’re no longer a farm-based society, so what do you feel children should still know today? What are your expectations? Small chores can help kids learn skills and responsibility as well as the value of contributing to the family.

Here are 10 good suggestions—many based on the reader comments below (add your own!):

  1. Mow the lawn, rake leaves, shovel the snow
  2. Set the table, clear the table, fill the dishwasher
  3. Watch over younger siblings
  4. Make breakfast and snacks; help make dinner; cook simple foods
  5. Put clothes in hamper; wash, dry, fold, and put away laundry
  6. Make their bed properly
  7. Cross streets safely
  8. Put away toys and belongings; clean room
  9. Feed pets, walk dog
  10. Vacuum, empty wastebaskets, sweep floors

Today, many expectations are also related to how we treat others, manners, and etiquette, i.e., being civilized and making others comfortable. Here are 10 reader suggestions!

  1. Saying please and thank you
  2. Take off hats at the table and in church
  3. Don’t talk with your mouth full
  4. No cell phones or electronics at the table (that’s a good reminder for adults, too!)
  5. Speaking of mobile devices, do not look at your screen when someone is speaking to you; put the phone in your pocket and on silent
  6. Write a thank you note for gifts and special kindnesses (Texts and emails don’t count)
  7. Open the door for each other and stand to the side of a hallway, stairway, or aisle when an adult or another person is trying to pass
  8. Do not interrupt someone speaking; listen and then speak
  9. When someone is visiting your home, give the guests first dibs and when you are visiting someone else’s place, do not touch their property unless asked
  10. Make an effort to see or call your grandparents

Tell us what you think about expectations then—and now!

Learn more about old-fashioned etiquette: Victorian Era Etiquette and Manners

2023 Almanac Club