“Do your chores!”
These are words that I heard frequently as a kid, and it was usually with great reluctance that I did my chores.
With that said, the use of chores provides a much-needed sense of routine and responsibility. There are, therefore, many chores that your kids can do quite easily ranging from cleaning their rooms to feeding the dogs.
There are also some chores that you kids shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near depending on their age.
These are usually the riskier ones that can result in serious injuries if done incorrectly. So, which chores on your homestead should you keep your kids away from?
Just a quick note before we start: when I talk about children, I’m referring to very young ones – older kids tend to have more common sense, and so are less likely to injure themselves.
Tending Large Livestock
Minimum recommended age for tending large livestock: 12
Okay so for starters, if you have herds of cattle and/or horses then you’ll probably be checking hooves, skin, eyes, and so on, looking for parasites and/or wounds.
Something to keep in mind is that these are big animals; they are heavy and muscular and can do a lot of damage.
Children should NOT be left unsupervised when it comes to taking care of these animals. Horses can kick, bite, and step on you, while cattle have the addition of sharp horns which can be used to gore you.
Children can be easily injured as they aren’t always the most cautious creatures. If you want to teach your kids how to tend to your animals, then you should always be with them – even when they reach 15 or 16 years of age – so that they have someone there who can help them if they are badly injured in an accident involving your stock.
Recommended minimum age for shearing sheep: 13 – 14
Sheep shearing must be done regularly and, if they know how it’s done, your kids could probably help out from time to time. You must be very careful while doing this so that you don’t cut the animal by accident.
Young children should not be helping out with the shearing, as they often don’t have the coordination and you need a steady hand to do this particular task.
Recommended minimum age for slaughtering animals: 13 – 15
Slaughtering animals for food will be a rough experience for kids of any age. You raise an animal from birth to the day it must be slaughtered; you’ve developed a bond with this animal which will make things difficult.
Additionally, if done incorrectly you can make it a worse experience by prolonging the animal’s pain – which can be traumatic for young children.
Recommended minimum age for starting food prep: 12 – 13
So, a quick story on this one; I was part of my local cub scout troop and as part of my cooking badge, I had to cook three meals. First was a cake, then a barbeque, the third meal was cooked over the stovetop.
Now, at the time I was about 10 so I was supervised every step of the way and NEVER left alone with the food for more than a minute or so.
One of the things I learned in the process of working towards this badge was that the kitchen is not a safe place for children, and unsupervised cooking is a good source of accidents and injuries. In fact, I didn’t start unsupervised cooking until I was around 13 or 14.
Cooking is a useful skill and learning from a young age is great but don’t leave your little ones unsupervised in the kitchen.
Recommended minimum age for starting food preservation: 15 – 16
I’ve discussed food preservation before, it’s a key part of homesteading as you want to keep food safe and edible – at least for a while.
The process of food preservation is not something that kids shouldn’t be involved in unless they really know what they’re doing. The canning process has to be done in a certain way, if done incorrectly you run the risk of salmonella and botulism poisoning.
Now, if they learn the process properly that’s great but, you should keep young kids away from the process. It involves using a pressure canner which can cause some injuries.
Recommended minimum age for wood chopping: 14
Chopping wood for a fire is a good workout for your shoulders but there’s a specific way to do it – proper form, if you will. There are also serious risks regarding the use of an axe/hatchet. Using incorrect technique will result in muscular strain, you could also end up missing the log and cutting your leg.
You can also end up cutting your hands if you use one hand to hold the log in place. I’ve also seen wood chips go flying while chopping wood.
Now, if there are risks while you’re an adult, imagine the risks of letting the kiddos do it.
Minimum recommended age for starting fire prep: 14 – 15
Fire…do I really need to explain this one? Preparing an indoor/outdoor fire incorrectly is a huge fire risk. Don’t let your kids play around with making fire. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, kids aren’t the most careful and fire is always a cool thing to see.
It’s very easy to get hurt – take it from someone who’s been burned more than once – leaving a kid unsupervised near an open fire is going to end very badly.
Working with Machinery
Recommended minimum age for working with machinery: 15
This one should be painfully obvious but don’t let your kids near the heavy machinery that you have on your homestead.
Letting young children play around near/work with machinery is not going to end well. Now, most people have enough common sense to keep their young’uns away from their tractors and/or power tools.
Older kids (say between 13 and 16) usually have enough common sense themselves to know not to mess around with/near machinery or with power tools so they’re less likely to end up injuring themselves.
Recommended minimum age for working on machinery maintenance: 16
Working with machines is one thing, older kids may know how, and be responsible enough to operate certain pieces of machinery.
Maintenance, on the other hand, is a beast of an entirely different breed. When it comes to maintaining your various machines, you should (if possible) always get a professional to do it for you.
It may cost a pretty penny or two but it’s better to have someone who knows what they’re doing work on the machine(s) in question than to do it yourself or let your kids (if they’re old enough) to do it.
This is simply because if done incorrectly, these machines may become faulty and working with faulty equipment can, and does, lead to serious injuries.
Minimum recommended age for maintaining weapons: 16+
When we talk about weapons in relation to homesteads, we’re usually talking knives and/or firearms.
Safety and maintenance of knives is pretty straightforward: keep them sheathed/closed when not in use, keep them out of reach of children, and be careful when sharpening them. Firearms are a bit more… complicated. They have more moving parts, and small pieces.
Additionally, accidents can be fatal when working with them. Older children are again less likely to injure themselves with firearms because they usually know enough not to play with guns – and most responsible gun owners keep their firearms out of reach of their children.
Having your kids do work on the homestead is great for teaching responsibility and it gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride whenever they finish a particularly complicated task.
With that said, you can avoid any injuries by keeping the tasks they do age-appropriate and keeping an eye on them – which you probably already do.
All that said, I hope you guys enjoyed the article and found it informative. As always, thanks so much for reading. Keep your kiddos safe and I’ll see you for the next one. Take care!
Greg spent most of his childhood in camping grounds and on hiking trails. While he lives in the suburbs nowadays, Greg was raised on a small farm with chickens. He’s a decent shot with a bow, and a huge knife enthusiast. Find out more about Greg.