Here are some chore breakdowns.
Age-Appropriate Chores (working mother)
Age -Appropriate Chores (About Housekeeping)
A more extensive list divided into separate sections from an interesting site called Homeschool Your Boys (I haven't really looked at it, so use the normal Caveat Spectator). I think I will start with the baby levels and make sure all my kids can do those, then work my way up.
Life Skills for Kids says (with my notes in italics)
Toddlers REALLY want to help with everything. Let them help, even if it's annoying and slows you down.
I miss those years! But when I had toddlers I also had babies who were only happy out of my arms for VERY brief periods. I did try to let the toddlers help, but I also wanted to get the house somewhat hygienic before the baby's fussing started. Still, it's true that "work is play" for those years -- they are very imitative and will be happy messing around with a broom and mop even if they don't get things much cleaner. Sean used to mop the kitchen floor at age two -- he had a lot of fun doing it too.
The ages from 5 to 12 are the "golden years" for teaching life skills.
My note on this part. This is true, because kids in those age groups are trying to gain comptence overall. But it's also true that kids this age are learning skills in other areas that they find more exciting and fun than regular household chores. The main characteristic of household work is that it is endlessly repetitious. Kids between ages 5 and 8, say, just don't have a lot of endurance or tolerance for repetition. So perhaps anything you can do to keep motivation running high is worthwhile. That doesn't mean necessarily gimmicks, stickers and bribes -- but knowing they are continuing to master skills, knowing that they are really contributing to the family, and having support and closeness from other family members in their work can pay off well.
A fourteen-year-old can do just about any job an adult can do..
This is true too. If you have cultivated a spirit of helpfulness and service, even if the child lacks skills he can learn quickly. (this is around the age when children were traditionally apprenticed to skilled labor, right?).
If you start too early or wait till too late to teach responsibility, you will have more trouble.
This seems partly true to me. My son's speech therapist says that adolescents close down somewhat around age 12. They are more easily embarrassed, more reluctant to try unaccustomed things that don't fit their self-image, more self-conscious. However, I don't think any time is too early or too late REALLY. You face different challenges at different ages, that's all. If your child is generally cooperative, and hasn't read the developmental timetables, he probably will learn whatever seems on the family agenda to learn. Human nature is resilient. Obviously, a spoiled teenager may need some character training before he gets to be useful around the house, but part of it will be overcoming one's OWN habits of spoiling him.