For four years while I was in college I worked in the on campus daycare as a part of my work study program. I was in the toddler room (18 months to 36 months) and it was a fantastic learning experience in many ways, but one of the biggest things was that it showed me there is a lot a child that age can do by way of cleaning up and helping out. It made me realize that when I had children I wanted to make sure to teach them how to help out around the house from an early age
As it turns out, I haven’t had to do much to encourage them to help out because Hudson has always (ok, usually) wanted to do what Mommy and Daddy are doing, so if we are cleaning and working around the house, he wants to as well. Right now cleaning is mostly a fun game. Parker is only 15 months so it’s still early but he’s starting to show an interest too.
With both of my boys, the dishwasher was the first thing that caught their attention. I have NO idea what it is about that thing that is so special but they both loved it! As soon as either of them heard me open it to start unloading dishes, they’d come running to try to grab stuff out.
I took advantage of that and started letting Hudson remove the silverware from the dishwasher and put it away. That was his first real “chore” around the house. Parker is about to the point where I can start doing that with him too.
9 chore ideas for toddlers
(Note: there is a BIG difference between a one year old who is just starting to take interest in the dishwasher and an about-to-turn three year old who can fold laundry, so take this list and adapt it to whatever level is appropriate for your child.)
1. Unloading clean dishes
At first they will probably just be able to hand you items for you to put away. Before Hudson could see into the silverware drawer he would take every fork, spoon, and knife and dump them all in the same spot, then I’d go behind and sort them out. As he got older (and taller so he could see) he began sorting the silverware into the correct spots, putting plates, cups, bowls, etc. on the counter for me to put in the cabinets, etc.
2. Cleaning up after meals
Hudson can put his dishes on the counter or in the dishwasher after he is done and his cloth napkin in the container we use for dirty napkins.
I use a Norwex dusting mitt and dusting wand and while he doesn’t do a great job yet, Hudson likes to use them to dust off surfaces.
4. Spraying and wiping down counters and other surfaces
If you use a cleaner that is safe around children (please do!) then your kids can help with this. Hudson loves to spray my Thieves cleaner and wipe the table.
5. Picking up toys
This one is pretty much a given, in my opinion, that kids should help pick up their toys. We try to pick up the house every night before bed and while a lot of the time we do it after the kids are already in bed, Hudson often helps with this (or very slowly carries one toy to put away while getting distracted by 5 other toys…) while supper is being prepared.
6. Helping with laundry
This is along the same lines of picking up toys but putting away shoes and hats, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, putting clothes in the washer and dryer, etc. are all things your child can help with.
7. Folding laundry
At first Hudson would just hand me things to fold (it can be a great lesson in matching or “like items” – i.e. hand me all the cloth napkins, hand me all the diaper inserts, etc.), then he started making stacks of things, and now we’ve progressed to him folding rags/napkins/washcloths/small hand towels
8. Unloading groceries
From an early age Hudson loved to pull the groceries out of the bags when we’d get home. At first I’d quickly remove any of the breakable things and let him go for it, setting things on the floor. Now he gets everything out and puts it on the counters or table and helps put things away in the fridge or pantry
Helping out in the kitchen is a great way to get your child involved. Hudson loves to help stir ingredients and most recently has learned how to make deviled eggs. He cracks and peels the hardboiled eggs, I cut them in half, he squeezes the yolk out into a bowl, I make up the “filling”, and then he helps me pipe it back into the eggs.
This is just a sampling, obviously. There are so many other things your child can help do! My “philosophy” (if you want to call it that) is to let my kids naturally show interest in something and then teach them how they can help out. At this age helping out around the house is super fun because it doesn’t seem like work! (except cleaning up toys – Hudson never showed and maybe never will show any interest or excitement about picking up toys but it’s something that he has to do regardless!)
What do your kids do to help around the house? What else would you add to this list?