Introducing Chores to Your Toddler

I’m on vacation for the next few days, so I would like to Thank Samantha from On Pink Bears and Pacifiers for writing up this wonderful post. Samantha is a stay-at-home-mom to 2-year-old Clara, and 7-month-old Audrey!

When it comes to chores around the house, I’m still learning how to do them myself – but I’d love for my daughters to know a little bit more about keeping a house clean than I did growing up (and therefore hopefully they won’t struggle as adults as much as I do now!), so I’m all over giving my girls some age-appropriate responsibilities now.

I’ve also heard it said again and again that because toddlers have a tendency to WANT to help you, the best time to start introducing them to household tasks is while they’re young enough to still be interested.

teaching-a-toddler-about-chores-sm

So I did what I always do when I become interested in a new project – I started planning and list making. Here are a few tips to follow when introducing new chores to young children:

  • Keep it simple! Basically the idea here is to make sure that any task given to a toddler to do should be simple to explain, and physically do-able for that particular child.  For very young children, introduce only one or two new tasks at a time, and let the child take some time (days or weeks) to adjust and learn each task before adding more.
  • Praise and encouragement. Toddlers want to help you around the house because they want your approval. At this stage – making sure they get that approval in the form of excited praise is the best way to ensure their continued interest. They love to know they’ve made you happy!
  • Set a time limit or deadline. If you have a child who dawdles, or tries to avoid a task by distracting themselves with other things, it may be a good idea to have a clear timeline for the job. Set a timer, play a clean-up song, or whatever works for you. Having a pre-determined consequence if the task is not complete can be a helpful motivator as well.

After brainstorming ways to get toddlers involved, I was encouraged to realize that there were many small chores that my daughter was already helping with regularly around the house.  Some of these are appropriate for a toddler chore or ‘daily task’ chart, and some are simply things they can do to help you when you are cleaning, or other small ways to help them get involved or introduce them to household responsibilities.

  • Put toys away. I don’t always expect my daughter to put away all of her toys by herself – especially if she’s had friends over and there is more than the typical amount of mess – but at the end of a playtime, I will invoke her help to clean up while I help her clean up as well. When we are in a hurry and I really don’t have time to wait for her to complete the job herself, it is important to me to make sure she still cleans up ‘until the job is done’.
  • Put clothes in the hamper. I still need to teach this one to my husband.  At any time of day when clothes are removed, it is a simple task to have a toddler carry them to the dirty laundry hamper.
  • Carry mail or newspaper. We are lucky enough to have our mail delivered to our door, but to send mail we need to walk down the street to the post box, and many people in our area have to go to the post box to pick up their mail as well. My daughter is thrilled to be involved in any part of the mail sending or pick-up, and can easily carry an envelope.
  • Make bed. Depending on their age, a toddler may not be able to do this on their own, but my 30 month old daughter can straighten the blanket on her toddler bed without any help from me.
  • Help Set & Clear the Table. At mealtimes, our daughter is responsible for her own dishes. They are small and plastic, so they can’t break and won’t cut her. We hand her the dishes from the cupboard (she can’t reach where we keep them) and puts them at her spot at the table.  Depending on the amount of food left on her plate (which is usually a lot), she would also be capable of taking her plate from the table and putting it either on the countertop or in the dishwasher.
  • Sweep the Floor. This one is more to give the child the allusion of helping, but toddlers love sweeping the floor.
  • Brush teeth. This one isn’t a chore, exactly, but it’s a daily task that I find sometimes gets missed in the daily shuffle – especially because I’m really bad at following any kind of routine if it isn’t written out for me,
  • Get dressed. Kind of like teeth brushing, this one isn’t really a chore, but it may be something to consider for a daily chore or ‘task’ chart. Clara and I struggle sometimes to get her dressed in the morning, and having the ability to ‘check’ it on her list might help motivate her.
  • Throw away garbage. I’ve had to keep a close watch on our kitchen and bathroom garbage bins for awhile, because ever since Clara realized what they were, she has been excited to help us throw things away. Now, whenever I am house cleaning and wanting to keep her somewhat busy, I will occasionally ask her to ‘take this to the garbage’. This is more to help me get something done, but it keeps her involved.
  • Dusting. We don’t have one yet, but I plan to get one of those microfibre dusting ‘mitts’. I definitely think this is something Clara will love to help me with.
  • Feed/care for pets. We keep our cat’s dry food in a plastic bin with a 1/2 cup scoop inside that is just the right size for little hands to dump into Kitty’s dish.
  • Turn off lights before leaving a room. I read this somewhere, and thought it was a neat idea to get children into this habit early. I think most toddlers wouldn’t be able to reach most light switches on their own, but it’s a good thought anyway.
  • Put away clean laundry. As early as 20 months (maybe even earlier), a child can be handed a stack of folded t-shirts and told to put them in an open drawer. I did this with Clara last fall to help get her involved pretty much as soon as she could walk and understand basic directions. I had to get over my perfectionism and be ok with some messy drawers, but it was worth it to see Clara’s pride at having been included.
  • Put away cutlery.This was the first kitchen task we had Clara do, and mostly it was because she insisted on helping us unload the dishwasher. We set up the cutlery basket from the dishwasher so that it was right next to the open cutlery drawer and had her sort the spoons and forks into the correct places.

  • Start the dishwasher. We give Clara the soap cube, and she places it in the little soap-drawer in the dishwasher and closes the lid. She then closes the dishwasher (with help) and pushes the button that she is instructed to push.
  • Help wash dishes. Also known as ‘Play in the sink’.  This is to keep her busy while I’m doing dishes – I fill my rinse sink with cooler water and make sure to only pass her the ‘safe’ dishes.  The dishes that I don’t want her to play with I quickly rinse myself and place on the drying rack. This way she can stand next to me (on a chair) and happily play in the water. This makes a crazy mess in our house, but being Mom to a toddler has meant that some messes I’m learning to deal with…
  • Pull weeds. With supervision, and as long as you’re not too meticulous a gardener, it should be totally doable for a toddler to help with this.
  • Water plants. This would probably also be best with a little supervision…
  • Natural consequence cleaning. This is a bit different than a regular ‘chore’, but I think it’s a great idea to get children involved in cleaning up their own messes as a natural consequence of their actions. My daughter was excitedly colouring on the inside of a giant furniture box that we had turned into a fort for her, and while I was in the other room her excitement spilled over onto her bedroom door and she scribbled all over it.

Hi! I’m Samantha from On Pink Bears and Pacifiers! I am a stay-at-home-mom to 2-year-old Clara, and 7-month-old Audrey. I blog about our life and adventures, while trying to keep track of our favourite activities, recipes and resources along the way.  I’m so excited to be here with Terrell Family Fun and all of you while Heather is away on vacation! Thank you Heather, for the opportunity to guest post on your blog!



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4 thoughts on “Introducing Chores to Your Toddler

  1. Shannon

    so awesome! We started a chore chart with Owen about a year ago – he earns stamps and when he gets 30 then he is allowed to pick out a new train. We haven’t done one in a few months – sounds like it’s a good time to start!

    Reply
    1. Samantha

      Thanks! I like the stamp idea too – I haven’t decided on any kind of reward system yet – that was a topic for a whole other post! 🙂

      Reply

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