Its important to establish chores for your toddler. Nobody likes playing maid if they aren’t being paid. However, more often than not, this is the story of every mom’s life. We create these tiny humans, and never realized how much work we are creating for ourselves. One way to combat a lifetime of housework and frustration is to simply teach these munchkins to help. Its possible to get kids to help clean up, but the trick is to start them early.
My son has always loved to help. Since he started walking at 9 months old, he has wanted to help with whatever anyone is doing. Granted, he isn’t always actually helpful. Especially when he was very small, but I have always encouraged the behavior in hopes in would stick around when he’s older. Here are 10 of the best chores for toddlers that I have found.
Pick Up Toys
Playing children create messes. There are times my house looks like a toy store exploded inside of it. This is par for the course with small children. From the time my child was around a year old, I have had him help with cleanup. We made it a game, and used one of the various “clean up” songs that are out there. We prefer the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood version. It started off with just picking toys off the floor and chucking them into a big toy box. Simple and easy for real little ones to do. As he got older, maybe around age 2, we started having more toy organization. He would not only have to help pick up his toys, but help sort them into the bins they go in. Now, at age 3, if I ask him to clean up his toys, he will do it by himself. Its not always a perfect job, but as a busy mom, I will take all the help I can get.
Clean Up After Meals
One of the chores we started around the same time my son started using a spoon and a fork on his own was clean up after meals. After a meal, we would hand him a paper towel or dish cloth and have him wipe down the tray of his highchair. Again, we made it sort of a game. He thought it was great fun. Now he helps wipe down the kitchen table after meals. Again, its not always a perfect job, but that’s ok. I will happily wipe it again when he’s finished. Its just the habit I am trying to instill in him at this point.
This chore is hard for even a small child to goof up. My son will take a wet towel and help with dusting any surfaces he can reach. Coffee or end tables, nightstands, small dressers…whatever their little arms can reach. I don’t suggest having this as one of your child’s chores if you have a lot of nice, valuable, or breakable knickknacks in your home, but if you have a toddler, I am assuming those types of items will be well out of reach anyway.
I despise sweeping, but for some reason, children find it delightful. I will never understand the fun and joy in it. The cool part is they make child size brooms and dustpans for pretend play. I say, put them to work! Your floors will probably not be spotless when they’re finished, but you are teaching a good habit early on.
So this one is great because the older they get, the more they can help. When my son was smaller, we gave him small jobs. For example, after I’d wash a load of laundry, he had two jobs. One was finding the used dryer sheet and putting it in the wastebasket. The second was finding all the socks and putting them in a pile so I could match them. As children get a little older, they can learn how to fold simple things like washcloths and towels. Then hopefully someday they will be folding their own laundry.
My 3 year old likes to help me start the laundry as well. We have a front loading washer and dryer in our house so he likes to help load. I sort the clothes into loads, and then I let him help me put the load in the machine. He also likes to push the start button.
Wiping Down Kitchen Cabinets
For whatever reason, no matter how careful I am, the cabinets in my kitchen always get stuff dripped on them. On top of it, whoever lived in this house prior to us decided to put in white cabinets under the counter top. They must not have had small children, because the color white and small children do not mix well. Keeping them clean is a constant battle in my house. That’s where my little helper comes into play. I give him a large bowl with a small amount of soapy water and a cloth and he will help wipe down the front of the cabinets. He thinks this chore is so much fun and gets to play with water so its a win in his book. I have him start at one end and I start at the other and we meet in the middle. Now, you will have to probably go through after and wipe excess water off the floor and touch up some missed spots, but overall it will be less work than scrubbing them all yourself.
Swiffer the Floors
My toddler is fascinated with the Swiffer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he obsessed. I started letting him Swiffer the kitchen floor. He thinks its fun to push the button and see the liquid come out, and then wipe it away with the Swiffer pad. Again, I don’t get the joy, but I’ll go with it. This task will take some close supervision at first. You want to make sure the child doesn’t empty an entire bottle of the solution in one spot, or leave giant puddles everywhere. We made a game out of this chore. Now, I think he does a better job than I do, and he certainly enjoys it more.
Help Make Beds
Some chores they will only be able to help with. This is one of them. However, its a good learning opportunity for them. They can do things like help you straighten sheets or comforters, hand you pillows, or help arrange the pillows on the bed. I take the time to explain each step to my son, so that as he grows, he will be excited as he can do more and more himself.
This may also require some help from parents, but again it will teach your child the responsibility of caring for a pet. Once they have a good grip on their motor skills, they should be able to scoop dry food from a bag or container into a dish. There may occasionally be a spill, but they can help clean that up too. All good habits in my book.
Putting Away Plastic Containers
I keep all of my food storage container in a low cabinet. When I am unloading the dishwasher, my son helps by putting the plastic containers in the cabinet for me. He also helps me sort and organize this cabinet frequently because I tend to make a mess of it when I’m in and out of it all the time.
I really believe that starting my son early on these little chores has instilled in him a love of helping. I plan to encourage this for as long as I can and find more and more ways he can assist in daily tasks. What are some chores your children help with? Leave them in the comments section.