10 chores your toddler can do

9 chores your toddler can do
I’ll admit: I need to constantly remind myself to include my toddler in daily chores. As much of a fan that I am of kids participating in household duties, sometimes I forget that my toddler would probably benefit from helping me wash the dishes or worse, just do it myself for time’s sake. Because while wiping the dining table takes me all of 15 seconds, including a toddler can easily take 15 minutes. And what mom has 15 minutes to spare?

Still, I do my best to make sure that my two-year-old continues to do his chores. After all, one big goal for parenting is to raise future adults. And most adults will need to learn how to do chores and look after themselves. So, while helping a child water the plants even though they’re really not doing much other than holding the handle of the watering can seems silly, doing so ingrains in their head early habits of self-sufficiency and pride.

Chores are also another way for kids to feel proud of their accomplishments. Okay, so placing their bib and utensils on the dining table may not seem like much fun compared to painting and crafting, but chores still offer kids a chance to complete a task on their own. And if they’re still young enough, chores can even be just as fun as any other play activity (hey, they don’t know any better, right?).

Not only does doing chores early on prepare them for adulthood and give them reason to feel proud, but taking part in running the household gives kids the feeling of being part of a community and contributing to its well-being. If mom and dad are the only ones doing chores, kids may lose out on a chance to feel like they can take part in family duties and share a common bond.

In my quest to involve my son in daily chores, I’ve listed below a few of the ones that he and other young children can easily do:

1. Water the plants
Like I mentioned, this chore involves my toddler holding the handle of a watering can as I tip it into the plants. He’ll also water the vegetables we’re growing outside since he likes to see the water sprinkling from the can.

2. Cook in the kitchen
When we make a salad, I pre-chop the ingredients—green onions, for instance—and have my toddler scoop them into a big salad bowl with his hands. LO also helped me bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, stirring the batter and tipping the measuring spoons and cups into the bowl. Warning: baking and cooking with a toddler can be seriously messy, so just prepare yourself for when he swings flour and batter all over the floor and repeat to yourself: “This is a learning experience… This is a learning experience…”

3. Set the table
My toddler likes to put his bib, napkin and utensils on the table.

4. Sweep the floor
Here’s where I need to purchase a child-size broom for the little guy. For now, he loves helping hold the broom as I sweep the floor. I also read a great tip from How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way: using colored duct tape that can be easily removed, make a square on the floor and have your child sweep all the dirt into that square. That way, they’re not just sweeping to sweep but are actually trying to move the dirt to one area. The tape helps them identify where exactly on the floor their spot is located.

5. Get the mail
My toddler likes to go through the mail box as I hand him the ones that can be tossed or recycled. I then hand him some of the envelopes that I plan to keep as he carries them into the house.

6. Put toys away
What better way to transition to bedtime than to encourage putting toys away? At this age, putting toys back into their tubs and boxes can be a game in itself, so take advantage!

7. Dust with a rag
Recently my husband had LO clean every table in the house as part of their “game.” My husband would spray the table and LO would quickly wipe with a rag. Oh, the bonding…

8. Place clothes in the hamper and help with laundry
When my toddler changes in his room, we have him put his clothes into the hamper so that he knows where his dirty clothes go. When we do laundry (again, another one that I really should include him on, but man, not having your own washer and dryer seriously puts a damper on this), I hand wet clothes to LO as he puts them into the dryer.

9. Change bedsheets
When I tell my toddler it’s time to change his bedsheets, he gets a kick out of removing all the blankets and pillows and toys from his bed so that I can remove the sheets and pillowcase. Similar to number 8, he also likes to put the dirty sheets into the hamper.

10. Wash the dishes
My toddler’s height now enables him to stand on a little step and help wash and dry his dishes.

Some pointers to remember as your kids do their chores:

  • Make it fun! I don’t know the last time spraying and dusting was so much fun, but apparently my husband and LO have made such a game out of it that he actually enjoys cleaning. When we clean up his toys, we also count the pieces we put in, or try to shoot them into the bucket, or collect all the green ones first, then the red next, and so forth.
  • Let your child do the chores his own way. Sure, you could probably do a better job of dusting, and your kid may have even missed a spot here and there, but the point is for them to participate and have a positive attitude towards cleaning. If you need to, follow up with an extra wipe, but allow your child to clean his way (this applies to husbands too).
  • Praise as he goes along. I try to give more descriptive praise than evaluative. What’s the difference? Descriptive is recounting what he’s doing with no judgment: “Wow, you’re putting the toys away all by yourself!” Evaluative is placing an opinion—even positive ones—on the task: “Wow, you’re doing a good job putting the toys away all by yourself!” With less emphasis on extrinsic rewards such as evaluative praise, he’ll hopefully learn to feel pride in doing the job itself, regardless of whether anyone was there to praise them or not.

Even though doing their chores for them is so much faster and probably better done, including kids in chores sets them up for a positive experience with cleanliness, responsibility, and pride at a job well done.

What chores do your kids participate in around the house? Do they consider chores an enjoyable activity?

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13 thoughts on “10 chores your toddler can do

  1. Our daughter helps in most of the ways you listed. She particularly likes changing the bed sheets as we usually make tents and caves as we’re doing it. It takes forever but it’s fun.

  2. Yes! I’ve come to the realization that my daughter loves to help with chores! Her favorites:
    Laundry- putting the wet clothes in the dryer & taking the dry clothes out and putting them in the basket.
    Dishes- drying dishes & loading the dishwasher
    Setting and wiping down the table
    Cleaning up her blocks (sometimes she’ll do this without being asked! Shocking)
    Throwing things away in the trash
    I think it gives her a sense of independence. It’s pretty cute snd I’m so glad she has a positive outlook on chores…at least for now!!

  3. I need to be better about including Eli in chores. I usually end up doing them during naptime so that we can play when he’s awake, but you’re so right about chores being a good teaching tool for raising our children into responsible adults.

    We bought Eli a little broom on Amazon a while back… he’ll sweep on his own sometime. Love the tape idea! He also likes to help me back. I measure the ingredients and he puts them in the bowl. I’ll have to do the salad thing with him… maybe it’ll encourage him to actually EAT those veggies!!

  4. Love this post! My parents always had my sister and I do chores and I really think it has been beneficial to us. I definitely want Luke to learn to pitch in. At what age do you think a toddler can truly start helping?

    • The earliest recollection I have of the little guy doing chores was when he was 18 months old or so. I remember the first “chore” he had was putting his special lovey (blankie) on the couch before eating. The idea was that we didn’t want lovey to get dirty since he sleeps with her and had her with him all the time. So we would ask him to put her on the couch, and eventually he started doing this on his own without asking (still does to this day!).

      The second earliest chore I remember around the same age was putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. I started off opening the closet door for him but he would grab his clothes and plop it in.

      I don’t think there was a set age I was going for; just that I noticed that I can start asking him to do things… and he would! So I figured, okay, you’re ready to take some instructions… let’s start with chores hehe.

    • No he’s actually not in preschool (still debating it!). I’ve read up on Montessori though and liked most of the ideas in that book, particularly with helping them be self-sufficient.

      You’re studying to be a Montessori teacher, right?

      • I agree. That’s the idea that attracted me to Montessori in the first place.
        And yeah, I am. Getting my B.A. and license in Early Childhood (birth-3rd grade) then getting a separate license for Montessori. And Lucas will be going to a Montessori preschool in the fall.
        I really like your post because when I saw the list my first thought was Montessori lol. I definitely recommend it. I did my share of school tours until we decided on the one he’s going to.

  5. Oh yeah, seriously, let them help while they’re eager! My oldest daughter is still an excellent mama’s helper at age 12. My son, at age 9, not so much. He goes in spurts, but we keep reminding him there are things we expect him to do automatically and help out with as a member of the fam and other things he can earn rewards/treats/allowance by doing. The younger tots usually get excited over new found independence in helping out around the house.

  6. My 14-month-old helps me mise en place (except for onions and garlic). I put him in the bjorn baby carrier (for big kids) and we prepare the ingredients for 20 minutes tops (that’s how long I can carry him for). When I’m ready to put the different ingredients in the bowl, pot, pan, etc. he watches me. Then, I always help him stir the food with a giant spoon.

    He also helps me put his toys away from whichever room we are in. He likes to help with the laundry (although, he mostly just hands me the clothes I fold and then i have to refold them again).

    I can’t wait until we can bake together, set the table and sweep. I know he’s going to have a blast.

    Thanks for the book recommendation (How to Raise and Amazing…). I’m going to put that on my reading list.

  7. These are all great ideas and thanks for pointing out in the comments how you got it all started. Livi is slowly showing an interest in helping out. She actually likes to put things back in their place once we are done with them, like her books and toys. She even puts books back on the shelves when we are at the bookstore, lol.
    I have found to just let her lead and trust that she knows when she is ready to learn something new, so I will keep an eye out for signs that she is ready to try out some chores. Maybe now I will finally get to do some of the housework during the day instead of at night. 🙂

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