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?
p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.