5 Tips for Toddler Chores

You can probably predict it by now; once you get started on tackling that list of projects around the house, you’ll hear a little voice hollering “Me help?”

Tempting as it may be to say, “Not now, honey,” on a busy day, try out one of these simple tips for turning that little bundle of energy into a real helper! (No, we’re not talking “slave labor” here; just teaching a few basic skills and investing in quality time together.)

Toddlers are often still fine-tuning their motor-skills and vocabularies, but they’ll love “working” alongside you (even if they forget to actually use soap when they’re washing once in awhile). Learning to do basic chores helps toddlers balance between their eager-to-please natures and growing desire for independence.

•    Put in/Take Out

An important developmental skill for little ones, toddlers love to put objects inside bags or boxes (and take them out). Let them use this skill by helping with the laundry! As you toss the dirty clothes into the washer, your toddler can pull the clean load out of the dryer and put it into the laundry basket. Stay close by to give a helping hand, and supervise for safety.

•    Pick Up

You know your toddler can pick up his/her own toys now, and they’ll love putting this skill to use when you’re doing yard work in the lawn! Little hands can carry armfuls of lawn clippings, raked leaves, weeds, rocks, and more. Show them how to carry items to a yard debris pile or bag, and work alongside them. Sure, they may stop to look at a bird or bug in the yard, but they’ll love being with you.

•    Clean-Up

Give them a clean, damp rag to wipe up their lunchtime crumbs in the dining room, muddy footprints from the doorway, or after “craft time.” Using natural cleaning solutions (such as a baking soda & vinegar mix or other natural blends), is a safe way to let toddlers help you scrub the kitchen or bathroom. They’ll be thrilled to help dump in some baking soda, hold the toilet brush, and wipe down mirrors or walls (at least the lower 3 feet). Supervision is important, or they might end up painting the walls with toothpaste, but you really will have a clean bathroom!

•    Pouring

Toddlers love to pour. (How many times have you said “No pouring!” at the dinner table?) Rather than dumping out their milk, toddlers can put this skill to use in the kitchen. Seated in a high chair with a small basin of water on their tray, they can “wash” their dishes next to you, as you do the dishes at the sink. If you have pets, they can help pour out the animals’ food or water into bowls. (My children love to help feed the chickens!)

While preparing meals, move the pots and bowls lower (a child-sized table is great, or even the floor!), and let them pour in the cups of lentils, chopped veggies, rice, or water that you’ve measured. This may slow down cooking time a tad, but it does wonders for cheering up that cranky pre-dinner hour!

•    Put Away

Toddlers love habit and routine. They can quickly learn and remember where items belong. Let them help unload the dishwasher by putting away the unbreakables. (Starting at about a year-and-a-half, my toddlers have each insisted this job can’t be done without him/her!) Store items such as measuring spoons or plastic food storage bowls in lower drawers for ease. Our family stores silverware in an Ikea “bucket rack” that hangs on the wall within reach, and children love to help sort the silverware. (Yes, they may end up playing with a few forks or licking a spoon, but just keep watch, so the guests don’t end up with a slobbery spoon.)

Although easily distracted, with a short attention-span, toddlers really can be diligent- and love to help!
Your chores may take slightly longer to allow for some teaching, but that’s what being a mama is all about, right?

Does your toddler have favorite “jobs” around the house?

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7 comments to 5 Tips for Toddler Chores

  • Great Tips Michele! We have our son help us with his sister a bit (can you get me this, can you go sing a song to her) and have him set the table. How old is your little guy? Having a toddler boy is an amazing, though exhausting, thing.

    [Reply]

    Michele Reply:

    We now have a 5 1/2-yo, an almost 3-yo, and an almost 3-month old. :)

    [Reply]

  • I give my kids their own little dustpan and brush, as well as a spray bottle filled with water and a tablespoon of vinegar along with some clean rags. They use these to clean up their little table and the floor around it. They also wash the window nearest their snack table and sometimes the big kitchen table.

    If they get a little water here or there it really doesn’t matter as it’s only water. They love these “chores” and things are actually much cleaner around here!

    I also keep a dustmop in the pantry and they are allowed use it at will.

    [Reply]

    Michele Reply:

    Great ideas! Mine love to use their little dustpan & broom, too. I keep a stack of old towels handy for the inevitable spills of water, and a basket of rags they can reach, too. :)

    Thanks!
    Michele

    [Reply]

  • Maryanne

    Great ideas. My son, who will be 3 next month, loves to help put away clean eating utensils. He’s getting pretty good at separating the small spoons & forks from the larger ones, & putting them in the appropriate tray. Our dryer is stacked on top of our washer, and I have him hand me the clean clothes from the wash, so I don’t have to keep bending to grab them. He’s way lower to the ground. :)

    [Reply]

  • I am so glad that I found your site. I look forward to digging through your posts. I love these ideas for having your toddler help with the chores. We have 5 kids with the youngest just turning a year so these will come in handy. They always want to help at the toddler/preschool stage so if we can encourage that love of helping instead of stifling it, we will have more helpful big kids:)

    [Reply]

  • Melissa

    I too just found your site and look forward to reading more of you previous and of course new posts! I am from Indiana and have started getting more and more into simple living myself. I have two boys 3 and 1 and another on the way and both were born at home in a birthing tub! It was the best experience and can’t wait to do it again for a third time!

    [Reply]

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