Toddler-Appropriate Chores

Toddlers make so many messes, and if I spent my whole day just cleaning up after my two I would be cleaning all day. Between literal spilled milk, toys, and snack disasters, there's always something to clean. Not to mention things that actually need to be cleaned like the bathroom, kitchen, or other household chores like laundry that need to be done. But I realized early on that encouraging my kid to clean and pick up after themselves would help my day tremendously. It's a journey but it's definitely worth it. But how do you start that journey? Honestly it's combination of teaching, enforcing and encouraging the natural inclination within children to want to help. So first, I started by teaching my daughter that we would clean up her toys at the end of the night. I started once she understood where toys went, around one and half years old. I would make her pick everything up she had taken out. I wouldn't help no matter how long it took. This meant starting the process earlier so we made our other scheduled activities. It won't always take this long but teaching her to stick with a task was important to me. Once she understood nothing else could happen until everything was picked up, she was more willing to pick things up faster. The caveat to this is that all kids are different. My son needs more attention to fully focus on this task even though he knows the rules. But I remain vigilant in hopes that it will pay off one day lol. Once I realize you understand and can successfully complete a task, I make you start helping with that chore. Once you have successfully mastered something without my supervision, I no longer see a reason [for me] to do it anymore. It's now your responsibility within reason.

Another thing I realized is that kids are always watching and they want to help. At 2, my daughter loved to help pull items out of the dryer and put them in the basket. One day I ran upstairs to get another load and came back down to an empty dryer. She had pulled everything out of the dryer and put it in the basket. Once I realized she could complete this task herself unassisted it became her thing. Thankfully in this instance my son caught on quickly. Their current laundry duties include loading and unloading their clothes into the washer and dryer and then back into their basket. My daughter can put away her clothes once they are folded. My son is learning where everything goes in his draws, once he masters that, it will be up to him to put his clothes away. My daughter has recently shown interest in learning to fold. *happy dance* Everything won't be this easy, but I enjoy the things that are.

Clearing the table is one the of easiest things to teach. All I require is that dishes are placed "gently" in the sink. Helping put groceries away (usually lower draw items like apples, potatoes, etc or pantry items) and cleaning up your own mess are also easy tasks that require little to no supervision. Our paper towels and regular dish towels are within reach of the kids, if they spill something they are required to try to clean it up first, within reason, before I step in to help. They are also required to take their things (jackets, shoes, socks, toys, etc.) in from the car and carry bags to and from the car. Since we live in a house with a garage they are also required to get in the car and start the process of buckling themselves in, I always double check this. Safety first!

Of course there are tasks that, at this time, will still need some adult help and supervision. But my kids are able to assist. They help vacuumput dishes in the dishwasher, and pack their suitcases but they are not required to complete these tasks alone. And of course, hygiene items like washing up and brushing teeth, in my opinion still require my attention. But they can get themselves dressed and put their shoes on, they have some dressing autonomy, but I have the final say. On the flip side, cleaning up their rooms (including making up your bed in my daughter's case) and playroom is a mandatory task, that has consequences if not completed. 

I know parents who allow their kids to cook their own food including using a knife to cut up veggies and cook on the stove. I know parents who allow their kids to iron their own clothes. I'm not there yet, but I definitely aspire to be there one day soon. As always do whatever works best for you and your toddler. My basic rule of thumb is if you show me you can do it, it will likely become your task. They haven't caught on to this yet, but it's my general rule for assigning toddler chores. The older they get the more I'll adapt to their strengths and/or wait for them to embrace (or be heavily coaxed into embracing) specific tasks. But as I explain even now, chores are a necessary part of life, they help keep things neat and in order. And as a small person they give you some responsibility, and an understanding and appreciation for the things you have. As a parent it makes me thinks I am preparing my child to be a more independent, responsible member of society and this family. Isn't that every parents ultimate goal?