Simple Toddler Chores to Teach Your Child Responsibility

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Is it too soon to have my child help around the house? No! There are some great toddler chores that your child can handle even from a young age.

Young children have a strong desire to help as productive members of the household. As a mom, I want to encourage that desire to help around the house. I don’t want to live a life constantly cleaning up after my kids and pestering them to do chores. I want them to learn to take responsibility for their own messes, and to WANT to help mom and dad with things.

So, how do you encourage a kid to clean when they are toddler to preschool age? Won’t you just have to clean up after them? Yes and no. You may need to go behind them if you’re looking for perfection, and it will almost definitely take more time than if you just did it yourself. But in the long run, you are creating a child who knows how to be an active member of the household. They will grow up to be more prepared for life in the long run. I have found simple ways to encourage my son to help at home, that don’t just make a bunch of work for me. These are some simple toddler chores you can implement at home, too!

  1. Wiping up their spot after meals! I keep a pack of baby wipes at the kitchen table for wiping messy hands and faces. I started when my son was about 18 months old, but you can start sooner! By that age, he could easily use a baby wipe to practice wiping up any spills or crumbs at the end of mealtimes. While this doesn’t get the table perfectly clean, it is certainly an improvement! He loves cleaning up his mess… so much so that if I forget and reach over to wipe up a spill, he will insist “No, Mama, I do it!”
  2. Helping with laundry! It started with placing the empty clothes basket beside the dryer and having my toddler move the clothes from the dryer into the basket. Once the basket is full, he will “help” me carry it away. Then he helps move the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. I just hand him one or two things at a time, and he places them right in. While this is certainly slower than if I did it myself, it does save me a lot of bending over! He also loves pushing the buttons to start the washer and dryer. It helps to explain the steps you are taking that they can’t yet help with. I will say “now I turn the dial to the right setting” or “I’m putting the laundry pods in, that’s a job only grown-ups do”. Laundry has become one of his favorite “helping” events, and it certainly makes the chore a little more enjoyable for me too.
  3. Picking up toys! The dreaded toy cleanup can still be a tough sell, even with a toddler who loves to help. I have found that it’s really helpful to ask for help with specific tasks. Asking where a toy belongs is a great way to encourage engagement instead of emphasizing the end of playtime. I will ask “Where does this car go?” “Should we put the ball in this basket, or in the bin?”  “Do you think we can fit all of your animals in the barn?” This also makes the task feel less overwhelming. Think about when you have a lot of cleaning to do… it’s much easier to break it down into smaller tasks or by room, than to think “oh my gosh I have to clean this entire house.” Your toddler is the same. They will be just as overwhelmed by the pile of toys they’ve pulled out today as you are. Help them focus on one piece or type of toy at a time.
  4. Bringing dishes to be washed! At the end of the meal, even a toddler can carry their plate and/or cup to the dishwasher or sink. They can easily help dump scraps into the garbage or compost bin. If you use a Learning Tower, it’s easy to let them rinse their dishes in the sink as well. (If you aren’t familiar, Learning Towers are like safe stepstools to bring small children up to countertop height.) Even a young child can learn how to place their bowl into the dishwasher with a little guidance.
  5. Sweeping and dusting! Their initial efforts at sweeping will likely resemble vague swishing of a broom that seems to do more to spread out the dirt than anything. But a young child can learn to help sweep spilled food into the dustpan you are holding. Next time they knock their bowl of cheerios on the floor, make it a learning opportunity on how we clean up our messes! I love this set of cleaning tools, which has washable mop and duster cloths, in case your child is actually collecting some dust bunnies in the process. Children learn best through play, so the playful features of preschool sized cleaning sets help keep things fun and light. Another option is to drop few crumbled pieces of junk-mail on the floor and let them practice their sweeping skills! It’s always a good idea to make toddler chores more fun!

Children love to learn and help, and they naturally want to be active participants in the household. If it is encouraged early, they will keep that natural desire to contribute when they are older. And given an early start, they can be even more effective and helpful with their efforts. Although it may take some patience (and a little extra time), allowing your young child to help with simple household chores will be so rewarding! These simple toddler chores will instill a sense of personal responsibility in your child that will impact them forever.