How to unload the diswasher with a curious toddler underfoot

IT CAN BE DONE. From Linda:

Here’s how I manage to load and unload the dishwasher with a toddler (18 months) who wants to be involved with EVERYTHING I do: while she is sitting in her toddler chair, I give her the utensils rack from the dishwasher and several spoons. The other morning she spent several minutes – yes, minutes! – moving the spoons around to the different compartments while I was able to unload and load the dishwasher. She likes having the shiny, grown-up spoons and the power to decide which spoon goes where. I like having a few minutes to deal with the rest of the dishware.

Related: Let toddlers pour beverages over the open dishwasher door


  1. KW says

    My 18th month old loves to “help” me unload the dishwasher. She stands at the dishwasher and pulls the utensils out one by one, then hands them to me and I put them away in the drawer. By the time we’re done putting the utensils away (it’s a slow process!) she has had her fill of helping and I can quickly put the plates and glasses away myself. We only put forks, spoons, and butter knives in the dishwasher and they are handle-up so she never touches anything sharp.

  2. says

    We did that – it worked well. Now it’s my 2.5 yo’s job to put sort the utensils. I bring the basket (minus sharp knives, etc.) from the dishwasher and the utensil holder from the drawer to the coffee table and she puts them all away. Then we go back to the kitchen and she pulls the dishes out and hands them to me. She does a really good job, using both hands and wiggling the dishes to get them out. Takes longer, but it’s more fun for both of us.

  3. michaela says

    This would work for me *if* I could get my 2-y.o. to stop licking all the silverware!

  4. amy says

    There is no way my 20 month old would sit in a highchair while I did that. That’s the whole problem to begin with. They want to help, not sit in a chair and watch.

  5. natalie says

    I keep all my toddler’s plates and cups on a low shelf so that she can put her own dishes away. It keeps her busy while I unload the rest of the dishwasher. It took some reorganizing of my cabinets to accomplish this, but it’s so worth it!

  6. says

    I take out all the big knives quick and then I let my 20 month old put away all the silverware. He can just barely reach over the top of the drawer where the silverware goes but he carefully carries all the spoons, forks and knives all over and dumps them in the drawer. Once in a while he gets the wrong drawer.

    I sort it later.

  7. says

    It can move very quickly from playing to sorting and from sorting to putting in the drawer (in the right place)

  8. Lisa says

    I try to make a habit of loading after dinner when my husband can watch my son, running it afterwards. Then, I can unload in the morning while he eats breakfast. Works great for me.

  9. hedra says

    We also do the ‘enable them to help so they can learn to help more effectively over time’ thing – low drawer for their dishes, they can (and do) put them away. They also help putting away everything else (except the sharp stuff) at this point, and also will help with the loading up and putting in soap and closing and starting. It always takes a bit longer when we have help, but that’s part of the deal, yes? That by participating in all aspects of our lives, they learn the skills they’ll need later.

    I’m chuckling about the licking silverware… yeah, have had that experience, too. But they don’t do that anymore, grew out of it on their own.

  10. twinshere says

    I have “helpers “…twin 2 year olds and I also try to be patient and let them be helpful when unloading the dishwasher (I grab all the sharp knives first, they have their own drawer for plastic cups,melamine bowls etc and a cupboard for sippy cups-yep a whole cupboard full of those suckers) because the 9 year old has NEVER done it! However I draw the line at loading the dirty dishes and allowing them anywhere near a dishwasher tablet. Note to self..ask 9 year old to unload the dishwasher tonight!