21 October 2008

Toddler chore ideas? Talk amongst yourselves.

SE asks:

My son is two and a half and we are expecting another baby in a few months. I would like to start my son on doing some small chores around the house to help him develop a sense of responsibility/independence. We currently have him clean up his own toys (although that doesn't always work) and he takes his dinner plate to the sink. Other than that, I am at a loss... what chores work well for young children?

Well, at 2.5, I think he's doing pretty well with the toy cleanup and dish clearing! I think, at that age, just reinforcing the concept that "families work together" and "we all pitch in" is good enough.

As for specific chores, however, many folks here have mentioned two popular tools: the spray bottle and rag (good for "cleaning" the table or dishwasher front, and the Swiffer (good for "sweeping"). Sorting clean socks while you're folding laundry might work well, too.

Any other ideas? How early did you start your kids with chores, and what did you start them with?

Related:
Swiffer Carpet Flick puts your toddler to work
Let your toddler "help" clean the bathroom

Your comments

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We have our 2 year old setting the table for dinner. Forks, spoons, napkins, salt and pepper. Obviously no knives yet though. And I have her help me with laundry. I let her try to match up socks then I fold them and put them away. She loves to help, so I take advantage of that as much as possible. Good luck.

My 15 month old helps with laundry. I hand her wet clothes from the washer and she puts them in the dryer. Or, if we are hanging them outside, she hands me clothespins.

If you have pets, feeding them is a good chore for a little person (with supervision until they get the hang of how much to put in the dish.) Our son is almost 3.5 and has been doing this on his own for several months now. I think this is an especially enjoyable chore for kids because pets are so interactive - they let you know when they are hungry and they show their appreciation for a job well done. :) As an added bonus, it's also helped our little guy to begin to learn to tell time - he knows that the dog gets fed at 5:00 and if she starts acting squirrely before then (as she often does), he will look at the clock and tell her, "No Puppy, it isn't 5:00 yet!"

we have our son set the tablecloths and napkins on the table for meals. We also organized his toys in bins with pictures on the outside, which has made cleaning up much easier for him - he can see where things are supposed to go and do it himself.

Around this age I would take all the dangerous things out of the silverware caddy from the dishwasher. Then I'd push a chair up to the counter, set the caddy up on the counter, open the drawer, and let my toddler practice sorting out the utensils into the tray. They loved this job. Of course, sometimes the big spoons were in with the little spoons, but that got better with practice.

I have a 2.5 year old boy and new baby also, and our son puts his dish in the sink and feeds the dogs. Also he throws trash away (be careful using the word "throw" though). Trying to get him to clean up his toys is just futile, although I'm sure helps at daycare!

Our daughter got started on a "shopping trip" to "buy" her clean clothes and then put them away when my wife was doing laundry. That worked pretty well. Taking dishes to the sink, of course. Pick up toys, books, clothes. For the baby in the house, help out in reasonable ways - bring diapers, bottles, wash rags, etc. Our daughter helped put things in the dryer, too, but that was a tough one at times just because she was so meticulous. :) We did the dishwasher thing as well. She still does that now.

It looks like we are on the same page with the rest of the commenters. One new thing I tried this morning (we'll see how it pans out long-term) is to have dd help sort the laundry by colors. Her dark clothes are all blue, purple, or red (no dark green and almost no light blue or purple for some reason?), so we worked together to put all the darks in one basket and left the rest in the other. I don't imagine it will be a perfect system anytime soon, but saving a little sorting for me, and providing some "helping" activity for her, seem worth it to give it a few more tries.

Starting as soon as they walk, both of my kids have helped unload the dryer. They love it and are upset if they found that I unloaded it while they were sleeping. Also, my son started around 2.5 making up his own toddler bed. He can do it alone if he didn't mess up the covers terribly in the night. Putting dirty clothes into his hamper is another chore. I am interested to see what chores other children are doing at young ages.

My son's doing similar things (putting toys away, taking his dish from table to sink, etc...) but I'm not kidding myself, he (and his older sisters) do that to make less work for mommy and daddy :).

Our 14 month old will take a old rag and "dust" for me. It is more of a game than a chore at this point.

My 3 y.o. daughter loves to feed the dog, and has been doing so (with reminding, of course) for about 6 months or a year now. She also likes to wipe off the table with a wet cloth after a meal. She returns all of the plastic bottles (ketchup, dressing, etc.) to the fridge after a meal, and often will put them on the table before the meal (if I'm not screaming, "Get out of my kitchen!" because she, the 1.5 year old, the husband, and the dog are all hovering...). She excels at throwing things (diapers, tissues, etc.) in the garbage for me. I'm hoping that she'll help us rake leaves this fall, too. We'll see.

Amy @ http://prettybabies.blogspot.com

Our elder, who is almost 3, insists on helping to unload the dishwasher, which means he hands me cups and dishes one at a time. When he spills bits of milk, I give him a paper towel, rather than wiping it up myself. That's about it so far.

I keep all the kids' cups and plates in a low cabinet so as I am unloading the dishwasher, they can put all of their own dishes away. I can also ask them to get a cup or bowl out when it is time for a snack. It was tough reorganizing my cabinets for this purpose (I'm kind of set in my ways), but it was worth it!

From the time he could walk until he was potty trained, we always had F throw away his own diapers. Also, the emptying of the dishwasher caddy and putting his own clean dishes/ cups in his drawer. He puts his used dishes/ cups in the sink (or on the floor for the dogs). He puts his own clothes in the dirty clothes basket and when I fold the laundry, he puts his items away in the proper drawers. He has been feeding the dogs since he was two as well.

mine likes to use the dustbuster and to put things in the trash can. he is not quite 2. also feeds the cat but not well--doesn't always get any kibble into the dish. (cat doesn't mind eating off the floor).

My son is now 3 and we have tried the star system.. the point system.. even the reward system and it has been a battle for sure. He is slowly getting the hang of understanding self rewards. Funny thing, he does do chores, and sometimes he enjoys the larger ones which he tackles like a beast and usually ends up messier but I figure its a start and we have fun trying to work it out together.

My 19 month old son puts the wet laundry in the dryer as I hand it to him (he can't reach the washer yet since we have a front loader on a pedestal) and can unload the dryer into the laundry basket. As I fold laundry I have him find all the socks and make a pile and will probably have him start pairing them soon. (An older child can fold washcloths and towels and sort socks.) He puts his dirty laundry in the hamper at night. He loves to vacuum but is not able to handle the large vacuum on his own so I usually vacuum and have him dry Swiffer to get in the corners and under the furniture. I do make him vacuum up his own messes when he drops crumbs on the floor. We just use the hose with a small attachment. Sometimes I let him help scrub the sinks with baking soda and water. He loves to watch it fizz when we add vinegar. We don't have regular chores for him at this age but I try to involve him in my chores so he'll be more willing to help out when he's older and more capable. He also stays out of mischief if he's helping me clean. I like the idea about sorting the silverware that someone else posted and plan on trying that next!

It's not easy to teach a small child how to do chores and I wind up redoing most of what he's done, but I know I'm making an investment in the future. If I teach him to do chores now, eventually he'll be able to do them alone and won't fight as much with me about doing them.

My 3 year old helps out with many of the mentioned chores. She loves to help with the laundry by first separating the clothes into "colors". Once this is done, we choose a color pile and she gets her stool and helps me put them in the washer. Once they are clean, she will hold the dryer open and push any "escaping" clothes back inside. She is in charge of getting the dryer sheet and putting it inside. Once the clothes are dry, she gets to match up the socks, fold the washcloths, and then put her socks and undies in her drawer.

We also let her take the fluffy duster and dust the tv and any surface at her level. She loves to help around the house and I am always looking for more ideas! Thanks everyone!

My kids have a small dust broom and pan. I am very pregnant w/#4 and when I see something on the floor I can point at it and ask either the 2 yr old or 5 yr old to sweep it up. Putting away kid cups and plates are one of their jobs, as well as helping advance the laundry.

I have a 2.5 year old, now almost 3 - and we are big on chores. While we find picking up is very overwhelming, we do everything else listed, laundry into dryer, silverware from dishwasher, stuff in and out of fridge, dirty clothes in the laundry etc etc.

One thing she really does a good job on that I didn't see mentioned is she goes and gets the empty hangers out of her closet and brings them to the laundry room, and she also hauls her laundry basket down stairs for me. (not that heavy), but she really is proud of her accomplishment, she usually loads her own clothes into the washer as well.

I forgot to add, and didn't see mentioned - she is responsible for putting her own shoes in her basket, coat on her hook, etc, when we come into the house.

Pojke was 26 months when we first started a "helper chart". A modified version 2 started in Sept. Each "chore" earned them .25 with an opportuntity for about $2-3 per week.

At 33 months, he is now expected to do the following as part of his family responsibility:

AM: teeth, clothes, pick up cars, toys, books off bedroom floor, and run the Swifter duster around the living rm.

PM: put away silverware, clean off "kid shelves' in kitchen, brush teeth.

For quarters, he has 2-3 things a day...things like going to get newspaper off porch, clearing table, "setting" table, bringing me bedrm/bath trash cans to empty into large kitchen one, tub toys into bin in bathrm.

Simple Mom has a pretty neat chore chart that she created for her preschooler. Might offer some inspiration:

http://simplemom.net/chore-chart-for-preschoolers/

"yard clean up relay".....my three line up on the patio and the each take turns running laps in yard retrieving toys.....meanwhile, you get to kick back and cheer them on!

We like putting our little ones to work getting the toys, cups, and other debris out from under the furniture. For pickup, we have baskets we give each kid and tell them to fill them up with toys from the floor and see who can get the most.

My kids love to help with the laundry. If you have a front loading washing machine they can put clothing in and take it out to put into the dryer. We have a top loader so I pile the wet clothing on the floor for them to put into the dryer. They love pushing the button that makes the dryer start.

I also have them help with the dishes. I will pull all the knives out of the silverware basket and then let them put the remaining items into the proper place in the silverware drawer. They think it is good fun.

My almost 3 year old helps me fold napkins, match socks and put away his clothes in lower drawers. He also helps load the washer or dryer sometimes.

His other main "jobs" are taking recycling items downstairs and picking up his toys.

He is just starting to help set the table for dinner and puts away his dishes from the dish washer.

He's incredibly proud to help out and loves doing all chores, except for putting the toys away. I think it has to do with that particular chore meaning playtime is over.

*folding and put away dish towels
*folding and putting away own underwear (as soon as potty trained, can begin doing this)
*clearing own dishes - even my new 2-yo does this...food ends up on the floor often, but we started this with my two older children when they were 2 and now they clear their own dishes after each meal & snack without asking (it was worth the mess)
*picking up own toys (we have bins labeled with both name and picture as to what goes into it - this helps getting things orgnized while picked up)
*sorting laundry (we have one big laundry bin for the whole family & then it is sorted by colors on laundry day - they LOVE doing this)

my 3.5 year old helps me sort and put away her clean laundry, feeds the cats, and puts her dirty clothes in her hamper. we also ask her for little things like running to get a tissue or clean diaper from the other room, as she is the big sister and therefore mommy's helper. *most* of the time she loves the responsibility of helping out, and we don't mind reciprocating if she (politely) asks us to do something she could really do herself. the big message we're trying to teach her - family members help each other out.

I have three children (9,7,3), and they all have chores for which they are responsible.

My youngest makes her own bed, picks up her room each night, and sits at the table during dinner (that's a tough one for her, but she's getting better!). We'll ask her to do other things, like take her dish to the kitchen or put dirty clothes in the hamper, but she has those few specific must-do chores.

Wow! You are all experts in getting your children to participate in household chores. I think what's key is that you are all having them contribute in some way. This teaches them that it takes the entire family working together to make everything run smoothly and they are feeling proud of their contribution. This can really go a long way. For now, things may not get done the way you'd do them and certainly not as quickly but kudos for you for making chores a daily part of their routine.

Most kids and two-year-olds in particular are far more capable than we tend to believe. Keep your eyes open for cues to more your children might be interested in or are able to do. You'd be surprised that a two-year-old can actually help with diaper changes, folding and putting away clothes, cooking, and even paying bills!

Also, consider giving a small allowance to your two-year-old. Be clear that it's not because you are paying them for the chores but because part of being a contributing member of the family is to have money to learn to manage. Fine line but one they can learn. Separate allowance into three sections: save, give, spend. See tools at h

For more tips on teaching children responsibility, see the book, Enjoying the Ride. It has a chapter with a list of all sorts of chores for kids at all ages as well as suggestions on how to handle chores and allowances. Check it out at http://www.mothersfriendsos.com.

My son who is now 4, but started at around 2, loves to help with the laundry. He will walks behind me when i bring it down stairs, "just in case" i drop anything, and than he helps me put the clothes in the washer, and when it comes time to switch, he will stand infront of the dryer, as i put clothes in a basket for him, and he puts all the clothes in the dryer!! He also loves to help set the table, he puts the plates out, and only about a year ago did we start letting him put the silverware out to!! He also used to love to chase me around the house with a hand held vacuum, while i used the full size one (he felt hwe was helping more than when he used the play size one)

Our 3 year old likes to help wash the dishes. This means she stands on a stepstool in front of me with a "washcloth" (we use an old baby facecloth) and plays with the suds in the sink, mostly. Just make sure the water's not too hot and watch for knives -- keeps her right close to me when I'm washing dishes. (She also likes the laundry as some other posters have mentioned.)

My 3 year old LOVES to match socks. Another good one is emptying the cutlery out of the dishwahser (I take the knives out, of course). It's kind of like a puzzle to him!

What is working really well for us right now is teaching the almost two year old where things go, and then later asking him to show me where the items go when I want him to put them away.

I ask him to help clean up, then I give him a specific cue for an item (his PJs for instance) and then ask him to show me where they go. He ADORES showing me things. Hopefully this will eventually move into him finding it fun to help.

My son just turned 2 and he's been helping to clean up since before he could walk. He picks up his toys, takes his dishes to the sink, throws things away and even has a little broom to 'sweep up'. When he stops being scared of the vacuum, I plan on teaching him how to do that. Kids will surprise you if you don't set limits.

Don't underestimate your little one. My 2.3 year old gets her milk from the fridge, unscrews the cap, and pours her milk! She just thinks she's the bee's knee's when she does this. All well supervised of course.
Also, laundry. I put all of the napkins, socks, towels and panties in the basket and when I'm done folding, I can focus on helping her. She gets sorting, folding, and putting away training.
Some frown upon it as slave labour but I tell you, it's more work cultivating a helper. In the end, though, your baby will thank you.
In about 20 years. :-)
Monique

One cool thing about the swiffer - you can take sections out of the handle and make a short kid-friendly version. My daughter loves having her own. she also likes to use the Mr Clean Magic block - it cleans so well and she really feels like she's helping. We've had great luck with the table setting and toy picking up, we also have the toys in specific bins by 'type' - things that go - cars, trains, etc all in one, etc. She loves to empty the silverware from the dishwasher with her own little basket.

Believe it or not, two and a half is not too young to start vacuuming. Make sure all the vents are open so that there's minimal suction, remove a tube from the hose to match his shorter height, and just let him go.

My grandson at first just loved the noise and the feeling of vacuuming, but as I pointed out bits he'd missed, he became expert at seeing all the dirt.

He's eight now, and still quite happy to vacuum. :-)

By age three, my boys did many of these same tasks. The one I don't see here yet is emptying bathroom trash baskets into something larger before trash pickup day.

This isn't really a chore, but I taught my 17 month old how to climb into the car and his carseat on his own. We had to show him (a few times) where to put his hands and feet to pull himself up, but now he dependably climbs all the way into and out of his seat on his own. We just have to buckle and unbuckle him. It isn't really time saving, but it does save us from lifting of a heavy toddler. And I think he likes that he can do it by himself.

My 2.5 year old daughter helps me to bring the groceries in from the car (only the light bags like the bread or a half gallon of juice). It lets her be a part of the "family chores" and lets her feel like she is a big helper.

I haven't seen any kitchen work in here yet -- maybe the wrong category?

We've had great luck with peeling garlic, from 2years+: ideally 3-4 cloves per kid per session (so think up something really garlicky to cook). Pop the cloves off the bulb, nip off the root part with a knife, and pass them over for peeling. It's virtually fool-proof:
- fun/interesting (especially for kids that like to tear up paper and other stuff)
- the raw garlic is hard to accidentally break, will survive being dropped, and (most) kids won't eat it after a first taste
- keeps them interested and in sight while you get on with the cooking
- the kids get the garlic-smelling fingers!

Seems a little much to be having a toddler do chores but we are creatures of habbit so I suppose starting while they are young is best. My almost 2 year old helps me unload the dishwasher. For some that may seem like a crazy idea but she loves it. I ALWAYS do the silverware basket to avoid any sharp objects but she can carry any pot or pan we have and put them away in the cupboard I ask her to. She will unload drinking glasses that are glass and I just grab them from her so there is no chance of breakage.

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