Involving even your youngest child in chores and tasks around the house is setting a great foundation for good habits in the future. Here are a few ideas for including your toddler around the house.
Laundry: An Endless Call for Little Helpers
My 3-year-old loves to help with this task! Young children can carry or drag the hampers down the hallway to the laundry room. To help your child learn how to separate clothes into different piles, laminate colors of construction paper for your loads of laundry (whites, reds, darks, etc.) and place them on the floor. Your child can pile up the clothes that match with that color.
Kids can place dirty clothes in the laundry basket and push it down to the laundry room. Once you’ve put in the soap and turned on the water, have your little one hand you the clothes to put in the washer.
After the magic of washing and drying happens, the real work begins for our helpers. Have them pull out the clean clothes from the dryer into the basket, then carry the basket to the designated “folding area.” Demonstrate how to fold a washcloth, pair up socks, lay out underwear nicely in a pile, fold the baby’s bibs and stack the folded clothes into piles.
Even if you don’t know what you’re fixing for dinner at 5:00, you know you’ll eat something. With this in mind, enlist your “littles” for some table setting. Glasses, napkins, silverware, condiments and other items that will be needed during the meal can all be retrieved by young children while you’re chopping onions and flouring chicken. My daughter often helps tear up lettuce for salad, which is a great task for working on fine motor skills and finger strength for handwriting practice.
Once the meal is over, teach children to carry in their own plates and cups to the sink. Ask them to put away items that they can reach, as well as help you by placing items in the dishwasher as you rinse the food off in the sink.
While you take care of the plates and glasses, your toddler can assist with emptying the silverware. Remove the knives, but let your child handle the forks and spoons herself. This is a great task for sorting items, which is a very age-appropriate skill your child should be working on. In addition, she can gather up any kid plates and cups for you to put away in the cabinets.
Dusting, Wiping and Scrubbing
While you may not want to send your toddler off with a can of Pledge, a damp washcloth will do just fine. Teach him how to wipe the dust off of furniture, hand him his washcloth and send him on his way. Once the dusting is complete, little ones can help scrub sinks and clean mirrors (I recommend they wear a pair of cleaning gloves). You can spray the 409 while they scrub and wipe it down. The mirrors need cleaning, too, so spray a small section and let your toddler do the wiping.
Making the Bed
Your child can assist you in pulling up the sheets, putting pillows and any stuffed animal friends on the bed and folding blankets. It may look a bit wrinkly, but little ones will never learn how to do it until they try.
The Family Pet
At 3 years old, my daughter bears much responsibility when it comes to our miniature schnauzer. She feeds him twice a day, we assist her with the water bowls when he needs some, she stands at the back door calling for him to come in from outside and she puts him in his kennel when we’re leaving (and gets him out when we arrive back home).
We do our kids a huge disservice when we pick up their messes. Even my 16-month-old is capable of helping in his own way with putting toys away. Before moving on to the next activity, ask children to pick up some toys. Set a timer or play a song, indicating the length of time the children are to spend cleaning up. This will help you keep the clutter under control while at the same time teaching them responsibility.
Marisa Frymire loves the enthusiasm demonstrated by the “tiny helpers” in her family.