I don’t really enjoy cleaning. So when my kids – ages three and two – each started showing small interests in helping, I took advantage of the educational opportunity! While their willingness to help clean is not a huge help to me just yet, I know it will be in the future. But it’s not just that – I think this also allows them to feel more a part of the family while having a role in the overall picture of what it takes to run a household. And in this house, every member of the family pitches in! Here is a list of chores we’ve started doing with our toddlers:
1. Unloading light items from the dishwasher.
Since both my kids have always had a fascination with the dishwasher, this was a natural progression. After multiple attempts to get them to stop playing with it, they each have instead started picking up items on the bottom rack and along the top rack edges that are within reach. Some heavier items require a little help on my part, but they are still “handing it” to me to put up.
2. Putting dishes into the sink.
Whey they are finished with bowls after snack time, plates after meal time, silverware or cups, they put them in the sink. Most of their dishes are plastic, so it doesn’t hurt that they take a long fall (or sometimes a swift throw). The younger one isn’t quite there yet since he can’t reach the counter.
3. Throwing trash away.
Again, since they seemed to be obsessed with touching the trash can, why not make it productive? They throw away their paper plates, snack wrappers, wipes, napkins, etc. The three-year-old can push the top open herself and was pretty excited when she figured it out. Now she also does it for her brother to help him throw his trash away.
4. Taking clothes out of the dryer and putting into a basket.
They love to follow me into the laundry room. So I started letting them pull the clothes they could reach out of the dryer and into the basket. Sometimes they even “help” me carry the basket wherever it needs to go.
5. Picking up toys and putting away.
Bins, bins, bins. Their play kitchen food – SO MANY PIECES – all goes into bins that fit into their bookshelf. The living room toys all go into bins that fit into those bookshelves. The Legos and dress up items in my three-year-old’s closet play area all go into bins that fit into the bookshelf. Bins not only hide everything and organize, but they also give the kids a designation for all their stuff. Most bins have alike toys in them and the kids know where things go. We even sing the beloved “Clean Up” song as we go!
This one isn’t that effective just yet. The kids got a cleaning set for Christmas last year, complete with a broom, small broom and dustpan, duster, and mop. This was actually something our daughter wanted when she saw it in the store. So every now and then, one of them will grab the kid-sized broom when I’m sweeping and “help,” which really just results in them pushing the crumbs and dirt around. But they’re each getting good practice!