Teaching Your Toddler to Tidy Up

Kids really are amazing. They are so observant of the world around them and, of course, are excellent mimics. We’ve all heard tales of little ones repeating stories or words that they shouldn’t be saying. They are also great at mimicking our behavior. I’ve read the best way to teach a child to eat with utensils is to have her sit with you at the table and observe you. The same thing goes for chores, cleaning and other household tasks. Our kids really are watching what we do and are mirroring our behavior back to us.

Organic Chores

The first task my son ever did was to pick up the dog bowls. He watched us pick up the dog bowls every day (in an effort to keep him from playing in them) and he watched what we did with them. One morning I turned to squeals of glee and saw him standing at the door with the bowls to be “put away.” He was so proud of himself. My husband and I thanked him for being so helpful. He beamed. He was just shy of a year old. He now picks up the dog bowls every morning.  He also brings his laundry to his laundry hamper and throws it in. He loves these little tasks. They’ve developed organically out of our usual, everyday activities.  I think this is the easiest way to introduce tasks/chores for a child. Find something that is repetitive and simple to start. It is also helpful to model doing tasks. Watching dad do the dishes or mom sweep the floor also helps the child to develop an interest in trying out these tasks.

Encouraging Behavior

My son loves a good cheering on, but, honestly, don’t we all? Who doesn’t like to be praised and thanked for a job well done? Each time he brings the dog bowls or puts the laundry in the hamper we thank him. We thank him for his help and praise good behavior. “Thank you for being such a good helper” or “thank you for putting the laundry in the hamper.” We also make it fun. Picking up toys doesn’t have to be a bummer. Often times instead of telling him to put his toys away, we ask. We ask very specifically. Will you put your animals on the shelf? He gets so excited to put them there. I think the way we approach tasks and how we talk to our children makes a big difference. I can see the confidence building in him. By encouraging and repeating the name of the task he learns. Asking him to do the task builds his autonomy.

Having your young toddler start to do minimal tasks can help to establish good habits. I also love the sense of confidence it is building in my son. He takes pride in a job well done and he finds joy in these simple tasks. (I also love a toddler clapping for himself after completing a task).

Here are just a few ideas for simple tasks for toddlers

  • Putting laundry in the hamper
  • Helping to load the washing machine/dryer
  • Picking up toys
  • Sweeping (fun fact, if you have a Swiffer you can remove the middle piece of the handle and it becomes kid-sized)
  • Helping to put away groceries
  • Helping to unload the dishwasher

Start small, encourage the behavior, praise a job well done, and enjoy the smile on your little ones’ faces when they feel accomplished and see the benefits of their work.

A native of the New Orleans 'burbs, Melanie has lived in Baton Rouge since starting her bachelors degree at LSU. She earned her BA in Mass Communication and a master’s degree in Social Work both from LSU. In her professional life Melanie focuses on women’s mental health. Melanie and her husband Adam have been together for almost two decades. They have 2 bright and curious kids who keep them on their toes. When not working or moming Melanie can be found exploring yet another new hobby, trying to “get organized” and avoiding the laundry. She loves sitcoms, traveling, iced coffee and carbs.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here