Mr. Dolphin and I strongly believe that every member of our family should contribute to our household. We’ve done simple chores off and on for Lion since he turned about a year, but have really started enforcing them more recently. For Mother’s Day, his daycare hosted a tea party and in the lead up to it, his class had a session on good manners. Ever since then, Lion has been obsessed with having good manners and we’ve framed a lot of chores in that way. Panda, of course, loves to participate in whatever Lion is doing and is at that age where he wants to help with just about everything. In fact, chores with toddlers are really great because kids at this age love being helpful. They want to do adult things and for them, chores seem to be like play!
When the kids participate with the chores, we give them praise and thanks. Because they’re toddlers, I also don’t worry about the chores being done perfectly. I want to encourage them to do the chores and don’t want them to feel like I’m constantly criticizing, which would make chores decidedly less fun.
Here are the chores that our kids (currently almost 3 and almost 18 months) are involved in:
Bringing plates from the dining table to the sink. This is probably the chore that gets completed every day without fail. When Lion and Panda get down from the table, they carry their plates to the kitchen and place it on the counter next to the sink. Panda loves this chore and will come back to the table and try to grab silverware, cups or anything else that remains and bring it over to the sink. Lion likes it too and whenever Panda tries to take his brother’s plate for him, Lion gets mad and says, “No! That’s my plate! I have good manners!”
Dirty clothes in the hamper. This was Lion’s first chore and he used to be really good about it, but we’ve fallen a bit out of practice. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. One of the reasons why we’re inconsistent is that we often put Panda to bed (on non-bath nights) before Lion’s changed into his pajamas and the hamper is stuck inside their shared bedroom. Still, it’s a very easy chore that can be very early. We would just ask Lion or Panda to put a shirt in the hamper and they got the hang of it quickly, even without us asking.
Wiping up spills. While the kids might not be perfect at cleaning up every drop of liquid that has spilled, they can do a reasonably good job with a paper towel. Lion will often ask for a paper towel if he’s spilled some water, clean it up himself, and toss the towel in the trash. Panda, too, will grab the dish towel from the handle of the oven and clean up water if he sees it on the floor.
Throwing away trash. Our kids love throwing away trash and recycling and they know the difference between the two. Whenever we open something or find a piece of trash, they are eager to run off to the trash can or recycling can. This is another very easy chore for young toddlers, but keep a close eye on non-trash items. When Lion first took an interest in throwing things away, he would pick up just about anything on the floor and head for the trash can.
Bringing items to us. When Lion was 18 months and Panda was a newborn, Mr. Dolphin would often mix up the formula while I breastfed. When I was done, I would ask Lion to go get the bottle for me and he would eagerly run to the kitchen and ask Mr. Dolphin, “Milk for baby?” then bring the bottle back for me. He would also throw the bottle in the sink when Panda was done with his meal. Today, we often ask Lion and Panda to get their shoes or jacket. If they want to read, we ask them to go pick out a book and bring it back.
Putting away their toys. This is a rule that we’re not great at enforcing, but we do try to get them to put away one toy before moving on to the next. Especially at the end of the night, I like Lion to clean up whatever he was playing with. To be honest, more often than not, this is me putting away 90% of their toys and getting them to put away the other 10%. I will say that when they start cleaning, they’re great at it and both kids like organization (perhaps that’s a toddler thing). If we enforced this rule more, I think we’d actually have really great success because they apparently both do an excellent job of it at school. A number of Lion’s teachers have called him a “super cleaner” and note that he’s always the first one to jump in to clean and will get upset if other kids aren’t cleaning, too.
This is typically what our living room floor looks like: a mess of trains, cars and magnatiles.
Cooking. One of my favorite activities is cooking. It has always been something that I have enjoyed and reduces stress for me. I hope to pass along this hobby to my kids and they enjoy helping in the kitchen. Lion has spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen with me and can use a wavy chopper to chop vegetables, pour in spices and ingredients, help stir, scoop flour or other ingredients with a measuring cup, roll out dough and much more. Panda is just getting into the sous chef role now and we’re still working on him doing more than trying to taste test everything, but we all enjoy it.
What do you mean no taste testing?!
Carrying groceries. Lion loves helping us carry groceries from our car up the stairs. Sometimes, we will take a bunch of stuff out of a bag and redistribute so that he has just a couple of light items to bring up. We will also have him help put away some of the dry goods.
Sweeping/mopping/vacuuming. So, I’m not exactly sure how much help it is when the kids “help” with these chores. Still, we want to encourage their participating in household chores and because anything we do, they want to be a part of, this goes on the list. Lion gets a kick out of pushing the giant sweep broom around.
Brushing teeth, washing up, etc. Does this count as a chore? I’m not sure that brushing teeth, bathing, washing hands, getting dressed are really chores since they’re more personal tasks than household ones, but I’ll go ahead and put it on here anyway. I will say that they definitely need our help to make sure things are really clean, but they love to practice with teeth brushing and bathing so we will let them have at it and go over it again ourselves. We are still working on their ability to dress themselves, since Lion has never had much of an interest.
Singing “wash wash wash” while scrubbing.
What other chores are appropriate for toddlers?