Finishing household chores can be daunting when toddlers are underfoot and even more difficult to complete when the children want to help. Fortunately, the effort necessary to include children in the completion of chores from an early age offers several potential benefits. Completing chores can foster responsibility, independence, and an increased respect for self and others. Through household tasks, children can learn techniques for dealing with frustration and delaying gratification that may aid them in achieving solid academics and life skills that arm them for success.
Chores are also an excellent method for helping children understand gratitude. Children who recognize that effort is required for laundry to be folded, food to be made, and rooms to be cleaned are often able to more fully appreciate what and who they have in their life. Teaching gratitude goes far beyond getting children to say thank you more often to their parents. Gratitude is a life skill that is linked to happiness; being content with what you have, rather than always focusing on what else you want.
Toddlers who take part in simple household chores such as toy pick up or laundry sorting are inclined to verbalize pride in their accomplishment and to accept some responsibility for the home. Encouraging your child to take part in cleaning and other home related tasks demonstrates to them that they are trusted and capable beings. Children often want to help. The house is their home too and fostering that desire to contribute to the family helps a child establish identify and self-worth.
Encouraging toddlers to complete age-appropriate chores is part of early home-schooling. As with all teaching, lessons should be geared to the child’s ability level; expectations should be clear; modeling the desired behavior is helpful; and ample positive feedback is linked to getting more of the desired behavior.
When selecting chores for your children to complete it is essential that the chores be within their ability level. Children who are able to walk and carry small items can be asked to start picking up toys and putting them into a toy bin. Modeling the behavior expected of the child and giving very specific instruction such as, “Pick up the blue truck and put it in the toy bin, please,” will encourage compliance. Enthusiastic, positive and specific praise, “Great job putting that truck in the bin!” will increase the chances of your child helping again. As the child masters the skill, it is appropriate and sometimes necessary to make sure they understand the consequences of not completing a chore, such as toys left on the floor can be treacherous for others trying to walk through the living room unscathed. Also, completing a chore is a great way to teach cause and effect, “First you pick up your toys, then we can go for a walk.”
Young children, especially toddlers have very little within their control. Giving them the ability to decide simple portions of how the task is completed can also promote cooperation. Some simple suggestions include letting them decide in which bin a toy should be kept or in which order toys should be collected from the floor. Offering choices within a firm set of limitations can help keep the children engaged in the task. If they start floundering, more specific guidance and less choice may be needed.
Multiple methods are available to encourage young children to complete chores. Some of the easiest for toddlers include singing or playing a specific song when you want them to pick up toys. Other methods include making toy pick up a race or seeing how many toys can be picked up within a certain amount of time; we typically count to ten.
Chores that we have had great success in having our two year old complete on her own include:
- picking up toys before bath time
- putting books back on the shelf or in the book box
- putting trash in the trash can
- picking up dirty clothes and putting them in the hamper
- fetching a diaper or desired toy for the baby
Chores we encourage our two year old to help with include:
- sorting laundry and matching socks
- helping sweep and vacuum
- feeding the dogs/cats
- picking up leaves outside
- getting the mail
Supervision and encouragement are continually required to make sure that tasks are being completed as desired. More importantly, on-going acknowledgment of your toddler’s progress in both skill development and cooperation will help achieve the real goal: a competent, cooperative and responsible family member.
What chores does your toddler complete around the house? How do you encourage him/her to complete the chores?