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You can probably start giving simple tasks to your child between 15 and 18 months, when he can usually walk without assistance, carry things around the room, and follow simple instructions. Most important, kids this age are interested in mimicking your daily routines, so helping with chores will probably thrill and fascinate them. Start by making your child responsible for her own things. Put boxes or stiff canvas totes around your child's room to make cleanup easier. You can label these with pictures so she knows where all her toys go. Be consistent in asking her to put her toys away, and set aside a specific time of day for this chore, such as right before dinner. You can also give your child specific tasks that you can supervise, like carrying place mats and napkins to the table before you set it or tossing dirty clothes into a laundry basket. Remember, it doesn't matter whether your child does a chore exactly right. What's important is that she gets used to -- and even enjoys -- helping you around the house. --Elizabeth Rusch
Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission from the August 2005 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.