It's good to get in the habit of cleaning up after playtime. Encourage your child to put things back by establishing a home for his playthings. Books can go in baskets or on a bookshelf. Toys can go in a toy box, in baskets, or on shelves. Next, take a walk through your rooms and find abandoned toys. Make a game of pickup time by asking your toddler, "Do you see the truck? Where does it go?" You might be surprised that your toddler knows the answer without being prodded. But if he doesn't know, use this as a teaching moment--and make it fun. Pick up the toy and walk it its keeping place together.
Clothing is lightweight and easy to pick up off the floor, and it takes little effort to put it in its rightful place--whether that's in a hamper or down a laundry chute. Once you get the dirty clothes to the laundry room, reward your child for his good work by letting him assist with the laundry. Make a learning game of sorting clothes by color. Then they can help drop clothes into the washer.
Caring for a pet teaches children kindness and respect for living creatures. Your child can help fill a self-feeder by assisting you with the bag of food. If your pet is on a portioned diet, you can let your child measure the food using a plastic scoop and pour it into the food dish. Little ones can also help with watering. A small plastic pitcher is a worry-free way to pour water into the water bowl (provide towels for spills and show them how to clean up after themselves). If you have a rabbit, guinea pig, or other small pet, let your toddler screw on the top to the water dispenser.
Life is messy. Teach your children it's easy to clean up after themselves using a damp rag to wipe of floors. Older helpers might want to help wipe the table after a snack or meal. You don't need any chemicals to get the job done. It just takes water and a little elbow grease.
Let your child slip her hands into your stash of old, mismatched socks. If the socks have holes in them, you can flip the heels up so the palm of the child's hand is covered with the top of the sock, providing a solid surface for wiping. Tip: Athletic socks work especially well if you turn them inside out. Once those little hands are wrapped, put them to work wiping dust from books and bookshelves, end tables, and anything else that is safe to touch--and dusty!
Once you have your toddler safely out of his car seat, you can let him help you bring in the groceries and put them away. Give your child a nonperishable item to carry such as a box of crackers or a roll of paper towels. The key is to choose lightweight items that won't be damaged if they get dropped and mangled. Once you're safely in the house, you can begin to sort between items that go in the refrigerator and those pantry goods to be shelved. Teach and encourage your child to help by talking about what the package contains, fun ways to eat the food, and where the food should be stored.
Assign everyone a job and dinner will come together with ease. Little ones can carry napkins to the table and place one at each setting. They can bring spoons to the table, as well as plastic tumblers or sippy cups and any cold, dry foods that can safely be transported. Cheer your child on for a job well done.
It can take many years before a child can tackle this chore solo, but little ones will enjoy helping Mom or Dad by straightening his side of the bed. Working together, teach the child to start with the sheet and pull it up high by the pillows. Next come the blankets and any bed covers. Finally, fluff the pillows and plop them on top. It's OK if the bed is messy. By not going back and making things perfect, you send the message that you value your child's effort.
Every child learns differently. Some like the idea of earning stickers or love the thrill of putting a magnet over listings of accomplished tasks. A chore chart is simply a way to post chores and track your child's success at completing them. Your child earns a sticker or a reward once a chore has been completed.
Put on some music and even the dreariest chores are better. Teach your child to waltz her dolls to the toy box. Stalled-out toy trucks can bounce back to the toy box to the beat. Or, you can make a game based on how long the song is. For example: "Let's see if we can get all of these shoes put away before the next song starts."
If your toddler has a penchant for cleaning, encourage more of the behavior you like with toys designed for dramatic play. You can set your son up with a miniature vacuum so she can clean the carpets while you do the same with your full-size (and functional) vacuum. The same is true of toy brooms, dustpans, and aprons. When the work is fun, it doesn't feel like work.
Little people have short attention spans. Instead of working until a task is complete, set the kitchen timer on the table and get as much done in two-minute spurts as you can. Older toddlers will enjoy racing to fill the toy box and might even ask for more time on the clock so they can beat the timer.
For each small task your child completes, you can offer a sticker or a token. Once they've earned 5 or 10 (keep the number low to give a taste for success), reward the good behavior with something simple, such as a trip to a favorite park, play center, or the library, or even a playdate with a special friend. Reinforce good behavior and soon you'll have a child who understands the value of hard work.
Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.