7 Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers
The earlier your child learns how to do housework, the easier it will be to get them to complete chores in the future. Here are some simple chores appropriate for toddlers.
Do you want a teen who’ll clear the dinner plates, put away their clean laundry, and mop up a spill without being asked? Start early. Your toddler’s “I do it myself” attitude can work in your favor when it comes to tiny tasks around the house. “If your child begins helping at a young age, it creates the expectation that participating in chores and cleaning is part of your family’s routine,” says Kereese Gayle-Farias, M.D., a member of the Parents AAP Panel and a pediatrician at Southern Pediatric Clinic, in Valdosta, Georgia, whose 2-year-old likes to help pick up, do laundry, feed their dogs, and sometimes cook. Get your child on board with these simple responsibilities.
Put away toys and books.
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.
“Singing songs and playing games helps make cleanup time more fun and palatable for my daughter,” says Dr. Gayle-Farias. Try matching games, like placing blocks in one bin and cars in another, or turn it into a small competition (“Can you put the stuffed animals away faster than Mommy can?”).
Assist with laundry.
Help your child strengthen their fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination by having them put their dirty clothes in the hamper, throw items in the washer or the dryer, and fold small articles like socks and washcloths. As you do this, you can also point out the colors and patterns of the clothes.
Care for a pet.
Caring for a pet teaches children kindness and respect for living creatures. Your toddler can refill food and water bowls using a cup or a small pitcher (make sure you do the measuring), help scrub your dog’s fur during a bath, and place new straw in a bunny’s cage.
Clean up messes.
Lean into your kid’s love of silliness by slipping a sock on their hand and encouraging them to slide it over any dusty surface. Mini versions of the cleaning tools you’re using are also fair game—a small brush and dustpan, a handheld vacuum. Just stay away from harsh cleaning products when your kid is helping. Water works perfectly fine.
Help with groceries.
Have your kid carry in or stock anything light and non-breakable. “I especially like letting my toddler help with fruits and veggies. She’ll usually ask to have one of the items that we’re putting away as a treat,” says Dr. Gayle-Farias. “Getting kids involved in picking out food at the store, washing or putting it away, and preparing it can encourage them to try something new.”
Set (and clear) the table.
Spoons, napkins, plastic plates or cups, and condiments are safe in a toddler’s grip—basically anything that isn’t sharp, heavy, or made of glass. Let older siblings handle those.
Make the bed.
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 still messy. By not going back and making things perfect, you send the message that you value your child's effort.