Expert advice on developing a child who happily helps around the house.

Q: How can I get my toddler to help out around the house? I'm not asking for much, but I'd really like her to start developing good habits now.

A: Children ages 2 and up can help out with any kind of pickup tasks, says Anne Dunnewold, PhD, author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box (Health Communications). "They can do things like pick up their own clothes and toys, help clear plastic dishes from the table, and walk with piles of junk mail to the recycling bin." Offer your daughter a mini bucket and sponge to help you wipe off the table after dinner. And, once your little ones can tell the difference between colors, ask for their help when you're sorting laundry. The key, Dunnewold says, is to show them how and to make the chores as toddler friendly as possible. Other ideas to make cleanup easy:

Make sure everything has a place. Say, for example, you want your son to put away his Legos when he's done playing with them. "Try cutting out a picture of Legos from a catalog or printing one from the Internet and then taping it to the Legos bin." He'll recognize the picture -- making the task more exciting for him -- and soon, with your help, he'll understand where his Legos belong at the end of each day. Also, mount a peg rack on the wall, low enough for your toddler to hang up his own coat.

Assign Small, One-Step Tasks

Break down bigger jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks. When you ask your child to clean her room or put away her toys, she'll probably feel overwhelmed and, as a result, do nothing. Try turning cleanup into a game or activity. "First ask her to go into her room and pick up all the paper," advises Dunnewold. "Then have her go in and collect all the Barbies."

Get the whole family involved. Give each family member a different colored basket, then turn on some lively music and spend ten minutes or so straightening up the house. "This teaches good cleaning habits but makes it a fun game too," Dunnewold explains. And, even better, you won't be the only one on cleanup duty anymore.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby