One of the aspects of parenting that I struggled with was deciding when to give my toddler more independence and responsibility. I know many other parents have difficulty with this as well. After all, the transition from baby to toddler is a hard one to wrap your mind around. Many parents, myself included, find it hard to let go and watch their children grow up. Despite our resistance, toddlers are determined to gain more independence and responsibility. It’s important to resist the urge to to push back when they ask for independence. Instead, find little ways to help nurture this new development. My favorite way to do so is with chores.
I wholeheartedly believe that it’s never too early to start introducing chores to young children. They are a great tool to help them achieve the independence they so badly want while teaching them a bit of responsibility at the same time. It’s a win win for everyone involved. One of the key components of making chores successful is to start simple. Doing so will help build your child’s confidence as they complete tasks. As they begin to get more comfortable, you can add in more difficult tasks and more responsibility.
There are a few things I like to consider when selecting a toddler’s first chores. First, I like to take into account what a child’s interests are. If they are already showing interest in a particular task, then it will be significantly easier to teach them how to do it regularly. Second, I consider what bad habits I want to get rid of and create a chore around that. Last, I think about which chores I would like my child to have down the road. These chores may be too difficult for them now. However, by introducing them to smaller components now it makes it easier to grasp the larger task down the road.
Simple Toddler Chores
Taking Care of Pets – Pets are an excellent opportunity to teach young children responsibility. Many kids take an early interest in animals. So, it’s a fun and exciting way to introduce them to chores. For young children, I recommend starting with simple tasks like feeding the pets. My daughter is almost two and loves filling up her dog’s bowl and putting it in the kennel. As your children get older, you can start adding in more challenging tasks like taking dogs for a walk or giving them a bath.
Unloading/Loading the Dishwasher – I don’t know what it is about dishes, but children absolutely love them. This is exactly why I recommend using them as a beginning chore. If you can introduce chores using a task your child already enjoys, then it makes learning the concept more enjoyable for everyone. This chore is a great option whether you use the dishwasher or wash by hand. If you are doing this chore with a young toddler, I recommend pulling all of the breakable and/or sharp objects out of this dishwasher first. After that, invite your child to help you finish the task.
Picking up Toys – My child, like many other toddlers, is a tornado when she plays with her toys. She can destroy a room so quickly that it’s absolutely mind blowing. This is a habit that I want to break with her. I’m fine with her making a mess. However, I want her to learn to pick up her mess before moving onto the next activity. If this is a habit you want to break with your child too, then I recommend making it one of their first chores. To start, I suggest helping your child pick up their toys. This way, they see you as an example and mimic the behavior. If your child resists, try making it into a game. This really helped us at first! After a few weeks, your child will be able to pick up their toys completely on their own.
Throwing Away Trash – My toddler is obsessed with the concept of trash. After talking to a few other parents, I realized their children felt the same. That’s one of the reasons I chose picking up trash to be a great first chore for toddlers. Remember, when a task is enjoyable it’s easier to become routine. Another reason I chose this as a first chore is that it’s important to me to teach my child to take responsibility for her own mess. Having her pick up her own trash after snack time or throw away her paper towel after drying her hands was a great way to teach her this.
Putting Away Groceries – If you have a picky eater, then this could be a great chore for your toddler. Many children are more flexible in what they eat if they get to participate in the meal in some way. This can be seen in a variety of ways including preparing the food, setting the table, making the grocery list, or putting the groceries away. For young toddlers, my favorite option is putting the groceries away. It’s a simple chore to start with while allowing them to interact with the food they will eat. It helps them become more comfortable around the food and also teaches them a bit of responsibility in the process.
Rewarding Toddlers After Chores
I believe that rewarding children for good behavior is imperative in creating positive habits. There are a lot of different rewards systems that families can use. The key is finding a reward that resonates with your child. For us, we used a chore chart to keep track of my daughter’s behavior during the week. She has 7 chores and gets a sticker on the chart when she completes it each day. She loves getting to put a sticker on the chart and runs right over to add it when she finishes her chore. If she is able to complete all of her chores for the day she gets to have an M&M after dinner. You best believe that girl remembers if she has earned her “yummies”.