Whatever Mommy and Daddy are doing, our two young boys want to “help.” When Tommy is hanging up a new picture, the boys are right beside him, both wanting to hold a tool for him. If I’m baking, they scramble to take a peek at the action. When I’m dusting furniture, they follow me around the house hoping to assist me.
Maybe your young ones are not quite as anxious to help as my boys are, but most young kids really do love to help. It’s important to take advantage of their willing and eager dispositions. Implementing chores early when children want to help is a lot easier. Too often I find myself naturally taking on everything. I almost forget that my boys can and should do some work around the house.
Allowing young children to help around the house has many benefits. Giving toddlers and preschoolers chores develops their fine and gross motor skills. Children feel included in the family when they are working like everyone else. Chores also help young children begin to understand the concept of responsibility. Through chores children develop the skill of self-care and foster their independence.
It may surprise you how many ways toddlers and preschoolers are able to help around the house. Here are some ideas to get your little helpers involved.
In the Kitchen
The kitchen is the space where my boys successfully help out the most. There are plenty of ways to get a young kid involved in the kitchen. Hand him a dish cloth to wipe down table tops. He may even be ready to help cart in a lightweight grocery bag and put some grocery items away (cans on a low pantry shelf or produce in the fridge drawer). He can help sort washed utensils as long as you have removed the knives. Let him take responsibility for his own messes after meals by sweeping up crumbs around his seat. I found a small handheld dust pan and broom that fits perfectly in my boys’ little hands, making it easy for them to wield and lessening spills.
Laundry chores are an easy way to start your child off. Even very young toddlers can put their dirty clothes in the hamper. Have your child help you sort and fold clean laundry. Start by showing him how to find matching sock pairs through examining different sizes, colors, and textures. Have him begin folding by placing one sock on top of the other and folding in half. Once he has mastered folding socks, you can work on folding other items like wash cloths and pants. An older toddler can help you sort dirty laundry into different groups: whites, colors, towels, etc. He may even be able to help carry dirty clothes to the laundry room by using a small hamper or dragging a light laundry bag.
General Cleaning Around the House
Cut down on some of your housework by delegating cleaning tasks to even your youngest. Before a child can walk, he can put away his own toys. Store age appropriate toys low so that they can be easily put away by small children. Your child can put socks on his hands to easily dust furniture. Preschoolers can help vacuum once an adult has plugged the device into an outlet. This task is best for older preschoolers under adult supervision since it involves electricity and a power cord. He will love pushing a small stick vacuum beside your larger one. Opening cordless blinds and curtains in the morning is an easy chore if he is tall enough. He may empty small trash bins and replace the liners.
Your child(ren) might not be as meticulous as you’d like when starting with a new chore. Here are some ideas to make your child’s help around the house successful.
Don’t Expect Perfection
Since small children are just learning, their chores might result in more mess than actual help. But there is no way a child will improve unless he has the opportunity to learn and practice. My almost 1 1/2-year-old follows big brother around as they sweep up after meals. Most of the swept up dirt is dumped back onto the floor by my littlest guy before it can be deposited into the trash, but I try to focus on the fact that he is enjoying learning to help and have responsibilities.
Have a chore chart so children know and remember what is expected of them. Our chore chart is magnetic with pictures of the chores. Since it is magnetic, little hands can easily move the pieces from the “To Do” column to the “Done” column. Also, the pictures make it easy for little children to understand.
You may be thinking that your child is too young, but he isn’t. I’m sure you can think of at least one job your youngest is able to start learning around the house. Kids learn by doing. It’s easy to forget how much children can learn if we just give them the opportunity. What better time for them to learn than while they are young and willing! When started early, chores can become a cemented habit instead of a forced “chore” later.