I love how eager my littles are to HELP. In fact, they WANT to help. While I can’t predict nap routines, how they will (mostly won’t) eat at mealtimes, or how dramatic their fits will be in public, I CAN make them feel important, needed, and helpful by teaching them how to do jobs around the house.
A few things I’ve learned in the process? Don’t expect perfection - in fact, don’t even look for it. Just let them be little, and let them help. And above all, don’t re-do what they have done. Unless you have the chance of picking up some fungus or disease from letting them “wash” the dishes. :)
Here are 9 ways that I’ve taught my kiddos (toddlers) to help and, in the process, helped them feel important, needed and irreplaceable.
Folding washcloths - RESIST the urge to make these look perfect! After teaching them how to help with the laundry, let them help, and let them see that what they are doing makes you happy and satisfied. The linen closet WILL be ok with messy hand towels and wash clothes. Don’t crush their spirit by re-doing what they think is an amazing job. The time will come when they finally meet your folding standards, and by that time you will long for the day when those little hands used to fold (crumple) the laundry into unmanageable piles.
Making their bed each morning and after nap time - Remember that this “chore” is more like a habit. More than striving for perfection, help them to remember just to do it. You can teach them how to tuck sheets and fluff pillows once the habit is formed.
Brushing their teeth - I put this one on the chore chart too, once again, form a habit. This is probably one of the most important habits they can have, so maybe give a reward for this one! Having your child brush with you will also help them form a good time frame for brushing.
Doing dishes - I save all the forks and spoons and my little one thinks she is AWESOME. Yes, we still make a mess, and we have to change clothes EVERY SINGLE TIME… but, it’s worth it. She is learning how to help, she is feeling appreciated, and she feels important.
Loading and unloading the dishwasher - It takes a little longer to let your toddler help with every dish that you put in the dishwasher, but the sooner they learn, the better! This helps with organization skills as well as memory.
Putting away groceries - I try to teach my toddler different food groups as we put away the groceries. This helps with categorizing and organization as well. Plus, it’s good for them to realize which foods need to stay cold or frozen as well as which foods will be used for their favorite meals, etc.
Wiping the table after meals - OK. This is one that you may need to re-do. It may be hard for a toddler to get all of the food and residue off of the table after a meal, so for sanitary reasons, I ALWAYS follow through with a complete cleaning.
Helping change out toilet paper rolls - This is a no-brainer. And they get to keep the old roll as a reward. It’s the little things, right? Plus, it’s never too soon to teach a little one the RIGHT way to put on a new roll.
Cleaning up toys - This is something toddlers can do from as young as about 15 months old. As soon as they are walking, they can understand the concept of picking something up and putting it where they are told. I often help with this project because I find that taking 5 minutes to guide them often saves me about 45 minutes of “fighting” and going back and forth to bring them back from distractions.
Giving your little ones jobs and teaching them how helping contributes to the overall success of the family is a great way to instill a sense of responsibility at an early age. And, who knows? Starting young may keep these habits going well into the school-age years!
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