I am amazed at what my toddler can do. Every week she astounds me with some newly acquired skill. Just recently she has mastered that first puzzle and that fiddly shape sorter, she now even helps out around the house!
Part of me is nervous to admit that my toddler already does chores in case I get labelled a strict mother who is using her child for free labour, but I honestly believe that starting chores young is a good thing and that many people underestimate what their little ones can do.
If young children predominantly learn through movement and imitating their parents then household chores are the perfect way of helping them to gain independence and to become contributing members of the family.
This has definitely proven true so far with Libby. Since her first birthday she naturally started to take an interest in getting involved in household tasks, something I of course encouraged and ‘voila!’, at just shy of 18 months old she now carries out five age appropriate chores (with the encouragement and supervision of her mama).
Here are five age-appropriate chores that most toddlers can easily get involved with:
1. Turning on the dishwasher This was the first thing Libby started to help with purely because she was so intrigued by the dishwasher! After dinner she would eagerly toddle down the hall when she heard one of us loading the dishes into the machine so we soon allocated her the exciting job of putting the washing tablet in the flap and it’s been her job ever since. She can now also turn the machine on and press start!
2. Wiping down the table top In our house we have a rule – if you joined in the meal then you join in the clear up after the meal. It’s a way of showing gratitude and Libby is no exception to this rule. Even little hands can find a suitable job and as I wipe down the main table Libby now wipes down her highchair table top. She’s not always the most thorough but it’s a simple task that she does 3-4 times a day after all her meals and snacks.
3. Unloading groceries Libby really enjoys this chore and as a major foodie loves rummaging in the bags, ‘oohing’ over the weeks purchases before passing them up to me to put away. Grocery shopping is one of my least favourite jobs but Libby’s involvement really does make the dreaded weekly shop much more enjoyable.
4. Laundry This is Libby’s ultimate favourite chore! She absolutely loves sorting things so helping me to load and unload laundry from the washing machine is a huge hit with her. She is also incredibly proud once she has completed the task, as you can see from the below picture, and usually gives herself a round of applause at a job well done. She has now also progressed to hanging clothes to dry on the airer.
5. Putting toys away at the end of the day This is the job that is the most confusing to Libby as she sorts toys in and out of boxes as part of her play so can’t always tell if the end of day clear up is actually more play! I have started to use a little ditty to help her understand that we’re packing away toys but at the moment we probably do two thirds of the work before she clues on to the fact that we’re actually packing away! Once she does though she is perfectly capable of clearing away her own toys. (The key is just not having too many toys!)
I’m not sure how long these chores will remain fun, but for now they bring her a great sense of pride and purpose which is wonderful to see. I find as she learns to fine hone her skills I too am learning, learning to slow down and grow in patience as I approach life at a more child friendly speed.
Yes, I could probably get things done much quicker if I did them myself but then I’d be robbing her of the joy of helping out. Plus, I try to see the extra time now as an investment for the future when her repertoire of chores will hopefully make my life much easier!