Guest Blog PostEditor’s Note: I am thrilled that Marcia from the blog Finding Felicity agreed to write a guest blog post. Marcia’s advice is invaluable. Often parents wait too long to introduce the concept of chores or helping around the house. Young kids love having a job. Do you give your children chores or responsibilities around the house? Do you wish you had? Please join the discussion by leaving a comment below or visit the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page. If you would like to contribute a Tiny Steps Mommy Tale, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even Toddlers Can Learn to Help Around the House
By Marcia Sheehan
When my oldest son was around 3 years old we brought him to a play date at my friends house, who has 2 sons a few months older than both our boys. My boy asked for a toy and said “Please.” Once he received the toy, he said “Thank you.” My girlfriend looked at me and said, “Wow! You are so lucky he is polite!” The truth of the matter is, we aren’t lucky, politeness is a behavior for him that we practiced on diligently. Just like my friend’s sons who also speak a foreign language, they had to learn to speak their native tongue, along with English.
This post will be about learned behaviors and tips to get and keep toddlers interested in helping around the house. I would love to take credit for what I’m about to share but like most things I’ve succeeded at in parenting, I learned it from my mom.
When my oldest son was around 2, my mom (of 4 girls, including me) shared that there is a very limited window of time to have children interested in household chores. She mentioned that it would wise to get them started at an early age, because maybe it would stick, but most likely it would lay the ground work for when they are older and become more independent.
We concluded that around the age of 2 and 3 was the best time. That is when the little ones are walking, talking and exploring and are more enthralled than ever with doing new things, helping, and receiving praise from Mommy/Daddy/Caregiver.
Here’s a list of 10 chores I have my 4 yo and 2 yo help with:
1. After I sort and check pockets they take clothes out of the hamper and put into the washer.
2. When clothes are ready for the dryer I place the wet clothes on the dryer door and the boys push the clothes into the dryer.
3. The 4 yo finds matching pairs of socks and gets to throw them across the room to me. We have a no throwing in the house rule so this is a big treat for him.
4. When the dishwasher is full the 4 yo squeezes detergent into the panel and the 2 yo closes that door. The 4 yo pushes the d/w door closed and the 2 yo pushes the start button.
5. When the dishes are done I remove all of the steak knives then have either boy that’s around hand me the dishes. We have Correlle dishes (a gift from my wise mom) which are chip proof. If there are any glasses I take them out before the boys can grab them.
6. I keep yogurt on the bottom shelf of the fridge for the 2 yo. Each morning, after asking, he will grab his yogurt, and a spoon, then sit down, open it himself and then eat it. We get YoBaby which has an easy to remove top. I wouldn’t recommend for yogurts with a foil top because the child may cut his/her fingers. (side note, the 4 yo is a little more high maintenance with his breakfast.)
7. Whenever our dog’s food dish is empty, the 4 yo opens the child safety locked door and takes out the bag of dog food, he scoops food into the cup and hands to the 2 yo. The 2 yo fills the dogs bowl and gives the cup back to the 4 yo who puts the cup in the bag and the bag back in the cabinet. (if you have a dog that is food aggressive this may not be a good idea. Our 4 lb chihuahua is very uninterested in food).
8. After our dog goes potty the 4 yo opens the storm door to let him in while the 2 yo grabs the treat bag from the lowest shelf in the pantry. The 4 yo opens the treat bag, the 2 yo grabs a treat and splits it in two and hands one to the 4 yo. They then throw the treats to the dog and hand me the bag to put back.
9. Each morning both boys grab their own outfits and shoes. My dad installed a secondary bar about 3 feet off the ground in the 2 year old’s closet so he can reach his pants and shirts. The bar can later be used for slacks/skirts.
10. The 4 yo dresses and puts on his own shoes. I still help the 2 yo with his outfit but he is almost able to put on his own shoes.
These are just a few age appropriate examples of how my boys help themselves and around the house. I can’t tell you how many people have told us how impressed they are with our sons willingness to help, independence and ability to follow instruction. Don’t get me wrong, the older son recently decided helping was too exhausting for him but once I started to get the 2 yo involved he was more than willing to start helping again.
In the beginning I would reward the boys with an M&M or Skittle every time but that has tapered off. If there is resistance I mention they will receive a reward for helping. Why bribery? Because it works!
This post serves as an example of ways to get your children involved. I hope that you found some of these helpful and will think of implementing some into your household. We would love if you shared in the comments what you have your kids assist with at home!Marcia is a married stay at home mom of boys (aged 4.5 and 2.5) who writes at Finding Felicity (http://www.findingfelicity.