Parents often ask me what chores and responsibilities are applicable for toddlers. They want to start teaching their children about putting away their things, but they also don’t want to bestow unreasonable demands upon two, three, and four year olds.
Young children are eager to be independent, and helping your child learn skills that foster this independence as well as acquire valuable organizing concepts are a great place to start the teaching process. The following are a handful of suggestions for responsibilities that are appropriate for toddlers and some recommendations for teaching these skills:
- Hanging up her coat. Put a couple 3M removable utility hooks on the back of the coat closet door at a low enough height that your daughter can reach the hook but high enough so her coat won’t drag on the ground. When your daughter comes inside the house, let her be responsible for putting her coat on her hook.
- Wiping down the bathroom countertop. Get a small step stool for your child to use in the bathroom when he is brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and washing his hands. Have a stack of wash cloths or hand towels within reach that he can use to wipe his face, dry his hands, and then wipe up any spilled and splashed water from the counter top.
- Making her bed each morning. Pulling up the sheet and pulling up the comforter are tasks that most kids can handle by two and a half.
- Putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Have a hamper that your child can easily put clothes into and see the clothes inside the basket. After you assist your child in getting out of his clothes and into his pajamas, hand him his clothes and ask him to put them in the hamper. As your child gets older and can dress himself, simply monitor him to ensure that he continues with this responsibility.
- Setting the table. By age three, most children will be able to set a table with minimum supervision. Place setting placemats are terrific for helping children learn where cups, plates, silverware, and napkins typically go on a table.
- Returning toys to their storage locations. After playing with toys, toddlers should return them to their proper storage bins or shelves. As a result, storage shelves and bins need to be within your child’s reach. Label bins and lips of shelves with adhesive tags that have an illustration and title of what belongs in each space. Programs like Microsoft Word that include clip art are great for finding toy illustrations. It takes younger children significantly more time to pick up toys than older children, so be sure to leave time in your schedule for your child to pick up her toys before needing to move on to another activity.
At age two and three, most of these chores will need some level of supervision. The closer your child gets to elementary school age, however, the less supervision she will need to successfully carry out the task.