For parents like us who spend most (if not all) of our time with our children at home, there are times when we feel exhausted with house chores. But we have good news for you! There is a way to level up our parenting skills and teach independence to our kids at the same time! That is by guiding our kids to do toddler-friendly chores that are appropriate to their age.
What benefit can our kids reap from this? As Jim Fay of Love and Logic says, “We all need to feel needed and to know that we are making a contribution – even kids.” But they certainly will not feel that way if we don’t give them the opportunity to contribute at home.
Aside from this, our kids can learn independence at an early age. This does not mean that they will not need us anymore – it just means that we can focus our parental energy in helping them with more complicated tasks.
Before we dive into the list of age-appropriate toddler-friendly chores, we would like you to pause and reflect on the following questions first:
- How old is my child?
- How heavy is “heavy” for my kid?
- Is my child mature enough to take up specific responsibilities in the house?
- Which chores intersect with my child’s interests?
- How long will it take my child to finish a specific chore?
Remember all children are different and that there are several factors aside from age that will help you determine the right house chore for your kid. Also, keep in mind that this list is based on a general agreement among childcare professionals, so feel free to use your first-hand experiences as a parent to adjust this to your child’s capabilities. Below is the list of toddler-friendly chores according to their age.
2-3 years old
Pick up their toys with your supervision. If the toys are sturdy, you can tell your child that it is a game of shooting the toy to the basket. That makes it more fun!
Take their laundry to the laundry basket. Similar to picking up their toy, you can also gamify this to make the kids more eager to do the chore.
4-5 years old
(We can use a family chore chart to give them a visual guide to the chores assigned to them.)
- Bring their light belongings from the car to the house.
- Pick up their toys.
- Make their bed with minimal help from parents.
- Get dressed with minimal help from parents.
- Wash their hands before and after eating.
- Match socks after they are washed and dried.
- Help parents carry light bags of groceries.
6-7 years old
(At this age, we can use a family chore chart to supervise them.)
- Make their bed everyday.
- Do basic hygiene by themselves (wash face, brush teeth, and comb hair).
- Choose their clothes for the day and get dressed.
- Feed the pet animals with minimal parental supervision.
- Clean their room.
Things to look out for
Here are some tendencies that we need to look out for when teaching our kids to do toddler-friendly chores.
Bias for perfection.
Remember that we are teaching them to help out around the house to give them opportunities to contribute positively to the family, not to prove to us that we a perfect parents because we have perfect kids. Our expectations must be leveled more to their current capabilities and less on their future potential. Meeting our kids eye to eye helps us stay connected to who they are today which is exactly what they need in order to grow into the people we aspire them to be in the future.
Make room for mistakes, then model to them how it can be done better. If it takes too long for them to do the chore, stay with them until they are able to finally do it. Of course, if you have other things to do it is understandable that you might feel impatient, but try to balance it with care for your child’s growth. Instead of looking for perfection, focus on their extent of growth over time.
Punishments and rewards.
Have you heard of positive discipline? To put it in simple terms, it is about providing a structure that guides a child’s behavior through establishing firmness and warmth at the same time. There are a lot of ways to do this, but one common example of positive reinforcement is rewarding a child with a coin when he or she successfully finishes a chore. On the other hand, an example of negative punishment would be reducing the child’s dedicated screen time when he or she forget or refuse to do the chore.
Applying positive discipline is more effective than mindless punishment and inconsistent rewards. A routine system of action-consequence also helps us condition our kids’ brain to follow the rules even without being reminded to. This kind of structure even reminds us as parents to be consistent with our reactions towards our kids’ actions. That’s fantastic, right? But as with all habits, this is also established through time, patience, and consistency. Just remember: the positive discipline structure is held up by both firmness and warmth at the same time.
A common misunderstanding among parents who teach chores to young kids is that the work will be a lot easier if the kids help out. In most cases, especially in the first month of the kids trying the chores our, this is far from reality. Teaching the kids how to do chores actually require a lot more energy from parents compared to when we do the tasks ourselves. This might discourage us, and in the middle of teaching the kids we just might interrupt the flow and just do it ourselves but remember that it is normal for it not to be easy in the beginning.
We feel you, parent. We’ve been there, too.
But as someone who has experienced inexplicable joy in simply seeing my small kids do simple tasks independently, I assure you that this is worth it in the long run. The learning curve is just one part of the journey.
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