This post is for those moms who want to start giving their little ones chores, but aren’t sure what they can realistically do. If you are trying to get your littles involved in helping around the house more, here are some chore ideas that toddlers and preschoolers can realistically do and tips to help make them happen. This post is written in partnership with Hoover and all opinions and tips are 100% my own.
I am a long game person. A big picture thinker.
In some ways, this causes stress for my personality type, but in others it’s a blessing. I think about current events with one eye on the future. And that’s why I have always had my kids do everything they can on their own.
I knew I wanted 4 children, and the thought of having 4 teenagers not used to helping out was just too much for me. In fact, it is surprising what things 2 and 3-year-olds can actually do on their own. While I don’t have a chore chart or chore rotation yet, I do have the children help me do quite a few things around the house regularly.
Keys to getting toddler and preschooler participation
- make it a routine activity
- have clear boundaries
- don’t make it optional
When we say things like, “Would you mind?” or “Don’t you want to?” we actually confuse the kids. If the chore is optional, fine, but if you are requiring them to do this chore, the best thing to do is to say kindly but firmly, “We’re going to do x now, let’s hop to it!” I’ll talk more about how to get toddlers and preschoolers to participate without coercion later.
(See above. I cut off the toes in the boys’ onesies when they are the right size but too short. My boys are all tall. This helps extend the onesie’s life for months and months, and since I pass all boy clothes down I don’t worry about not getting enough use or being too tatty to donate!)
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Chores toddlers and preschoolers can actually do well
- Folding towels and clothes | Both my 4 and 3-year-old do this very well and neatly. My 2-year-old can do hand towels as well. I no longer fold any towels or small blankets ever.
- Picking up toys | This is a fluid thing throughout the day since toys are in and out. But during room time or when the kids are playing in an area, before they are allowed to do the next thing they must clean up. Can’t come out of room or eat or nap etc. until the toys are picked up.
- Vacuuming | Dust busting particularly. If the vacuum is relatively quiet this is a plus, if not, toddlers might shy away. However, vacuuming is easier for the kids than sweeping I’ve found. This is handy after dinner, under the chairs or barstools or when they’ve made a mess from snack. The Hoover Cordless vac pictured above and below has a lithium battery meaning you don’t have to worry about a plug, and it has settings for both hard floors and carpet.
- Clearing place at table | Before the kids can get down from the table, they have to put their plates, cutlery, and cups by or in the sink. If it’s a paper plate, they’ll throw it away. You can also allow the kids to put the plates immediately in the dishwasher unless you are a compulsive rearranger.
- Putting clothes in laundry basket | We have a laundry basket at the end of the hall where the kids sleep so dirty clothes go there. They are not (yet) in the habit of taking off their clothes and immediately putting them there, but we’ll regularly do sweeps and the kids will put towels, clothes, blankets, etc. in the laundry basket.
- Setting table | Many readers have their 2 and 3-year-olds set the table for meals. I haven’t started this yet because I usually plate their food for them, but I think they’d enjoy doing it.
- Make bed | I call this “straightening the bed” with mine because heavy covers can be a chore, but they straighten their blankets, comforters, and toys.
- Gathering trash cans | The trash is picked up on Tuesday morning, so Monday afternoons I’ll get the kids to bring the trash cans from their respective rooms or bathroom and we’ll combine them to be put outside. They also love to accompany whatever adult takes the trash cans to the road.
- Fetch | I love geting my kids to fetch me this or that. They feel useful, and it is honestly helpful for me.
- Put away books | If you have a place for books specifically, kids can easily do this chore. If your kids are like mine, they will take out a lot of books at once, so it’s handy if they learn to put them back.
How to “enforce” chores
Toddlers and preschoolers are still learning so many skills. I hope it goes without saying you’ll approach chores differently for a preschooler than a teenager, but there will still be some boundaries that’ll help you going forward.
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Create logical order
Instead of having my children go to their rooms and clean at random times, they have to do it in order to do the next thing. So, for example, they can’t come to breakfast until they’ve made their beds and straightened their rooms. After room play time, they can’t come out until they’ve put their toys back. No snack until play area is clean. This helps because they associate chores with certain times and are less likely to fight it.
Teach, teach, teach then stand back
I have two children who want to know how to do something, then run with it. They don’t want you to interfere and aren’t interested in your help unless they are truly in need. I have another child who just wants you to do everything for him. It’s always too hard even if he’s done it 100 times. With them all I teach, teach, teach then let them have at it. Once I know they can do it, I step back and do not hover. Even children find joy in completing a task.
Kindness but no drama
This is true in all of parenting, really. Be kind and loving, but don’t get in power struggles. If you need them to do something, have them do it. If they won’t, give a consequence. No meanness, no shaming, no drama. Just two choices. You do the chore or you get a consequence or loss of privilege.
For us, this usually just means if one child refuses to do a chore they must remain there until they do it. This never lasts long, and the child usually completes the task fairly quickly if I leave them to it. I’ve heard this referred to as letting them “surrender in dignity.” So, for example, standing over them and saying “Do it now, you ungrateful child,” and just giving the evil eye will result in digging their heels in.
Saying, “Okay, baby, as soon as you are done folding the towels you can come down to dinner. You can’t leave your room, though, until it’s done,” then walking away works a lot better.
Give it Time
Lastly, just give the little things time. Once they see that chores are a regular part of family life, and they are required to join in, they’ll actually get a sense of pride. Pride they are helping. Pride they are accomplishing a task well. And proud they are needed.
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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