Here are some chores toddlers and preschoolers can do around the house that are age appropriate and easy. You’ll love the help!
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.
And we like to use these cards to do it.
Keys to getting toddler and preschooler participation in chore time
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 or in the dishwasher. If it’s a paper plate, they’ll throw it away.
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More Chores For Toddlers And Preschoolers
- Putting clothes in laundry basket | We have a laundry basket in each child’s room they can use. Most of the time they don’t remove clothes and put directly into the basket, but we’re working on it.
- Setting table | Many readers have their 2 and 3-year-olds set the table for meals. Since I plate my kids’ food, my kids only lay out drinks and silverware.
- 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.
- “Fetch” | I love getting 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.
Create Logical Order In Your Daily Routine
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.
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Kindness and No Nonsense
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. Do the chore or 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.
Saying, “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 And Carry On Consistently
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.
- Involving kids in household tasks has a positive impact later in life
- Chores are associated with self-competence, self-efficacy, and prosocial behavior
- Longitudinal Harvard study shows chores are bigger predictor of good mental health as an adult (moreso than social class, family problems, and other factors)