If you’ve got toddlers and preschoolers you know it can get overwhelming meeting all their needs all day long. It’s a privilege, but it makes for a super tired mom. Here are some things you’re probably doing for your kids that you can stop.
As a mother of four kids, the oldest will turn 4 years old this week, some of the best advice I’ve ever received was to not do for your kids what they can do on their own. I’m telling you, I internalized this early. It is fairly easy to do every single thing for one child and even two, but the more kids you have the more you realize that you don’t have the time to do every little thing.
Nor should you!
Kids actually enjoy accomplishing tasks on their own. One of my children’s favorite phrases said with joy and a huge smile is, “Look mom, I did it by muhself!” I’m here to tell you, it brings me as much joy as it brings them.
While this is not an exhaustive list, here are things that I allow (and sometimes require, depending on the situation) my children to do on their own as soon as they are able. You may think some of these are nuts, but it works for us. Remember, however, it isn’t a problem unless it’s a problem for you.
- Clean up their toys. When they take toys out, they put them back. This sometimes needs a bit of sidewalk supervising so they aren’t overwhelmed, but they catch on quickly. (Read: Tidy Routines That Work)
- Pick out their clothes. Their clothes are in drawers they can reach and I will instruct them to pick them out. It doesn’t always work nor will I always ask them to do it, but they seem to enjoy it. (Read: Downsizing Kid Clothes)
- Get dressed. I have one child who always wants to dress herself, and another who makes the biggest deal about it. He gives one attempt at putting his arm through the hole then falls backwards and whines, “I can’t, mommy!” Because of this we really try to focus on helping him persevere. I’ll stand beside him and guide him, but he feels so victorious when he’s done it so I try to let him even if it takes 5 minutes.
- Take off their clothes. Before bath I ask mine to take off their own clothes. Sometimes they can and sometimes they can’t depending on the fit of the outfit, but they give it a go.
- Put dirty clothes away. Our laundry basket is in the hallway and I will remind them (they do always need reminding) to put their clothes in the laundry basket after they’ve taken them off. (Video: Our Awesome Laundry System)
- Help fix their own sandwich. My kids like to spread their own jelly and peanut butter. I will say this is largely an exercise in frustration for the younger one, but they try and I let them.
- Put their plates in the sink. After the kids have eaten they are always to clear their own area. So they’ll put their cups and plates either in the sink (if it’s plastic), beside the sink (if it’s glass), or in the trash (if it’s disposable). And without being told they know which is which and don’t break anything!
- Get their own water. Some refrigerators give you access to water within arm’s reach which is good. You can magnetize a cup or clip them on the refrigerator too. Ours does not, however, and my kids will push a stool (sometimes 5 feet) to the kitchen sink. Climb the stool, fill their cup, climb down, push the stool back, then drink their water. Honestly. And they smile the whole time.
- Empty the dishwasher. If they are old enough to be careful and don’t have to carry plates and glasses far, I think emptying the dishwasher with some supervision is totally possible.
- Wipe their area. Kids make a mess while eating often times and that’s okay. I can’t pay that close attention to every mouthful of my kids so after they’re done eating we’ll pass them a wet rag and let them wipe it up. It isn’t perfect, but it communicates to leave an area clean.
- Bathe themselves. Now, hold on a minute, I’m not saying leave them in the bath alone at all. But as they are in the bath and playing you can let them begin to wash themselves. Of course you’ll have to go behind them to make sure it’s all clean if they didn’t get in all the right places, but mine also like to have control over where the soap goes since they don’t want it in their eyes.
- Brush their teeth. Again, I go behind them and touch up any brushing or get the hard to reach back places, but we always always let them have a go first. I want them to feel independent and capable of self-care tasks, and they generally don’t mind if I “make sure we got it all” after they’re done. (Read: Guaranteed Wind Down Routines)
- Turn on and off their night lights and white noise. With small ones you can’t guarantee silence throughout the night so, in an attempt to prevent everyone from waking if one wakes, I have some type of white noise in their rooms. Two have old (and I mean old) radios on FM static, one uses a white noise app on the tablet, and one uses a white noise app on my phone. (Read: 10 Reasons Your Baby Can’t Sleep)
- Make their bed. Mine aren’t able to actually fix their sheets and comforters, but I fold those and then they straighten their pillows and toys.
- Fold towels. My daughter is pretty good at folding towels. When we’re folding laundry I’ll separate the towels and smaller blankets for her to fold. They aren’t perfect, but remember Type A mom, they don’t have to be!
- Get in and out of the car and into their car seat. I’m sure this started when I had my third child and he was on my hip, but for as long as I can remember I’ve had my kids climb into the car on their own and sit in their seats. And this is in a minivan and a big pickup truck. Ha. They love it. It takes a bit more time as you can imagine, but it’s worth it for me and makes me dread errands a tad less. (See: My funny toddler carseat meme)
- Walk beside the shopping cart. I simply can’t put all my kids in the cart and actually get food into it. And I tell you if all the kids are with me then you know I must have been in some dire need of food. My 3 and 2 year olds will both walk beside the shopping cart throughout grocery shopping. Or really sometimes they’ll hang on to the sides and ride, but they do not have to be in it. (Read: How to run errands with small kids and not regret it)
- Walk instead of ride in the stroller. Again, I discovered this out of necessity, but once my kids turn 2 they pretty much don’t get to ride in the stroller. Sorry not sorry. Double strollers can get super heavy and hard to push, particularly postpartum. We’ve walked all over major cities, through parks, done a 5k, been sightseeing, and run errands with the little ones walking. Of course I’ll stop and hold them or give them a break if they complained but you know what? They never ever do.
Okay I could go on, but the list is getting long and plus I’d love to hear from you.
What do your 2 and 3 year olds do on their own?
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