One of the biggest lessons I have learned since becoming a mom is that everything worth learning takes time and practice. Teaching toddlers how to be responsible for their chores takes time and lots of repetition.
My son is 2 years old and getting him to do his chores has taken months and months of consistent practice since he was able to learn even before his first birthday.
But no matter what age your toddler is you can still get him or her to do chores as long as you stick with it!
Tips for Getting Toddlers to Do Chores:
1. Show Your Toddler How to Do the Chore
“Monkey See. Monkey Do.” This could also be said, “Toddler see. Toddler do.” Toddlers love to imitate and be like their parents.
We like to keep doors to bedrooms closed during the day, and now my son will close doors when he leaves a room.
We never told him to close the doors; he is simply doing what he saw us do.
Start setting the example, and your toddler will be copying you before you know it!
2. Talk About the Chore
While you are showing them, also tell them what you are doing. That way they hear and see the action you want them to take.
When I was first training my son to take his plate to the kitchen after dinner, I told him, “Look, Mommy is taking your plate to the kitchen. I’m putting it on the counter!”
Then when I wanted him to start carrying his plate, I talked him through it too.
3. Take One Step at a Time
Toddlers are easily distracted. It is important to focus on one thing at a time. Instead of saying, “Let’s pick up the toys, put on PJ’s, and go brush teeth,” have them do one thing at a time.
I have learned that if I give a list of things to do, he either does the last thing that I said or doesn’t do any of them. Help them focus by only giving one direction at a time.
Pick up the toys before you even mention putting on PJ’s. Then when the PJ’s are on, tell them it is time to brush teeth.
4. Be Consistent
If you are consistent, eventually, they will figure out the order that things get done without you having to tell them.
It make take months, but one day you will notice that you don’t have to tell them to take their plate to the kitchen. They will just do it!
5. Get excited about the Chore
Our children will catch our enthusiasm. If you are constantly complaining about your chores, it will be hard to convince your toddler to do chores. Instead, talk about how important it is to do chores. Toddlers love to do “important” things!
Let them know that they are doing big boy or big girl things when they do their chores.
Give them high fives, do a little dance, or give them big hugs when they complete a chore!
Here are the chores my toddler does at age 2.
1. He Picks up Toys and Books
I think one of the keys to having toddlers pick up their own toys is making it easy for them. All of the our toy containers are lid-free which makes it super easy to toss the toys in.
I will admit that it takes a few minutes to get him excited about cleaning up, but after a little coaxing, he eventually he puts all of his toys in their containers.
Get creative with your storage. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money on fancy containers. I simply stuck with a neutral color theme so that the containers go with each other.
We have two fabric storage bins* that I got years ago and are perfect for storing my son’s little cars and random toys. His books are in a metal bucket from an antique store, the mega blocks are in a plastic bin from Dollar Tree, and the stuffed animals are stored in a tall basket that I got at a thrift store.
2. He Puts His Dirty Clothes in the Laundry Basket
We keep our dirty clothes basket in one central location. Each night he puts his dirty clothes in the basket before bed. I had to demonstrate this a few times, and then he caught on very quickly.
My husband and I keep a small pile of dirty clothes in a corner of our bedroom that I pick up each morning before doing the laundry. Sometimes my toddler will pick them up and put them in the basket himself!
3. He Puts Away His Belongings
After I fold the clean clothes, my son helps put the clothes in the drawers. He opens the drawers, throws the clothes in, and then shuts the drawers. We are still working on putting the clothes in neatly, but it is getting better. 🙂
I try not to make his clothes organization too complicated. We have a small bin from Dollar Tree that holds his socks. One drawer holds his shirts and another drawer holds his pants, shorts, and PJ’s.
His shoes are also kept in a drawer of his dresser. I purposely put them in a bottom drawer so that he can get them out and return them easily.
4. He Takes His Dirty Dishes to the Kitchen
He just started doing this one! After he finishes eating, my toddler carries his plate from the dining room table to the kitchen.
We are still working on not turning the plate upside down and spilling juice and crumbs everywhere, but it is a good start!
If you are looking for meal ideas for toddlers, here are a bunch of ideas.
5. He Obeys Simple Instructions
Toddlers LOVE to help! We try to have him help us by giving him things to carry. Sometimes he will carry napkins to the table for dinner. He will get his hat and shoes. He puts trash in the garbage can and delivers other random objects when asked.
6. He Wipes Up His Spills
There is a spill on a daily basis in our home. When my sons spills his milk or water over, I hand him a towel, and he wipes it all up. It makes him feel proud to be able to take care of his spill!
As you see that your toddler is able to do one chore well, try adding another chore. Toddlers love to be independent, so when they are able to do “big person” things like chores, they feel proud of themselves.
I wanted to update this post two years later and say that I’m now seeing the hard work pay off in my four year old. The other day I walked into the kitchen to see him putting a new trash bag into the trash can. He had noticed that the trash bag was full and pulled it out all on his own.
Taking out the trash has never been one of his chores, but he saw it needed done, and did it. He was SO proud of himself! I made a big deal about him taking responsibility and being independent. It was such a fun thing to see as his mom!
So, the moral of the story is keep with it! It may feel like pulling teeth right now, but you will reap the benefits in years to come.