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  • Your Toddler Is Not 'Too Young' to Do Chores: How to Start Teaching It

    Why not make household chores a family affair?
    by Kate Borbon .
Your Toddler Is Not 'Too Young' to Do Chores: How to Start Teaching It
  • Parents often feel their young children are not quite ready to do house chores yet, but experts say it’s better to start giving the little ones the chance to help out at home sooner rather than later. According to Offspring, children in the toddler and preschooler stages are naturally enthusiastic, and they love to imitate grown-ups. So, take advantage and allow your child to help you out — even if he might just end up creating more work for you.

    Starting kids early on chores allows them to learn life skills that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives. Among these are mastery, responsibility, and self-reliance, according to previous research from the University of Minnesota. Another study, this time from Harvard University, concluded that chores can teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to the needs of people around them.

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    Select age-appropriate chores

    You can’t expect a toddler to be capable of heavy-duty cleaning jobs around the house. Give him simple tasks first, such as wiping up spills, putting away his toys, and carrying his plate and utensils to the sink after he finishes eating. Such age-appropriate tasks will allow him to help out at home, even in a small way, and can also help build up momentum for him to eventually seek more challenging chores.

    For a list of chores you can give your child from 2 to 7 years old, click here.

    Give your child autonomy

    You have an idea of what chores your child can do at his current age, but it can also be good to allow him to pick the tasks. Parents notes, “The more independent kids feel, the more motivated they will be to take on tasks and accomplish them from start to finish.”


    Watch your language when you try to encourage him to help you out. He may not be motivated if you use controlling or bossy language, especially with older kids who might just resent the task. Instead, try saying something like, “It would be really great if you could help me in…” You can even put together a list of chores that need to be done and go over it with him to see the ones he can do.

    Let your child understand how important his role is

    One of the beautiful things about household chores is it teaches kids, at a young age, the importance of teamwork to accomplish a goal. When he is aware of how vital his task is — even if it is something as simple as putting his plate in the sink after meals or returning his toys to where they are stored — his sense of purpose grows, and he becomes more motivated to do his part.

    After your child finishes his task, don’t forget to praise his efforts and encourage him by saying things like, “Thank you for helping out. Our family makes a great team.” Simple words like these will encourage your child to find ways through which he can contribute to your household, even as he grows older.

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    Add some fun to chores

    Chores are not always fun. But when working with kids, a little excitement can make any event, even keeping a house clean, a memorable bonding experience for the family. Try singing and dancing while you do the dishes (just make sure not to drop anything!), act like robots while you do the laundry, or make up silly lyrics as you clean the rooms in the house. TODAY notes, “If chore time turns into playtime, kids may even look forward to doing housework.”

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    Rewards can also help make chores more enticing for kids. However, if you intend to give him rewards for finishing his chores, certified parenting coach Meghan Leahy has some advice: The reward should immediately come after he’s done with his task. “The younger the child, the sooner the reward needs to come because their brains cannot hold on to intentions and long-term hopes and plans, as well as ours can,” she writes in a column for The Washington Post.

    More time to play or even a bit of screen time can serve as rewards. But paying your child monetarily for finishing his chores might not be the best idea. You want to teach him that he needs to help out at home because he is part of a household team who has a responsibility. 

    Make chores a family affair

    Involving the whole family in the task of keeping house can motivate a child also to do his part. It’s an excellent chance for you to set a good example for him to follow, and it also allows you to demonstrate how to do the chore. And doing chores as a family can serve as a good bonding experience. Indeed, the family who cleans together stays together!

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