Teaching Toddlers to Help at Home

by on September 20th, 2010
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Have you ever felt like you just don’t have enough hours in the day to complete all the tasks that need to be done at home? It seems like today’s families are more pressed for time than ever before. It makes sense that all members of a family should pitch in on household chores, but in reality, many times, just one or two people end up shouldering the majority of the load.

Parents of toddlers tell themselves that there is not very much that their kids can do to help out. After all, the kids are so small. Isn’t it expecting too much to ask them to do a few chores?

In reality, teaching even the youngest members of the family to work side by side has numerous benefits. When we take the time to patiently instruct them on how to properly do a chore, the end result is higher self-esteem. Your toddler will be thrilled that mom or dad cared enough to show them something new, and they will feel more competent as they gain new skills. The child will also feel important because they are a contributing member of the family team.

Another benefit to getting your child into the habit of helping is that they will learn a good work ethic at a young age. Many people wait until their kids are eight or nine before they expect them to contribute to household maintenance. At that point, the child has already gotten used to his “free ride” and is going to balk much more at being asked to pitch in. Toddlers are usually excited about helping mom and dad.

However, there are some things to keep in mind when starting out teaching your child to help you. First, choose jobs that are fairly simple and quick to complete at first. You want your child’s first experiences with chores to be met with success, so that they will be happy to help out next time. You definitely don’t want the job to drag out into drudgery. Second, work alongside your child. Working in a room all alone is dull and tedious. Working alongside a good buddy who is smiling and chatting with you can be fun. Third, be patient and relax your standards. The work your child completes will not be perfect, especially at first. That is completely fine. As the child grows older parents can point out better ways of doing a job, but for now, the whole point is to teach them how to work. Be patient with the childish mistakes, spills and crooked edges.

Sometimes a parent will feel that it is quicker to do all the work themselves, than to teach a young one how to do it, but this is a very short-sighted view. Children do need instruction on how to work, and they crave the approval and attention of their parents. If you want your children to be of help when they are older, it is best to start when they are young. The most important thing to remember when working alongside your child is to keep the atmosphere upbeat and the expectations reasonable. Always be encouraging and positive.

Rewards are great incentives for toddlers, but it is even better is to work times of doing chores into your daily routine. Perhaps you could ask your son to help you fold all the washcloths in a basket of laundry, and then when he is done you will make his favorite dinner. Have your daughter help to clear things off the table before she has dessert. Have playroom pick up right before snack time, so there is an enjoyable incentive for quickly getting the work out of the way. Children are less likely to dawdle when they have something to look forward to coming up next.

Sometimes it is fun to have contests when cleaning up. See if your child can finish his area before you finish yours. Or if competition is overwhelming to your tot, try putting on some music and find out if the two of you can finish a certain chore before the end of the song.

When your child comes to ask if they can do something entertaining, like watch television or play with play-dough, answer with a “Sure, but first…” answer. Ask them to complete one small thing before they do their requested activity.

So what jobs can a toddler complete? Many toddlers can sort the silverware basket from the dishwasher into the flatware drawer, but be sure to remove the sharp knives first. Toddlers can match colored socks from a basket of laundry. They can help assist in bed making and pick up of their toys. Toddlers are fully capable of putting away their shoes and dirty laundry. They can help with setting the table and clearing it off. Wiping dust off of furniture and feeding a pet are not too difficult for toddlers to tackle. In short, there are many chores that a toddler is able to do, and they can be of much more help than many parents think.

So many parents are pleasantly surprised at how well their toddlers work and how much help they can be. Additionally, it is better for a family to spend a little time working together, than for the parents to be constantly busy while the children play off in another room. Toddlers are usually so pleased to be helping, so why not take advantage of their youthful excitement?


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