If you’re like me, you need little helpers. For me, I have 2. My daughter is 5 and my son is 3. I try to include them in helping with day-to-day duties. But with some chores, like dishes, toddler help means a bigger mess for me, ultimately. And although I want to teach them the value of contributing to the group, some days I just need help that's not more work for me later.
Here are some toddler chores that will help you stay sane and be productive at the same time.
Clean up, pick up, put away
My kids are not huge fans of cleaning up their toys, like most kids. But, let’s face it. Kids need to learn to take care of their belongings and be accountable for them. My husband likes to take my daughter’s toys away if she fails to clean them up after supper. We sing a little song and make cleaning up fun, most of the time.
Pro tip: Don't get all organizational during this chore. Out of sight = winning.
Empty the dishwasher
My toddlers are pros at putting away silverware. Of course, you don’t want a 3-year-old holding a steak knife. My daughter especially likes to help with this. We check to make sure things are clean and this makes my job easier, because I am usually in a rush.
Pro tip: Grab everything dangerous/breakable before you turn it over to the kids.
Load the dryer
My son Levi loves to load the dryer. I throw the clothes in the dryer and he pushes them in. He loves to put his daddy’s socks into the dryer. It makes him proud and shutting the dryer is an added bonus. Just watch out for little hands if you have a front loader.
Pro tip: Take out the delicates/air dry items before the toddlers get involved.
Make their beds
With this one, you have to let go of some of your mommy perfection tendencies. My kids can arrange their blankets. Is it perfect? No, but that’s okay. It saves me from having to make beds in the morning before we get to pre-k. If you have older toddlers, have them help the younger ones out here.
Pro tip: Do not "fix" their beds! Leave it be and congratulate the heck out of them.
Set the table
Everyone eats, so we may as well all help set the table. My kids love to pick out their Replay plates and colorful forks. We tend to buy fun, printed napkins or paper towels, too. This makes cleaning up faces more fun.
Pro tip: Wash those hands first, unless Norovirus is your jam.
Feed the pet
My family has 4 pet fish. We all feed them. Of course, you want to watch your little ones around pet food. My daughter ate a piece of cat food once. She lived to tell the story. However, little ones can help take care of their pets. Teach them young to show empathy to animals.
Pro tip: Use a scoop to help with portion sizes.
Dust and wipe down surfaces
We use Norwex products in my home and it is so easy to clean. We all get a microfiber cloth and start wiping down tables, couches, windows, etc. My kids love it especially if I play some fun music while we clean. Chores get done and we have fun.
Pro tip: Move your breakables/electronics out of reach.
Help keep bathrooms stocked
My little ones think it is super entertaining to stack toilet paper. So, when it’s time to put more toilet paper or soap in the bathroom, we all help out since it is stored in the garage. Everyone uses it, so we all have to keep it stocked.
Pro tip: Store items (as you feel comfortable) down low so that your toddlers can replace as needed.
Put clothes in the hamper
I bought one of those cheap hampers with dividers when my third child was born. I like to keep everyone’s clothes separated. My toddlers know which hamper is theirs and they can usually put them away.
Pro tip: Divided hampers can also be used to help kids learn to sort.
Help lay out clothes for the next day
With my daughter going to pre-k now, mornings can be hectic. So, we pick out clothes the night before for all 3 of the kids. I like to include them so there aren’t any tears in the morning.
Pro tip: Pre-select 2-3 weather appropriate options, or stow away non-seasonal clothes to avoid confusion.
Okay, let’s be real. My kids aren’t perfect. These are just some easy ways I’ve found to get my toddlers helping me out around the house. It saves my sanity some days and hopefully it’s teaching them something, too.
Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of three in Arkansas where she cleans and drinks coffee with her kids most days in between playing and dancing.