I know, we just told you to say “YES” to the mess. And we totally meant it when we said it. But we also want you to find big and small ways to say “YES” to offers of help. And your toddler might just be that potentially untapped source for cleanup help around the house. We compiled this list of age-appropriate chores that work in our houses. Please add your ideas in the comments.
As a rule of thumb: Do not do for your child what they can do for themselves.
As a measure of reality: Outsource the chores you hate first.
As soon as a child can walk, he can start participating in cleaning tasks. Little ones take such great pleasure in imitating adults that it is quite easy to convince them to help out. These life skills are ones that everyone must master eventually ”“ it’s simply to your own benefit to get them started early.
Here is a basic list of age-appropriate chores that children can learn at different stages. Maybe your child is even more advanced!
- Wiping up a spill
- Putting clothes in hamper
- Putting toys back on shelves or containers
- Throwing trash in garbage can or recycling bin
- Dust busting with small handheld vacuum
- Sweeping with a child-sized broom or dry cloth mop
- Clearing plate to kitchen counter
- Sorting clean silverware into drawers
- Emptying dishwasher for areas in reach
- Using a sponge to wipe table
- Straightening chairs and tidying table tops in common rooms
- Setting the table (I have a mini laminated photo of the job done right!)
- Emptying trash from rooms to outdoor garbage
- Making bed and “cleaning” bedroom (tips on how to get a kid to clean a room!)
- Vacuuming carpet
- Laundry! (My friend Sabra has 3 elementary age sons who do all their own laundry, if that sounds too advanced, introduce the concept with these baby steps)
- Carrying and sorting dirty laundry into loads
- Pushing the right buttons on the machines (almost there!)
- Sorting clean socks
- Putting away laundry (it might be a wadded up mess, sigh)
- Planning meals with help
- Cooking part of the meal
- Packing lunch boxes (probably with help)
I have older children and some chores are easier depending on personality type, preferences, and time of day. Remember that you’re teaching the child to be a responsible adult — not just shirking your own house work — and be proud of these successes.
What about money tied to chores?
The matter of allowance and incentives is a whole different matter. I expect certain contributions as being members of the household while allowing a child to earn more money for additional jobs. I keep allowance separate so I don’t pay for regular chores but I’ve given a few dollars to my son for shredding confidential documents.
Please share in the comments if you’ve succeeded in getting a small child to do big helper jobs around the house.