Updated: Dec 5, 2019
At what age do you start giving your toddlers things to do around the house? I don't necessarily like to call them chores because 18 months is way too young to actually have a list of tasks to get done around the house. However, it's a learning game and it can be so fun! I believe the earlier you begin, the easier it will be later on! I had high hopes for Johanna thinking she would be vacuuming by 6 months (totally kidding). But on a serious note, how do you introduce "chores" or teach your toddlers how to help you clean, cook, feed the dog, etc?
Johanna is very observant so teaching her to do things around the house is easier than I thought it would be. She also finds great pleasure in helping me. Doing something simple such as throwing trash away or placing her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper is like a gold star in my book! She also loves feeding Cookie her dinner and finds it to be quite rewarding. I can always tell by the way she smiles or laughs after she puts the bowl down. It's almost as if she knows Cookie wants to eat and she can't help but feel good that she fed her doggy dinner. As soon as I say, "okay let's go feed Cookie dinner," she runs to her bowl in excitement. It's really cute to watch! Cookie doesn't seem to mind this either! After all, she eats first in the house!
Johanna also likes doing other things like putting her toys away, helping me load the dish washer, sweep or mop the floor and as weird as this sounds, she likes to clean the bath tub. No, I don't make her get on her hands and knees with a bleach bottle and rag.... During her bath time she thinks it's so fun to squirt her body wash on a rag and wipe the tub. I think it's the cutest thing ever and hey if this is a start to a neat girl then I'm okay with that! She also likes to take the sheets off of her bed when it's time to wash them. Every little thing counts, right?
Some things I find that make it easier to teach them how to help:
1. HAVE FUN with it! What's the point in making it a "have to do" type of thing. We don't run a military show over here so I like to have fun with it! Besides, the more forceful you are with things, the less likely they will want to do them! I'm trying to teach Johanna that responsibility can be rewarding and fun. Of course 18 months is way too young to even think about what that means but the earlier the start, the better! Baby steps, people, baby steps! We laugh, we dance, we joke around while I show her how things are done! I've also bought her her own cleaning kit! You can get one right off of Amazon. The one we got has a bucket, mop, broom, sweeper and a fake bottle of cleaner! How cute :)
2. SHOW THEM what to do! You can't expect your toddler to understand what "go throw this piece of trash away" means the first, second or third time you say it. You'll have to show them what you mean and sometimes it will be over and over and over again until they finally understand. I remember it took awhile to get Johanna to understand that while the main trash can is in the kitchen, there is also one in her bathroom. She was extremely confused about this! She went to throw something away upstairs and started heading downstairs. I laugh because wow she's so cute but that was a fun thing to do! She just looked at me as if she saw a ghost, like no way there can't be 2 trash cans in this house, Mom!
3. BE PATIENT! Some things can be difficult to teach, like how to load the dishwasher (full disclosure, we're still working on that one!) Don't give up no matter how much you want to just do it yourself. Be patient with your little one, they are learning!
4. Make things ROUTINE! The more you do things, the more they will sink in! We've started doing certain things on a routine basis. Right now, it's mainly just cleaning the kitchen together or Johanna helping me cook dinner. Which consists of me cooking and her pulling things out of the drawer. But hey, she's "helping" right? As long as she thinks so! Anyway, the more consistent you are, the easier things will become!
5. At this age, toddlers like to do a lot of repeating. I'm totally a do as I say, not as I do type of Mama but I'm working on it! She likes to repeat me a lot in things that I do and lately things that I say. Since it's pretty much always just me and her, she sees me do a lot of cleaning up. When they see you doing something, the more they will want to do those same things. Keep that in mind!
I hope these tips help you! The American Pediatric Association advises that not only are "chores" good for taking all of the strain off of the parent but they also help with psychosocial variables and biological processes. They suggest that chores are good for children, that they feel competent while doing them and teaches them a sense of independence!
Remember Mama's you're doing an amazing job!