We started giving our son chores when he was around two years old. Nothing like “take out the trash” or “do the dishes,” but small tasks like “pour the dog some food” and “put your dirty clothes in the basket.” It started out as a distraction that would help me get some actual chores done. If he was busy doing something else, then I could maybe finally get the dishwasher loaded or the laundry folded. Realistically, I never got any of those things done, and he usually made more of a mess than actual cleaning. But, that small ownership of a task, filled him with a sense of pride and purpose.
Around two and a half, we elevated chores as a way to feel like he “earned” the toys he was constantly asking for when we went to the store (and we were constantly buying for him). I bought a simple magnetic chore chart off Amazon, and talked to him about how if he did all of the chores on his chart, he would get a star for each one, and if he had all of his stars at the end of the week we could take a trip to Target and pick out a small toy as a reward. Keeping his chores simple worked best, and at this age most chores are really just things they should be learning to do on their own anyway – brush teeth, make bed, etc.
Simple Chore Ideas for Toddlers:
- Pick up toys
- Make bed
- Place dirty clothes in laundry basket
- Brush teeth
- Feed dog (with supervision – or the dog will either get very little or way too much food)
- Clean up messes
- Set table
What helped the most with keeping him on track and excited about his chores was our chart and reward system. And, the rewards don’t have to be big to work, we would offer a small toy, new book, sweet treat, or trip to the playground. And, even in the beginning, just earning his magnetic star was enough to keep his teeth brushed and dog fed!
As he gets older, we’ll slowly swap out these chores with the heavy duty ones like taking out the trash or washing the dishes, but for now I’m enjoying watching him learn about the roles each of us play in our family and how he can help. Now, if only we could come up with a reward system to get moms to fold that last load of laundry or unload the dishes that have sat in the dishwasher for a week and a half…maybe a solo trip to Target each time we earn all our stars?
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