At some point as parents, we make a shift from doing everything for our child, waiting on them hand and foot – to encouraging them to do things for themselves. This can be a tricky transition, especially when they’re so reluctant to do even the simplest of tasks like put away their pyjamas or fetch a banana from the fruit bowl.
But you have to start somewhere – and here are six fun and easy household tasks for your toddler to try. Not only will it help out mum or dad, but also encourage a sense of responsibility in your child and establish the fact that in a family, everyone has to do their bit.
1. Keep it on their level
Find height appropriate tasks, custom made for toddlers, such as cleaning dusty skirting boards, which are too low for adults – but the perfect height for young kids. Best of all, you don’t need any cleaning products or chemicals. Simply give your little one a damp cloth or a duster and ask them to get busy, wiping down all the skirting boards throughout the house.
2. Stow it away
‘Tidying up the bedroom’ is generally considered boring to most toddlers. However, the easier it is for them to do, the better chance you have of the job getting done. Baskets or brightly coloured buckets not only make fabulous toy storage, but they’re also fun and easy to fill. All your toddler has to do is quickly toss toys into a tub, box or container, which is far more enticing than ‘tidying up the bedroom’. You can also turn it into game and time their efforts in the hope they might want to challenge themselves and break their record the next time around.
3. Mopping up
Toddlers can totally help out with a bit of floor mopping. It just requires a little patience, especially when you’re in a hurry to power through the cleaning. My daughter loved mopping the floor at aged three, but I had to learn to slow things down and let her try. She was so keen to give it a go that I felt the least I could do was throw my schedule out the window. And it paid off, because it’s become a job we always do together, and now, thanks to her help, one that gets done a lot faster than ever before.
4. Everything in its place
While your child may not know where everything belongs in the house, he will probably know which of the items lying around the house belong to him. Ask him to go right through the house and see if he can recognise and pick up everything that is his and place in his bedroom. Shoes left in the hall, pyjamas next to the heater in the lounge room, pens scattered on the kitchen table and the backpack at the front door. Yes, it might just create one big pile in his bedroom rather than a multitude of small ones around the house, but at least it’s all contained, and the rest of the house is clutter-free. The next challenge will be teaching him to put everything in its place but that can take years. At least you’re heading in the right direction …
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5. Laundry day
A pile of laundry on the lounge room floor can look like exciting to a toddler so here’s your chance to get them to help you sort it all out. Make piles for each family member and ask your toddler to put the clothes in the appropriate piles. Or lie all the socks out in a row and ask your little one to match up the pairs. Both my daughters loved ‘folding’ clothes, so I would always make the most of it on washing days and get them to fold every item. Their cupboards are not always so tidy these days, but they are now great ‘suitcase packers’ when we go away on holidays.
6. Grocery unpacking
Ask your child to take out all the groceries from the shopping bags and if your pantry is a suitable height, help them to stack the food items on shelves. Turn it into a game of ‘shopping’ or ‘restaurants’. Again, it might take a little longer to get the job done, but it will be worth it when your child eventually starts to organise your pantry better than you do.