Toddlers as young as one year old, and some younger ones as well, can and should be encouraged to do things around the house. While they may be more of a hindrance than a help at first, letting them try to work with you is the best way to model team work. Below are five ways your toddler can help around the house.
Pick up toys. Since they’re your child’s toys, it follows logically that your child should pick them up. Say something like, “Come on, Tommy, let’s pick up your toys!” And get excited about it. Then, start picking up toys, telling your child where they belong. Ask him or her to pick up some toys with you. Even if your little one only picks up one or two things at first, or none at all, thank him or her for helping. And when your child does pick something up and put it where it belongs, make sure he or she knows how great you feel about it!
Sweep the floor. If you use a broom or dustpan to sweep the floor, your toddler can help with this. Make a little broom and show your child how to push the dirt into a pile. Of course, little ones will just spread the dirt around at first. But in time, they’ll learn to clean and might even surprise you by sweeping on their own.
Wipe down furniture, or dust. Give your child a damp cloth, and let him or her “dust” with you. Again, it’s basically just moving dirt around. However, it’s a good teaching tool and skill builder. Warning: Make sure you do not put any cleaning solution on your toddler’s cloth or paper towel! Just water is best, and safest.
Rinse or dry dishes. Like many of these suggestions, this depends on how much time you have and how much you have to do. As time allows, however, very young children can learn to rinse or dry dishes. Supervision is the key here. Your child may have to stand on a chair to reach the sink, or you can put a basin of water on the floor with a dish or two inside. Then, your toddler can rinse them, and dry them afterward. Make sure you praise your child’s efforts!
Put away laundry. This depends on how and where you keep your child’s clothes, and probably on how many children you have and how much laundry there is to put away. But generally speaking, toddlers can learn to put away their own laundry. You’ll need to supervise heavily, naturally, or there will be unfolded clothes all over the floor. However, the short-term nuisance will pay off when your child learns to pick up, fold and put away his or her clothes at an earlier age than most children.
Many of these ideas may seem too time-consuming, unfortunately. But without them, you may inadvertently end up raising a child who expects everything to be done for him or her all the time. Taking a little pain and time to do these things now will create a more independent child, and make you a happy and proud parent in the long run.