Toddler Tasks: These little hands can do big things!
When you live a busy life, sometimes it’s easier to do things yourself. You get things done quicker and just the way you want it. Juggling between nursing and caring for a newborn and running around after a toddler, it’s easier for me to finish the chores, put away the dishes, fold the clothes and clean up the toys while the kids are napping instead of waiting for my 22 month old to wake up and help me. But by doing everything myself, what am I teaching him?
What if I actually waited for him to do it? It shows him that mommy trusts him to do big tasks. That she believes that I can do it by myself and that I am able! Oftentimes, I’m tempted to put away the dishes from the dishwasher so when my son wakes up, we can read a book or play or do something else. But I am reminded that doing so would deprive him of learning the valuable lessons of taking responsibility, caring for the household and allowing him to build confidence in his abilities. This encourages independence and allows us to share the joy of seeing him accomplish various tasks with big thank you’s, double high fives and big bear hugs – making us both feel like a million bucks! There are lots of ways your toddler can help you. It may take extra time in the beginning especially when you initially teach him, but when he/she gets it, it’s all worth it!
Here are some suggestions:
Show your toddler how to:
1. Fold his own blanket or fix his bed after he wakes up in the morning or at nap time.
2. Put his dirty clothes in the hamper.
3. Pick out his own clothes and even put them on (shoes included).
Micah has a pair of “home shoes” that he can practice putting on around the house so when we need him to put on his “outside shoes”, he can do so quickly.
5. Put away the folded clothes in the drawers or closet.
Warning: your perfectly folded clothes may not be so perfect once your little one carries them to the drawer and shoves it in.
*Micah told me after I folded his clothes, “Mama, Micah help.” I said “OK!” But before I could help him carry them to his room, he picked up the pile and brought it to his room. He placed them (it felt more like dropped them) on the floor, opened the drawer and put them in. By the time I got to the room, he said, “Mama all done” with a huge smile of his face; he proudly moved out of the way to show me the clothes in the drawer. I had to remind myself to say thank you and acknowledge the helpful spirit of my little boy instead of the sleeves that were hanging out and the shirts that were unfolded. He did put them away in the correct drawers and I had to applaud him for helping. I wanted to rearrange it so they would look neat, but I knew it would break his confidence. I had to let it go because the bottom line is my 20 month old helped me with the laundry. On the bright side, it was one person’s clothes I didn’t have to put away. 🙂
1. Ask him to remove his clothes, socks and get ready to shower.
2. Get his towel.
3. Wash himself with soap and put shampoo on his head.
*TIP: Put some shampoo in a smaller container (put those hotel shampoo containers you take home to use!) so if it spills, you won’t waste a lot. Give him a small bar of soap so he can hold it in his hands. Micah loves holding the shower head and washing himself when he takes a shower.
4. Clean up wet spots on the floor.
5. If you are potty training, ask him/her to dump out the pee in the toilet. Remember to remind him/her to wash his/her hands after!
Living Room/ Study or Play Area:
1. Assist you in food preparations.
a. Rinse fruits or vegetables (while you do this, talk to him about the colors, names and importance of each one).
b. Slice bananas if he wants to have it for snack or dessert.
Show him how to hold the knife properly with the blade side down and away from him.
c. Bake with him!
Show him how to mash bananas, or crush crackers to make them crumbs. I had pre-measured the ingredients and placed them in different colored bowls and had him put them into the mixing bowl. Mixing is so much fun!
4. Show them how to scoop and drop!
Micah loved it! He got upset at me when I took the tray away to bake it in the oven because he wanted to keep doing it! He was pretty mad -while I thought it was pretty funny. I told him I had to bake it or we couldn’t eat it.
5. Breakfast anyone? Slice the bread and spread the jelly! Who wouldn’t want to do that?!
6. Empty out the plates and bowls from the dishwasher and sort out the utensils.
REMINDER: SAFETY FIRST! I remove all the knives and sharp objects or anything that can potentially injure him before I call him to help me.
With Micah, I had him put the plates and bowls on the floor because the shelf was too high for him to reach. I placed one of each on the ground so he would know where to put what item. I found it interesting that he made another pile for the 2 plates that had a design on them from the plain plates pile.
7. Setting up the table.
Ask him to get the utensils one at a time for each member of the family. He can help put the plate on the table or give each person a napkin.
8. Clean up!
They generally enjoy doing this. Micah likes using the sponge to wipe down the table or the counter. He likes tossing trash in the garbage and sweeping the floor.
1. He/ She can help load and unload the washer and dryer.
With a newborn around and countless diapers to change, Micah has been officially the diaper & wipes helper! He is in charge of getting us a diaper and the pack of wipes while throwing out the yucky ones. He also our little errand boy and helps with getting the blanket, the milk bottles and sometimes the TV remote. I sometimes purposely leave the dirty diapers on the floor or the table because he loves finding them and saying, “Mama, Micah tapon sura.” (translation: Tapon: “throw away” and sura (basura) “trash” in Tagalog) and he happily runs off to dump them. (I didnt teach him this but he started started stepping on his footstool so he can push the diapers down the chute. In the last picture, he returns it to his room.)
With a little help and a lot of patience, teach your tot to participate in keeping your home clean and tidy. While they may often leave a whirlwind of chaos in their footsteps, they actually need order as much as you do. So take the time to teach your little learner and it will benefit you too!
1. Keep his physical limitations in mind.
Micah struggled with putting away the plates because reaching for the counter that was too high made him feel frustrated, thus I let him lay them out on the floor instead. I also took out the baskets of utensils and placed them on the table with the tray so he can easily see and place the spoons and forks properly into their proper compartments.
2. Keep your instructions simple.
Instead of telling your child to clean up his toys or tidy up this mess, you can say, “Honey, why don’t we put all your balls into the basket.” Or, arrange your books on the shelf. Giving him a specific instruction makes it easier for him to comprehend what you are asking him to do. You don’t want him to feel discouraged because his inability to meet your expectations.
3. Model the behavior.
In the beginning, demonstrate how to properly put away the toys or arrange the books and work with him. Describe the steps you are taking such as picking up the balls one at a time (because realistically we can pick up 3 balls at a time and they probably can only pick one up at a time.) Eventually, you can slowly fade away and help only when necessary. It will get to a point when you don’t have to help because he knows the routine.
4. Make it fun!
Sing a song, google one or make one up if you don’t know any clean up song. Whistle while you work just like how Snow White and the 7 dwarves did it! Putting away the toys with a song can transform this dreadful task to a fun game.
5. Turn helping into a habit.
This takes time and patience. Gentle reminders help your child establish the habit of helping out. Praise their efforts especially when they remember to it on their own initiative. Some people use a chores chart to remind the child on what he has to do.
6. Be realistic!
This will not happen overnight and it will not be perfect. Building character takes time but investing in teaching your child how to be a good helper is well worth the wait!
Now go have fun with your little helper!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13