10 Household Chores for Toddlers

posted by Andrea | 10/15/2015

toddler chores

If I had my way, I would have one afternoon every week to devote to laundry, vacuuming, bathrooms, and other household cleaning tasks. I would be child-free, completely uninterrupted, and in my “zone”.

However, since a full afternoon of completely uninterrupted cleaning isn’t that feasible at this point in my life, I usually end up cleaning when my kids are around. This means I can either turn the TV on and let them watch while I clean, or I can get them involved and teach them how to help me clean.

I’ll be honest, there are definitely weeks when I turn the TV on and plow through the cleaning on my own, but there are also many weeks when I try really hard to make the cleaning process fun and enjoyable so they want to help. It might take me 3 times as long, but I feel it’s important to get my kids involved — not only so they can learn how to do basic household tasks and appreciate what I do for them, but also because they have a whole lot of fun “helping” me 🙂

If you’re looking for a way to get your toddlers and preschoolers involved in household chores, these are a few of my favorites.

1. Dust

Dusting is pretty much a given when it comes to chores little hands can do. Of course, I’m not very particular about my dusting so whatever dust they get is good enough for me!

We have little microfiber mitts that they love using — and surprisingly, they do a decent job.

2. Sort and Fold Laundry

If I’m doing laundry alone, I very rarely sort anything except the whites. However, my kids love helping me to sort various colors into piles on the living room floor. Then, I tell them what piles to put in the washer and they excitedly race to the laundry room to shove the clothes in.

Also, even young children can learn how to fold some of the laundry (if you’re willing to wait VERY patiently for them to finish!) Pillowcases, washcloths, hand towels, and socks are all pretty easy for small hands.

3. Empty the Dishwasher

Nora has been helping me empty the dishwasher for well over a year already. She started by just giving me the silverware and letting me put it in the drawer. Now that she is taller, she can put everything away on her own — even the plates and bowls (since we have them in a drawer). Cups are the only things she can’t reach.

And even if they can’t reach the proper cabinets, you could still have them put the dishes on the counter or hand them to you.

4. Make the Beds

I’ll be honest, I’m somewhat particular about how my bed is made, so Nora usually just sticks to helping me make her bed. On rare occasions, I’ll let her make my bed, but then I need to resist the urge to “fix it” all day long 🙂

5. Wash the Floors

For some reason, one of Nora’s favorite things to help me with is washing the floors — and honestly, I hardly ever do it.

Since I don’t want to deal with spilled water, I usually just give her a spray bottle (with vinegar and water in it) and a couple rags and let her go to town. She will literally stay busy in one small bathroom for at least 15 minutes.

I’m not sure how clean she actually gets the floor, but I’m sure it’s not hurting anything!

6. Sweep the Floors

Around our house, I literally need to wait for the kids to be in bed before I can swiffer the floors. If I do it while they are awake, I am bombarded by small people who all want to use the swiffer. It’s craziness.

nora-sweeping

We also had to purchase additional push brooms for the garage because the kids were always fighting over who got to help me sweep out the garage floor. Now, Nora and Simon can both help and everything is right in their world!

7. Gather the Trash

I’m honestly not sure why, but my kids love throwing things away. Often, when I have some trash, I’ll ask one of them to throw it away for me. It’s not really extra helpful for me, but it keeps them busy, they enjoy it, and it gets them in the habit of helping and listening.

SIDE NOTE: Simon’s favorite day of the week is “trash day”. You will often find him by the front door awaiting the big trash truck, and both kids love walking to the end of the driveway with Dave to bring the trash and yard waste containers back to the garage 🙂

8. Scrub Anything

I’m not sure what it is, but my kids love scrubbing anything. We have a couple small scrub brushes that I let them use to “scrub the bathtub”. I also let Nora use toothbrushes to scrub smaller items like toys, combs, and her play jewelry (I can’t let Simon use the toothbrush yet because he always puts it in his mouth).

I’m not sure this ever really helps me a lot, but it does occupy them and at least they FEEL like they are helping.

9. Care for a Pet

Although we do not have a pet (although we almost got one!) I think toddlers could definitely be capable of helping with the pet chores around the house. They could brush the pet, scoop food into the food dish, pick up the pet’s toys, etc.

10. Pick up Toys and Books

Last but not least, toddlers and other small children are certainly capable of picking up their toys and books — or at least helping with the process.

Both Simon and Nora are pretty good at helping to pick up (Simon is actually better than Nora). Nora doesn’t like putting the books on the shelf, so our compromise is that she will bring the books to me and I’ll sit by the shelf and stack them up.

The picture below still makes me laugh every time I see it — when Nora was pretty young, I asked her to “pick up all the toys in the living room”. Instead of picking them up, she simply moved them off the living room carpeting and into the office!

These are just a few of the many ways even the youngest toddlers can help with household cleaning chores.

Although it might take a bit more time on your part, you will end up with a (somewhat) cleaner home, fewer to-dos, and you’ll be teaching your children many valuable lessons in the process.

Plus, this is probably the only age where they actually WANT to help us clean — so we might as well take advantage of it!

Oh, and I should also mention that at this point, we do not have any sort of chore chart that we track chores on. We don’t have set chores that our kids NEED to do, we don’t give out rewards, we don’t pay allowances, etc. We might very well implement some of these things when our kids are a little older, but for now, we just have fun cleaning!

What are your favorite chores for toddlers?

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21 comments

  1. Jean Stob

    10/03/2018

    Setting the table. Good to have them involved

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  2. Laura @HowToGYST.com

    10/19/2015

    My little girl (2 years) loves wiping things, so I give her a damp cloth and let her wash the kitchen cupboard doors. She loves sweeping too but, so far, can’t actually manage to do it properly. But I really like the idea of cleaning floors with a cloth. Our kitchen and hallway have cream tiles so they show up a lot of stains. Couple this with her love of spray bottles, and I think my constant floor-cleaning days are over!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha! enjoy your sparkling clean floors 🙂

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    Laura @HowToGYST.com Reply:

    Another great one my daughter loves doing is moving the clothes from the machine to the dryer. I know it wouldn’t work for your layout, but if your readers have a side-by-side setup like me, it’s a great way for them to help out. And my daughter also loves emptying out all the grocery bags. It takes a little longer, but she likes to hand me things from the bags that I can then put away.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, this is a good chore for little hands too — but you’re right, it doesn’t work for us since we have the stackable unit. However, the kids do love putting the clothes into the washing machine!

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  3. Kristen

    10/19/2015

    My baby is only 6 months old but I’ve gotten so many great ideas from this post and the comments! Thanks everyone!! 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay — glad to help 🙂

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  4. JJ

    10/18/2015

    My 21 month old daughter helps me get breakfast ready. If we’re making oatmeal, she helps me stir it and push the buttons on the microwave. If it’s bagels, she helps me put them on the pan to broil them(so much easier than using a toaster when making bagels for 4 people and 1 little guy eventually!). She loves doing this! We love doing the things you mentioned! I’ve had my 2 yr old son clean the windows with water in a spray bottle. And, socks! They love dusting with old socks on their hands and think it’s hilarious. The only bad thing with that is my son started pulling his socks off and cleaning with them, so I had to stop that–haha!

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  5. Michelle

    10/15/2015

    I am just wondering if that bookshelf is secured to the wall? In our area a few years back a little girl was fatally injured when she pulled a television set onto herself. Just a friendly suggestion to prevent any accidents to your littles who are absolutely adorable! Thank you for all your very helpful posts.

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  6. Paula

    10/15/2015

    My youngest is now 7 but all three of my girls have helped me by wiping down baseboards in the house with the spray bottle of water and vinegar and a rag.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh the baseboards… that’s next on my list to teach Nora to do (mainly because I hate doing it!)

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  7. Tracy R

    10/15/2015

    My 20 month old and I check for mail in our mailbox together, I let her open it, reach in, and carry the mail and on recycling day she helps bring the curbside recycling box to the house by carrying one side while I “help” or pushing it independantly (noisily, but who am I to tell her “how” to do it) along the driveway. She likes to help carry in groceries, throw trash in the garbage can, close the toilet seat (noisily) if it’s up, load/unload laundry, wipe messes and put her dishes in the sink after eating (started off as consequence of throwing them on the floor and us not picking them up for her). I guess I didn’t really ask her to tidy up her books or toys consistently, but after reading your post, that’s going to change! And I’m going to try letting her help fold facecloths or match socks! (Except I usually fold the laundry once she’s gone to bed).

    (Off topic- Not sure if you were aware that “win an iphone 6” spam was popping up on your homepage a few days ago – very annoying – but hasn’t been a problem since.)

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    Andrea Reply:

    great ideas! Yes our kids LOVE to “help” us get the mail and bring in the garbage can. Simon actually helped me with both of these already today 🙂

    Oh, and about the iPhone 6 spam pop-up — thanks for letting me know. There are never supposed to be any pop-ups on my blog but I know they happen occasionally. Glad it’s not happening anymore though. I’ll try to keep an eye out for it as well. Thanks again!

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  8. Emma {Emma's Little Kitchen}

    10/15/2015

    My husband and I were chatting the other day about when we could “put James to work”. He’s still a little young at 10 months (!), but I will keep this post in mind when the day comes 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes 10 months is probably a little too young for most of these chores 🙂

    Also, I totally forgot that you also had a James (and wow, he’s 10 months old already!!) It seem like just yesterday we were chatting at the blogger meeting and you were talking about your newborn James when I mentioned that James was our next favorite boy name. Now we both have a James!

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  9. Maria

    10/15/2015

    I read in a book about child development that around age 2-5 is when the desire to help is developing and is very strong. Smart parents will capitalize on those years and let their children do jobs, even when they’re not done very well. Besides, children have so much energy. Why not harness it into useful pursuits so the parents have a little less to do?

    Yesterday I listened to an interview with the FlyLady, and she emphasized that we have to deliberately teach children precisely how to do various tasks. Things that seem so simple to us are all new to them. They even need to have something as simple as picking up toys demonstrated.

    I’ve gotten so frustrated with keeping my 2 and 5 year olds out of my basin of mop water! They love to get their rags sopping and then really mop the floor, so I’m always trying to keep the water out of their reach. I just put two spray bottles on my list. They love to spray anyway, and will think mopping the floor that way is a real treat!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, the spray bottles are fabulous because they can’t make too much of a mess — and ALL kids love to squirt 🙂

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  10. Amy

    10/15/2015

    I have my toddlers help with all these things too and they really seem to enjoy it. I also let my 4 year old set the table before dinner. Long may this continue!!
    Your babies are so cute!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Amy, Nora is just getting to the point where she wants to help set the table and clear the table. The only “issue” is that I usually put all the food on the plate and the island counter and then bring the plates to the table right before we eat. I’m not sure I want her carrying plates full of food, but I do think I’ll let her help clear the table!

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    Amy Reply:

    Oh…I don’t think my girl could carry plates of food without dropping them! I do that part…but I let her handle the silverware, napkins, and condiments 🙂 I should let her clear though….that’s a really good idea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    ahhh — we could definitely do silverware and napkins. Maybe I’ll start there 🙂

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