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Age Appropriate Chores For Toddlers

Some mothers don't believe it's fair for a young child to work. They say it deprives them of a fun childhood and is nothing more then an excuse for Mom not to do all the work herself. I suppose this could be true in some cases, but in our house we give Charity and Judah jobs to do because:

  1. We are not raising children; we are raising adults. Hopefully, by God's grace, ones that will be responsible, capable, productive members of society.
  2. They want to help. Seriously, they do. I can't clean the bathroom without one of them asking, "Mommy, can we have a rag too?" Giving into their request and praising them for hard work is not child abuse. It's capitalizing on a small window of a child's life where being "just like Mommy and Daddy" is fun!

Of course, I don't expect them to clean the same way I do at 2 and 3 years of age. Many times (most of the time?) their jobs could use a re-doing. Sometimes I go over where they've "dusted" when they're not looking. If I know they've tried their best, I usually leave it and live with the imperfections that will naturally become more apparent to them as they grow older.

If it's obvious that they've been hasty in their work or have done a job half-heartedly, we go back and finish it together. They like working beside me and usually try to copy what I'm doing exactly, or I'll try to coach them through it with simple instructions. It might look something like this:
Charity (3) is using a wet rag to wash the floor with me. Frustrated, she complains, "I can't get this dirt off!" I take my rag and wipe away the spot saying, "See? If you push hard and go up and down like this, it cleans up much easier." She runs off to find another spot on which to utilize her newly found information. Jumping up and down excitedly, she exclaims, "Look Mom! I just washed that spot all by myself!" She has just been taught how to effectively wipe up a spill and now the game is fun all over again.

One of our tots helping to wipe up his smoothie spill after breakfast.
In addition to wiping away dirty spots on the floor (because something about carrying around a damp rag is absolutely empowering for little cleaners!) here is a list of other jobs we ask our tots to do:

  • Line up footwear neatly in the closet when coming in from outside.
  • "When you take something out, you put it back." If they're big enough to dump all their toys, they're big enough to put them all away.
  • Help Mommy put laundry in the washing machine or dryer (this works well if you have front-loaders. Top loaders are probably too difficult for them to reach).
  • Sort laundry by colors.
  • Fold wash-cloths, tea towels, socks, and small blankets (Our 3-year-old daughter loves to do this. Our almost 2-year-old's fine motor skills just aren't there yet).
  • Dust baseboards.
  • Bring dishes to the counter after they're finished eating.
  • Straighten the hand towel in the bathroom after using it.
  • Tuck chairs underneath the table after eating
  • Use a hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs

Don't insist on perfection, be generous with praise, and specific in instruction.
If you're understandably worried about getting your kids to clean with harmful chemicals, I highly recommend Simply Clean: DIY Solutions For A Naturally Clean Home. This book provides over 30 tried and true, natural, homemade cleaning recipes that actually work!

What other chores have you discovered your toddlers are capable of performing? Anything else you'd add to this list?

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