I get tons of questions over on Instagram about how I get the girls involved with chores around the house, and the answer is quite simple: I invite them!
I call them “chores” here because that’s what they are to us, but to a young child, they are adventures and opportunities, fun just waiting to happen, a sense of purpose.
I’ve put together a list of over 30 things toddlers and preschoolers can do to participate in “chores” around the house — I know these are reasonable, because they are things my own toddler and preschooler do! Some of these are things I invite the girls to do alongside me, while others have become expectations as they’re just part of our daily routine. I’ve marked each section as either optional [“Invitation”] or responsibility [“Expectation”]. We do not pay any kind of allowance for these “chores” because they are simply things we all must do to care for our home environment together. For the tasks that are expectations, if the girls refuse to do them, they just don’t get done. Naturally, that means they will soon run out of clean clothes/dishes.
Stick around to the end to see them all put together on one list!
Let’s get started!
All Things Laundry
Young children are very good at getting their clothes dirty — but did you know that they can be equally helpful when it comes to cleaning them? Children from about 18 months onward can be expected to put dirty clothes in the hamper, help load them into the washing machine, push the buttons to start the laundry, transfer their clothes from the washer to the dryer, fold their clean laundry, and then put it all away!
Of course, there will be varying degrees of helpfulness with this depending on how old your child is. My girls have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and now my 5- and 3-year-old can do the entire thing independently.
All Things Dishes
Likewise, young children can do so much to help get ready for meals or clean up after them! When you keep their dishes in a low cupboard that they can easily reach, even toddlers and preschoolers can set their own places at the table for meals.
When they’re finished eating, they can even carry their dishes to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher, or hand wash some with the proper helper tower allowing them to reach the sink.
When the dishes are clean, your children can even unload their own dishes from the dishwasher and return them to the cupboard where they belong.
All Things Food
One of my least favorite “chores” to do is putting away groceries after we get home from the grocery store. Luckily, that is something that toddlers LOVE to help with! Let them help drag the bags full of groceries from the front door to the kitchen, then show them where each of the items belongs in your fridge or pantry. Let your child restock her own healthy snack drawer each time it’s empty.
Young children can also be extremely helpful sous chefs! Give them one part of the food prep for your meal and suddenly that whole stalk of brussel sprouts has been prepped for the oven before you know it — all while helping your child develop fine motor skills at the same time.
And don’t forget about feeding your beloved pets! Making sure the food and water bowls are full is the perfect job for a toddler.
All Things Bathroom
With young children in the house, you can go through a crazy amount of toilet paper! Restocking toilet paper storage containers or even just putting a new roll on the dispenser is something that toddlers love to do — and you can instill in them from an early age the indisputable fact that the toilet paper should go OVER, not UNDER.
And while cleaning the bathrooms might not be on YOUR top 10 list of favorite things to do, it’s pretty high up there for young children [HINT HINT: So is anything else that involves water!]. If you use non-toxic cleaners (like these ones by Pure Haven Essentials), your child can safely clean the mirrors, sinks, and toilets with a spray bottle of cleanser and some rags or paper towels. Believe it or not, my children BEG me to let them clean the bathrooms!
Level: Invitation AND Expectation
You know you have a true Montessori child when the only present she asks for at her third birthday is a mop. Young children come with a lot of dirt/dust/crumbs, etc. Luckily they are fully capable of taking part in household cleaning tasks such as dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping! Most of those are invitations in our house, although the girls ARE expected to vacuum under the dining table after meals.
Another thing that seems to make us unusual as a family is the expectation that our children clean up their own toys. I’ve written another blog post about it HERE.
The beauty of the young child is that she sees what the adult is doing and wants to do the exact same thing. So why not let her? Things like wrapping presents, putting stamps on bills to go out, putting mail in the mailbox, and bringing in mail or the newspaper each day seem like huge responsibilities to toddlers and preschoolers, and they’re actually pretty helpful to have someone else take part in.
Not to mention the fact that young children often notice far earlier [and insist on correcting the situation!] when things like bird feeders are empty, so let them take part in rectifying the problem!
Watering plants, pulling weeds, and scrubbing their outdoor toys are also favorites for the young child — combine water and dirt and you can get your child to do pretty much anything!
Little ones also love to get involved with BIG chores that come around seasonally, like raking up leaves or shoveling snow.
Even something as simple as carrying the recyclables from the kitchen to the recycling bin outside is an adventure to a young child.
You will often find that these “chores” are not things you need to somehow convince your young child to do — she’ll probably be delighted that you’re finally allowing her to help! These are all things that my own children do willingly, and I am confident that you can allow your child to reach the same level of joyful independence just through your own invitation.