I have always been a big proponent of giving children of all ages “important” jobs and responsibilities around the house. Not only can it slim down a family’s to-do list, it helps build character!
Daily and weekly chores for kids contribute to a healthy sense of routine and structure, allow children to experience mastery of their tasks — which supports self-confidence — and instill a sense of belonging and value to their families.
As you encourage your child to help out, remind yourself to be realistic about your expectations of what this “tidying” might actually look like for a toddler or preschooler! A positive and supportive approach benefits everyone.
- Keep tasks age-appropriate: Chores are most beneficial when a child can perform them successfully. Toddlers, for instance, can help put toys away in a bin, while 3- and 4-year-olds might stack toilet paper rolls under the sink. Little ones may also “fold” kitchen towels, tidy their beds or put tub toys away after bath time.
- Be a facilitator: Supervision and teamwork are important to ensuring children’s safety and making sure they complete their assigned tasks. Keep a close eye on progress — and step in to lend a guiding hand if needed — but don’t do the work yourself.
- Offer positive reinforcement: Support a child’s involvement in household chores by providing encouragement and expressing gratitude, as opposed to giving praise. Try saying: “Wow! Look at how hard you’re working! You’re getting this job done! Thank you for being so helpful, you’re saving me so much time.”
- Avoid correction or criticism. Avoid reacting negatively to the quality of the tasks children do. Young children may only focus on a task for a few minutes and get quickly distracted. Be specific with your instructions and break chores down to small tasks to set them up for success. If you feel they need some redirection, do so lovingly and encourage them. (“I know you can do it! Let’s go ahead and finish the job and then we can play.”)
- Incorporate teachable moments: Chores don’t have to be only about work. Try counting or singing together while you both tidy up, setting a stopwatch to help explain the concept of time, or exploring ordinal numbers by asking a child to talk out what might happen first, second, third and so on in completing a given task.