Teaching Your Toddler Responsibility

Teaching Your Toddler Responsibility

Now that Ryan's almost 3 years old, I've been thinking more and more about how we can teach him responsibility and to contribute to the house.

I've noticed how much he loves being mommy's little helper, but is it too early for chores and tasks? I say no, as long as they're age appropriate.

Since I'm in this moment right now, I thought I'd share a few things we're trying with Ryan along with tips I've gotten from other mamas.

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1. Sing songs while you clean.

We like to sing while we put away toys, and Ryan really gets into it... plus he actually cleans up while we sing! You can google "clean up song" and get a dozen different ones, but our favorite is a song we learned at Ryan's gym class: 

It's time to put the toys away,
toys away,
toys away,
It's time to put the toys away,
at The Little Gym [in Ryan's room]

2. Use a chore or behavior chart.

We talk a lot about how we all have a part in taking care of our home, but sometimes young children need a little more motivation. That's why we use a Melissa & Doug chore chart. I love how it's not strictly chore related, there are options for "brushing teeth" and "clearing the table" but there's also "say please and thank you" and "keep your hands to yourself". 

Right now, we like to count how many "tokens" he gets, but as he stops being interested in counting, we'll try stickers and maybe even pennies for a piggy bank.

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3. Play the "big brother" card.

Ryan helps me a lot with Leo with things like throwing Leo's pee pee diapers away (he refuses to take the poopy diapers, and we laugh about it every time!). He'll stop Leo from climbing on furniture ("I'll get him, mommy!"), and clean up his little brother's spills. I always praise him for being the best big brother, and he loves the attention. 

4. Make a game out of it.

Children learn through playing. You might need to dig for some inspiration, but you can make cleaning fun. "Let's see how fast we can put away the toys!" with a mad dash while counting or "Who can get to the table first for dinner?" can go a long way to game-ifying an otherwise unfun task. 

5. Outfit them with their own cleaning gear!

Get mini-sized cleaning gear like this sweep and dust set from Melissa & Doug or this toy Dyson vacuum (a big favorite around here!) and encourage them to work alongside you. You can even get baby involved by giving him a cloth or tissue to help you "dust" while you actually do it!

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6. Say hello, please, and thank you.

As we walk by school staff, run into a neighbor, or are waited on at our favorite family restaurant, I always remind Ryan to make eye contact with and say hello to the people we encounter. He now loves seeing familiar faces at the places we frequent! 

Ryan knows that the owner of the dry cleaners is going to give him a lollipop every time we go in, and the grocery store clerk will always hand him stickers at checkout... people love to make kids smile! I use opportunities like these to teach Ryan to say thank you. 

Manners are big in our household. We're doing our best to raise kind kids who will grow to be kind adults.  

7. Keep your expectations in line.

Right now, we're in the stage where Ryan will want to help me while I do many of these things or be involved somehow. He'll be with me in the kitchen and interested in the dishwashing process or throw the detergent pod in the washer and press the button to start the wash (He also loves jumping into a pile of clothes hot out of the dryer!) 

He will do organizational things like pairing and lining up his shoes in his closet, or separating his toysβ€”cars in a bin, learning games and books on the shelf, instruments in a different bin, dinos and action figures in another bin, etc. 

So while he's helping with chores, they are at his level and helping him learn skills that he'll use as he grows older. 

Chore ideas for kids under 3:

I put together this mini-list of chore ideas for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but every kid is different, so don't feel like you need to be doing any or all of this (we're definitely not!).

Keep it fun, and you can slowly work toward your child doing these things on their own.

  • Cleaning up toys
  • Putting dirty clothes in the their laundry basket (make it a game of basketball!)
  • Helping you to take clean laundry out of the dryer and putting into the empty basket
  • Matching socks while you fold laundry
  • Setting the table, starting with non-breakable things like spoons, forks, and napkins
  • Clearing their plate off the table
  • Making their bed
  • Getting themselves dressed (starting small with shoes or pants, working up to zippers)
  • Turn off lights when they leave the room (may require a step stool)
  • Getting their own snacks
  • Putting hat/shoes/coat where they belong when they come inside
  • Rake leaves, prune vegetable garden (with direction)
  • Feed pets
  • Helping you wash dishes in sink

It's not easy teaching young children with short attention spans how to be responsible. I hope my suggestions were helpful.

How did you introduce "chores" to your little ones? Leave a comment and let me know! I'd love to try what you've done. 

Teaching Your Toddler Responsibility on LandOfMom.com
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