I came across this quote from another blog post by Carrie over at The Parenting Passageway and it hit me like a ton of bricks. “We have to remember that there is nothing more “enriching” for a young child than exploring his own world of home, filled with natural playthings and the work of caring for a family – housework, laundry, cooking – and exploring his own backyard.” – From Sharifa Oppenheimer's “Heaven On Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children”.
I kept reading and then I was smacked with two more thought provoking quotes from Carrie. “I mentioned the weaving in and out the child within your work. There should also be some space for them to go and re-create the work that they see in their play. Rhythmic work and play is the heart of the small child. Nurturing these important tasks nurtures the whole child and the future of humanity.”
I have discussed this concept before. Children of all ages absolutely must be given the opportunity to observe the standard home making tasks that go on in their own home. They then need to be given every opportunity to participate in these tasks at a level appropriate to their age and capabilities. Unfortunately, in the rush of life, I believe that many of us fall short of allowing this to actually take place.
I am not suggesting that you expect your toddler to do a set list of “chores” or to help with a specific task each and every time. That will never happen nor should it. I am also not suggesting that you include your toddler in each and every little thing you do. There are limits. Sometimes we just HAVE to get something done and in a timely manner. What I am suggesting is that little ones should be given ample opportunity to observe mama (or daddy) in action and “assist” when the mood strikes. Even if your toddler does not seem interested in helping, you better believe that you will see them acting out what they observed you doing in their own play.
I make sure that Tiny sees me in action as often as possible. Although I never directly ask her if she wants to help, I do say things like “you may wash the zucchini” or “you may put these items in the bag for me.” If she takes the bait, great! If not, no big deal. Sometimes she asks to specifically help with something or she just starts doing something. Sometimes it is not something we need to do right then but I never want to discourage her from taking an active role in our household tasks so I will go ahead and afford her the opportunity to tackle whatever task she is requesting to do.
Often times, she wants to help with something I never gave much thought to. It snaps me back into reality when I see her so anxious to help with something that I typically do on autopilot without giving much thought to. The power of observation in a toddler is pretty deep. Nothing gets past their watchful eye.
I have compiled a list of all of the “jobs” most toddlers can tackle. Some of these are obvious and others might be things you never thought of. Some might not be practical for YOUR toddler. Not all toddlers are ready to take on the same tasks. And that is ok. We all prefer and excel in different areas. Toddlers are no different. The point is simply to allow your toddler to engage in whatever task or chore that they are interested in at that moment. Consider toddlers to be jacks of all trades and masters of none! And also assume that as the parent you will need to “finish” whatever task your toddler was engaged in. After all, they might want to help but not truly be able to do so at the level you need.
Jobs for toddlers in the KITCHEN (most of which require a stool or learning tower)
- Wash vegetables in the sink
- Wash and dry dishes and utensils (the type and size will depend on your toddler's ability.
- Tiny can wash breakable items with care. Other toddlers may not be able to do this).
- Peel vegetables
- Wipe off counter tops
- Pour ingredients into a bowl
- Stir ingredients
- Roll out dough
- Use cookie cutters
- Make meatballs and hamburger patties (be sure to carefully supervise when toddlers handle raw meat)
- Crack eggs into a bowl
- Mop or sweep the floor
- Shred lettuce
- Toss a salad
- Grate cheese
- Unpack some groceries (or at least hand them to you)
- Help load dishwasher
- Help unload the dishwasher and put clean dishes away
- Put leftovers away in the refrigerator
- Wipe off lower shelves in the refrigerator and freezer
Jobs for toddlers around the HOUSE
- Put dirty clothes in the laundry hamper
- Put clothes from washer into dryer
- Unload clothes from dryer
- Help sort the laundry (clean or dirty)
- Help put clean laundry away
- Hand wash clothes
- Fold towels
- Pull blankets up on their bed
- Place napkins and plates and utensils on the dinner table
- Bring their empty dinner plate to the counter
- Pick up their toys and books
- Use a handheld vacuum
- Clean up their own (minor) spill
- Wipe off and dust furniture and mirrors
- Wipe off baseboards, windowsills with small cloth or wearing old socks on their hands
- Scrub the bathtub, shower, or sink (I recommend a spray bottle with water and vinegar for safety)
- Scrub corners of kitchen chairs or other small spaces using a clean toothbrush or nail brush and a cup of water
- Water plants
- Turn lights and overhead fans on and off
- Empty a small trash basket into a bigger bag
Jobs for toddlers OUTSIDE
- Help wash the car
- Help pull weeds from the garden
- Dig holes for bulbs, seeds, and plants
- Water plants and vegetables
- Pick ripe vegetables and fruit
- Pick up sticks in the yard
- Rake leaves
- Shovel snow
- Hose off just about anything
- Pick up litter in the front yard
Jobs for toddlers while running ERRANDS
- Place items into shopping cart
- Put items in cart onto check out belt or counter
- Put items into bags (if shopping at a bag-it-yourself store or the farmer's market)
- Carry a shopping basket with a few items or push a child size cart
Miscellaneous jobs for toddlers
- Help feed pets
- Bring in the mail or newspaper
- Throw trash away
- Use the lint roller
In what other ways does your toddler help around the house?
Top Photo Credit: Tim Ellis