- I’m a mom to an almost 2-year-old girl.
- My husband and I have been picking up after her when she goes to bed, but it’s exhausting.
- I want her to be involved in household chores because it helps develop self-esteem.
Every night after I put my toddler, Elle, to bed, the cleanup begins. My husband and I hurry around the house, putting toys in bins, vacuuming fruit-flavored puffs, and wiping sticky fingerprints off tables, walls, and kitchen cabinets.
But after watching “Old Enough!” — the Japanese series where toddlers go on errands by themselves — I was inspired to teach my almost 2-year-old daughter to start chipping in. After all, if those Netflix-famous tots could go to grocery stores and fish markets, maybe mine could clear her plate.
As it turns out, household duties can be an important part of childhood development. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has found that chores can promote self-esteem, teach responsibility, and teach young kids how to deal with frustrations.
So while I’m not yet comfortable handing my toddler a flag and sending her to a store, I know that even the smallest kids can do important work.
Kids want to help
Teaching a toddler to do anything new can be challenging, so I assumed getting Elle interested in chores would be difficult. But kids, especially the youngest ones, are naturally interested in their caregiver’s activities.
I started to do little tasks, such as putting toys away and folding laundry, and asked her to join in. “Come on, honey, let’s put these blocks in the bin,” I’d say. I’d show her how to do the task and sometimes gently guide her hand to get her started.
I’ll admit that she isn’t always keen on chores. Sometimes she decides she’d like to play with whatever toy I’m putting away. But usually, she sits down next to me when I tidy up, grabbing her blocks or dolls and tossing them into the toy box, happy to help.
There are a lot of chores little hands can do
One of my biggest challenges in chore training was convincing myself that most jobs weren’t too difficult for my toddler.
There’s a lot a toddler can do. At the grocery store, I instruct her to grab groceries from low shelves and put them in the basket. When we get home, she carries light grocery bags with nothing breakable in them into the kitchen.
When I want to wipe down the table, I put a damp sock on Elle’s hand, and she cleans right along with me. If I hand her a cup of cat food, she’ll run over to refresh our pet’s bowl. She even helps out in the kitchen, standing on a toddler stool and using a wooden, child-safe slicer to cut her own apples.
As “Old Enough!” viewers likely know, toddlers aren’t always 100% successful when it comes to their tasks. The kids on the show don’t always bring home the right items or the right amount. And similarly, my toddler’s “cleaning” doesn’t always make the house tidier. Her version of wiping up spilled ice cream usually spreads rainbow sherbet around the living-room floor. Watering our houseplants usually results in more water outside the pot than inside.
But I’m not encouraging my daughter to help with chores because I’m hoping to lighten my load. I want to get her used to doing these tasks so that she has a sense of pride in our home, develops self-esteem, and has a strong work ethic.
Doing chores is also great bonding time
While I used to drop my toddler in her playpen as I loaded dirty clothes into the washer, now we do the task together. I bring the hamper to the laundry room, and we take turns putting articles of clothing into the washer. Then, when the clothes are clean, I take them out of the washer, and she tosses them into the dryer.
With my daughter helping, I’ve found that something as mundane as laundry can be fun. Sure, chores with a toddler can take all day — but it’s a day well spent.