How to get very young children involved with chores

We can all relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed with household responsibilities. But there’s just no getting around it: chores need to get done. And what better way to do them than with an extra set of hands?

Toddlers are very eager to be helpful. So, instead of imposing your expectations on them, ask them if they’d like to help you do whatever chore you’re doing. Then, when they get involved, aim to work together, so that the child feels like a full participant in the task rather than a slave to parental demands.

One great thing about toddlers is that they’re eager to explore and attempt new things. If you have a 2-year-old who likes helping you cook, let him mix a pancake batter or stir some spaghetti sauce. What he learns today could turn into the skills he uses for his own family someday!

You don’t have to wait until they can wield a broom or mop before involving them with cleaning up. It’s not just about getting the job done — it’s about teaching them how to do it. So if you’re sweeping the floor, offer opportunities for the child to help with what you’re doing.

It’s important not to force kids into helping with chores. The aim is not to control the kids, but rather to develop their own initiative and sense of responsibility for their actions. Kids will naturally want to be helpful if we give them opportunities and show them how much we appreciate their help!

If they participate, even if it means going more slowly or if you have redo the task, praise their efforts and let them know they are welcome. This will set off a developmental trajectory that leads children voluntarily helping and pitching in at home on their own accord.

Where possible, have young children do work that can be done as a group. For example, fold the laundry for the whole household together. That way they are building connections with their family rather than doing something alone as an individual. Chores becomes associated with a positive experience rather than a rushed halfhearted lonely one.

The two-year-old who stirs pancake mix today could turn into the six-year-old setting a pretty table and starting breakfast for everyone tomorrow — and will feel darn good about it.