We have a list of chores for our toddler. These are the things that we expect him to do every day, and mostly it's not an issue. The idea is to make it a part of the everyday, something that he does automatically just like brushing his teeth. If he doesn't do them when asked, we do them together. If he doesn't want to do them together, I do them but we try again tomorrow. So we attempt to do all of them every day. The toddler can start on all of these once they are walking or for most children at least by eighteen months.
- Put away clothes
- Dirty/worn clothes in the laundry basket.
- Clean clothes folded (toddler style) on the shelves.
- Tidy room at the end of the day
- In the playroom/living area we put away as we go when we've finished, but his bedroom sometimes has toys at the end of the day that need to be picked up.
- Make sure everything is back in its place.
- Hang up bathrobe.
- Make bed
- Pull up covers.
- All pillows and cushions put back on the bed.
- Help clean up after dinner
- Take his own plate, cup and, utensils to the dishwasher, his brothers are doing this at the same time so the dishwasher is usually open. As all three boys are doing this at the same time it becomes a part of our routine. He mostly does this with all meals but there is always more to do after dinner.
- Help take out the garbage
- We started doing this because he loved it so much that he would get upset if it was done without him, now it's a part of his every day. If he stopped liking this we would stop asking him to do it.
- Put away clean laundry.
- I only give Otto a small pile of clothes to put away that goes into his toddler wardrobe, this typically might be two tops, one pair of pants and a pair of socks, it's not a big deal but it starts the habit and expectation of putting away his own clothes.
- Help put away groceries.
- This is my least favourite task so everyone who is home has to help. For the toddler this might mean putting one can in the cupboard, or getting a few things out of the bags and putting them on the table. Not a large task but it's nice for everyone to come together and pitch in.
All rubbish the toddler generates goes in the bin and all food scraps go into the compost throughout the day. Honestly, these chores are not a big deal, toddlers generally want to help and be in amongst the family. We also let him do them at his own pace, some times very slowly.
There are lots of other areas of practical life which we involve our toddler. He is always invited to help vacuum, mop, dust, water plants, set the table, garden, sweep, put away any work we have been using as a family, wipe down the table, help with the laundry, hang up the washing, empty the dishwasher, chop vegetables and the list is almost endless.
It's important to get the balance right between our expectations, what the toddler is able to do and what the toddler is wanting to do. We want many of these tasks not to be seen as chores but as personal responsibilities and others are contributions to family life. I have found after having three children it's easier to start when they are young, once the child is walking they are able to put their clothes in the dirty clothes basket, there is no reason why they shouldn't.
The thing about chores is that the toddler will never do them as good as you and there is a need to 'let go' or make peace with their efforts. Bed making is a great example! Give them the opportunity to do it themselves. It's worth it!