I’m going to just get this out there now, that my main objective in teaching Ruby chores is in hopes of her taking them over someday. Now that I’ve cleared my selfish motives out of the way, I can share about the real benefits of giving toddlers chores and responsibilities at an early age.
Ruby started showing interest in helping me with chores at the beginning of this year at 21 months old. At first, it was more of an annoyance, she’d climb on the dishwasher while I was unloading it. For a while, I stopped unloading the dishwasher around her until I realized that I could actually spend the time to teach her how to help. At that time she was only able to take the silverware and throw it into the drawer.
Now, 10 months later, she gets out her stool and can even sort the silverware and put away correctly.
Teaching how to unload the silverware was the catalyst in my realization that she’d be able to handle more responsibility than I thought to give her. I then started to see what she could do and sure enough, it was quite a bit.
She was able to put her toys away, peel a clementine and boiled egg, help set the table. And even grab her play mop and help out while I was mopping.
And she thinks it’s fun! While it does take a little more patience and effort on my part at times, I remind myself that the payout is on the other side when, hopefully, she masters these skills.
Now that we’re ten months into doling out chores, I’ve noticed big changes in our toddler.
why give toddlers chores?
teaches independence | toddlers love and crave to be independent on their own. We’ve started to hear the phrase “I do it” “on my own” and I love that our toddler is challenging herself. She knows now to not ask for help before really trying to do something on her own first.
responsibility is good | Now that Ruby is responsible for cleaning up her toys after playing with them, she plays with them longer and (mostly) treats them better.
create good habits & discipline | This was the hardest to teach. It’s easy to get a toddler to help out with something when it’s new. But, cleaning up their toys or doing the same chore does become a discipline and it’s harder. I haven’t done this perfectly, but try to be consistent in a few of the chores we’ve given Ruby. Lately, I often hear her saying to herself, “clean up first” before moving on to a new task. It’s so nice when I don’t have to say it myself and realize we’re forming good healthy habits.
confidence | Man, is my daughter confident. She does this thing where she dramatically shakes her head yes with her eyes clothes when you ask her a question and she knows the answer. We give her all the praise for trying out new tasks and accomplishing things. The other day I found her climbing up onto the counter and reaching for the highest shelf to grab the cup she wanted. While at first, I was completely frightened, I was also a little proud of her independence and confidence.
If you haven’t yet started giving your toddler responsibilities around the house, try it out! While intimidating at first and yes, it can be a bit of work, it’s worth it, in the long run, I promise.
chores our two-year-old is mostly capable of doing:
- unload silverware from dishwasher & put away (although not always neatly)
- set out silverware and napkins on the table for dinner
- put toys away
- switch over laundry with help
- help with cooking (peel clementines, boiled eggs, crack and scramble eggs, pour in ingredients)
- clean up messes (we’re always shouting “Ruby, go grab the towel!!”)
- throw away diaper
- put on shoes
- help with cleaning (wash windows, dust, sweep, mop)
I’m sure there are more we unknowingly do, but often if we find that Ruby can do something on her own we expect her to continue doing it. We, of course, help her with most things and often if we’re in a hurry will just do it ourselves (toddlers move at a slooooowww pace) We definitely don’t do these things all the time or perfectly.
I’ve made it my rule to not clean up during nap times and do it while Ruby is playing. Earlier this summer she showed an interest in helping and I started letting her join in. I have to follow behind her and finish cleaning up, but I still encourage her and thank her. It takes a lot of time and practice to get good at something, so I remind myself of that often.
Thankfully, I hate cleaning and have little expectations of what things should look like, so I have an easier time letting her try it on her own.
I started thinking about the cleaning products we use in our home while I was pregnant with Ruby three years ago. We started using Grove Collaborative because they made it so easy and have a catalog of products you can trust for your home.
They’ve slowly and mindfully over the years have been building their own Grove brand and I love everything. Recently they launched their own concentrates so that you can reuse the glass bottle. Each of the three concentrates is made with plant-derived ingredients and essential oils and smell so yummy with an orange and rosemary scent. I’m happy to let ruby use them and help out with cleaning in our home, I especially love the addition of the silicone sleeve to the glass bottle for this reason too. We have a few of these bottles and have been mixing up our own cleaner (recipe here) for them.
Toddlers are especially fond of doing the things that we do, even chores. It may not always be so helpful right away, but it’s important to foster that curiosity and to encourage as much as we can.
Let me know what chores you have your toddler do at home, or at least try to help! I’m always looking for new and fun ways to involve her in our home rhythyms.
This post is in collaboration with Grove Collaborative, offering natural and sustainable products. We’ve been using them for years, before even partnering with them on this blog.