(Okay, maybe not wash the car.)
Every day, parents wish they had an extra set of hands. An extra set of hands, a personal assistant, a spare brain devoted solely to their jobs, a dishwashing machine that makes dinner and drives the kids to school the next day: any help they can get. But parents do have an extra set of hands. Their children. As parents ourselves, we were surprised to discover that children as young as two can learn to lend a hand. They’ll even enjoy it!
No one is suggesting that your baby should mow the lawn, however a few safe age-appropriate chores will teach children independence. There is renewed interest in the teaching style of childhood educator Maria Montessori. Developed in the early 1900s, her approach focuses on independence and a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. It also focuses on chores.
Choosing Age-Appropriate Chores for Your Child
A hundred years before the bedazzled days of DIY Pinterest chore charts, Montessori founded her first school. She began to persuade parents that kids learn more by doing than by listening. Montessori developed a chore chart as part of her curriculum so kids could continue to learn independently at home.
Montessori Chore Chart (left). Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chore Chart (right).
According to science, household chores are a great way to teach kids goal setting while raising self esteem and teaching life skills. Everyone wins! As an added bonus, toddlers actually enjoy helping out.
As you can see from the Montessori chart above, even the smallest child can learn to throw away a piece of trash, put dirty laundry in the hamper, and pick up their toys. The idea is that the smaller tasks build to larger ones as kids become more capable.
Pro Tips: Teaching Toddlers to Do Chores
Here are some tips from experts on how to successfully teach and incorporate chores into your family’s routine:
Patience: Take the time to demonstrate the task to your child, slowly and carefully. Be prepared to repeat it. Let go of being a perfectionist. The bed doesn’t need to be made with hospital corners. Focus on teaching your child the concept.
Consistency: If you’d like your child to pick up their toys every night, then follow through every night. Don’t expect your toddler to initiate the chore. Stay present and participate. Continually illustrate the task for your kiddo.
Fun: Have fun with it! Put on music, dance, be goofy. Take advantage of this 1-on-1 time to make some memories with your child. This will keep your toddler engaged in the chore.
Praise. Praise your child while they’re trying the task as well as after they complete it. Use chores to build their confidence and encourage a sense of responsibility.
Too Good to Be True?
The staff at Your Little Ladybug gave these techniques a try at home with their own toddlers to some success. A few tasks were easier than others (throwing away trash, putting away toys), but after a couple weeks of consistency, setting the table was possible for a two-year old — just don’t expect a tablescape worthy of Martha Stewart Living!
The one downside is that the teaching aspect does take time, patience, and consistency — more than you might have to give. However, after a few weeks the staff found they were spending less time demonstrating. The toddlers began to see the tasks as part of their routine and started to look forward to each daily activity.
While your toddler may not wash your car from start to finish, they’ll definitely be thrilled to participate with you. With a little practice, parents will have an extra set of helping hands sooner than they think. For more ideas, tips, and tricks for busy little hands, check out yourlittleladybug.com/blog or find us on Facebook.