Toddlers and pre-schoolers love to feel like they’re as smart and capable as adults. They like to try new things and take pleasure in touching and moving things around. So why not use this natural curiosity and energy and…teach them to help out with chores?
Chores teach toddlers and preschoolers responsibility, give them a great confidence boost (‘Yes, I’m Mommy’s helper!’) and also develops their coordination, motor skills and even concepts like counting. Here are some parenting tips on how to get started.
Parenting tip # 1: Make a ‘Mommy’s Helper Box’
Get a box and label it with your child’s name (he will love that!). Then fill it with his own set of tools: rags, water spray bottles, a small feather duster, a small watering can, and perhaps a gentle and organic bar of soap that he can use for washing handkerchiefs or his toys.
Your child will feel proud to own his own set of things. It will also give him something to keep busy with while you go about your chores. He can dust the chairs or lower book shelves while you vacuum, or soap his plastic bath toys (which need to be disinfected anyway) while you was the dishes.
Parenting tip # 2: Give clear and simple instructions.
Kids may be confused about what to do: what does ‘clean the room’ mean? Instead, give specific instructions: ‘Put your blocks back into the box.’
Also remember that kids don’t know how to read, so get innovative about labeling storage containers. You can tape a picture of a car on the box that holds his favorite Hot Wheels.
Parenting tip # 3: Turn household chores into a chance to bond!
This is a way for the two of you to work side by side and help each other out. Instead of parking him in front of a video so you have time to vacuum the living room, he can help wipe the table or the furniture. He’ll also love being part of your routine, instead of being brushed off and told to ‘behave’ while you do something else. ‘Can you help me? While I sort your books, can you pack away your books?’ or ‘Let’s water the plants together.’
Parenting tip # 4: Be patient.
Don’t shout, ‘Hurry up!’ or ‘You’re making a bigger mess!’ Or, ‘Stop bothering me! I told you that you couldn’t do that.’ This weakens self esteem, and makes your child feel like he can’t learn or do anything. Be patient, and remember that even if it does take him longer to put away blocks than if you did it yourself, he’s learning important skills and growing in independence and confidence too.
Parenting tip # 5: Pick chores that match your child’s interests.
A child who loves bath time will enjoy ‘wet chores’ like washing his toys, or watering the plants, or washing the car. A child who likes jumping and running around will enjoy chores that require a lot of movement, like wiping things or swishing a broom. Others may like repetitive tasks like sorting out the white and colored laundry.
Parenting tip # 6: Add educational concepts.
Use chores to teach colors, numbers, time, etc. For example, ask him to pick up all the red blocks first, then the blue blocks, etc. Use a timer to see how fast he can sort laundry. Ask him to pair the socks and count the number of pairs he can find.
Photo from averyproducts.com.au