Check out this free printable if you would like an easy to use toddler chore checklist. Help engage your child in daily chores and make it part of your routine early to avoid struggles when your child is older.
Chores are really important to me. I think kids need to do them. I always had chores as a kid and I always hated it, but I am aware that the one chore I never did- laundry- was something I needed to learn very late in the game. Which is why, at 26 years old, I washed my laundry with fabric softener for a good year or two before realizing my mistake. I didn’t smell, but I still chuckle thinking back on it. I was so embarrassed when I realized my mistake. Whoops.
Beyond teaching my kids life skills though, I don’t want to burn out on mothering and get all stressed out spending all day cleaning up my kids’ messes. They’re not terribly old, but at almost 2 and 4 years old, they can certainly complete some chores.
The main thing with chores is consistency. I plan to add on to and change this list as the kids get older- reading three books isn’t reasonable at 10 when you read chapter books, and you don’t need to checklist at 15 for items like “practice letters” or “brush teeth” (we can hope). These are things I expect my sons to help with at this point. Certain items my almost 2 year old can’t complete yet and that is fine. If they can’t complete something, I don’t need to stress about it. I’m working with my oldest son on getting dressed by himself- he is capable, but often really wants mommy to help. I think this chart will help encourage him to do it himself.
The second thing to note about chores at this age is SUPERVISION and EXPLANATION is a necessary part of the equation. It’s a lot of work now, but it will pay off later. I spend a lot of time teaching and talking about what we are doing if it’s something new or if it could ever be a safety issue. For example, if they help me move dirty laundry into the washer, I will remind them that we never get inside a washer or dryer, and that we always wait for mommy or daddy to help turn it on. If they help, they get to push the buttons. I remind them how to properly plug and unplug an electrical item like the vacuum. I usually do it for them, but I’ve explained and demonstrated and had them practice this skill. I want them to learn these things without needing to get hurt- but I want to be calm so I don’t scare them about any of it either.
I expect the kids to listen or they can’t participate… at which point I’ll let them know they need to sit this activity out because they’re acting in a way that could be unsafe. This is a good age because they really WANT to do these things with you so you can pull this off. “Oh well guess you can’t help mommy load the laundry…” “NoooooooOoOoOoo!”
A note on a couple of the chores.
- Putting dishes away. My 3 year old does this. I take out all of the knives and the breakable stuff… he puts away everything that’s in the bottom cabinets, as well as the silverware. He does a better job than my husband and me. My 1 year old will sometimes help put away the kid’s dishes and Tupperware. The kids dishes go in a box inside a bottom cabinet (pictures below show our setup for dishes).
- Wiping the table: I keep water bottles full of water for the kids so they can “wash” the windows or the table with the water. All kitchen rags are in a bottom cabinet for them to reach- this allows them to wipe up spills (when they drop their cup of water) and to help with chores. I know that washing the table just with water is still going to require me to do it over with cleaner, but my kids are learning and I don’t want them playing with real cleaners at this age. It does make my job easier. I do occasionally give my oldest a rag with cleaner on it already, but I just prefer to not have them using it.
- My 1.5 year old is just tall enough to push his (plastic) dishes into the sink. He also helps throw garbage away. Sometimes I’ll have him help with garbage and let big boy get the dishes- or if there’s a full bowl of something, I will do it myself so I won’t have a trail of milk or food all the way to the sink.
Using the Chore Checklist
I use one of these chore charts for both kids. I print the checklist, laminate it, and then we can use a dry erase on it easily. Next to each item, I have the kids write a “G” for Godric, “K” for Kaden, or “M” for Mommy depending on who has completed what. If both kids brushed teeth, you’d see a K and a G. It takes up less space this way than two charts. I had a clip on my refrigerator for it. I don’t stress if they don’t do an item… but I remind them through the day, “hmm it looks like you haven’t wiped the table yet… did you want to do that so you can get a bead later?” Usually the answer is yes and I make a big deal about putting his initial (or letting him) on the checklist when he’s done. We have a new puppy in the house so I do harass them a bit more about picking up their toys- ie. “The puppy will eat your toys if you don’t pick them up.” No stressing. No yelling. I want to keep chores as pleasant as possible so they won’t balk against them in the future. If they don’t do it perfectly, I either let them know how to do it (if they’re capable) or I quietly fix it (if I don’t think they have the skill to do it).
At the end of the day, they each get beads based on how many items they completed. Beads go in our “good job jar” which then build up for them to get prizes. We’ve done toys, but you can also do special events or mommy & me time, etc. as a prize. I think that’s what I’ll transition to soon. The kids share the good job jar so the prize goes to both of them when it is full. I expect sharing in my house and helping each other so I wanted them to work from the same jar. We’ll see if I change my mind once they’re older, but for now it works.
Don’t forget to check out my printable for a Dog Care Chore Checklist for Toddlers . Want to app to track chores and pay allowance? This app even gives your kids their own debit card. Check my post on how to use the Greenlight App.