Toddler Life

Introducing Chores to a Toddler

As all the craziness of the current pandemic spirals around us, we are all finding ourselves home a whole lot more. Myself included. The bit of work I was doing significantly slowed, and then came to a stop for a while, and we’re supposed to be social distancing and staying home anyways. Since Mauricio works in the healthcare industry, his work hasn’t slowed one bit which means it’s me and Oliver all day every day at home. This is what I live for. I love being home with Oliver. I was enjoying the bit of work I was doing, but in the last couple weeks of being home a lot more I’m realizing how much I really like being home and how much more independent Oliver is. I’m realizing how many “jobs” I give him to do around the house and how very helpful he is to me. Don’t get me wrong, he makes his fair share of messes, and it’s not like he’s some perfect angel who cleans them all up. But for being an almost 2 year old, he’s a pretty good helper. I figured now would be a great time to share what all these little “jobs” are and how they can help build independence and community in our household.

From the beginning I’ve had the mentality that our home is not just an adults house with a kid in it, it’s a home for all of us. That means that Oliver’s toys co-exist with our decor and furniture and Oliver is allowed in all areas of the house, with supervision. Now that Oliver is getting older, this freedom also means he helps out. Some of his chores have happened naturally and others I’ve given to him, others I’ve realized are a bit out of his league for the time being and will attempt later. 

The first chore I gave Oliver was helping feed the animals. He was starting to get more interested in the dogs food and I decided to make it a learning and helpful thing instead of something that I tried to keep him away from. We had a few cases of Oliver pouring the dog food into their water or spilling the bowls all over the living room. I talked to Oliver about making sure the dogs were able to eat their food and if it was a mess they wouldn’t be able to eat it. Then I showed him the process of feeding them and how he could help with it. So now once a day Oliver will carry the dog bowls over to the food bin, help me pour the food in and carry them back for the dogs to eat. He can’t reach the sink to help get them water yet, but that is something I plan on doing in the future as well.

Oliver also helps with feeding the turtles. Similar to the dogs, Oliver was starting to play in the cupboards under the turtle tank where I keep their food and supplies. Again I talked to him about keeping their stuff in the cupboard so it’s in the right place when we need it, but their food is something that we do need to get out. So once a day, when the turtles are going wild demanding food, Oliver gets their food out and hands it to me to feed them. For now he is happy to watch them eat and then puts their food away. Eventually I’ll teach him how to push a chair over and feed them himself. But he has to learn how to climb up on a chair first, we don’t have a climber here.

Oliver doesn’t help with the cats for the time being. Their food is tucked away so that the dogs don’t eat it. Eventually, when Oliver can handle reaching it, I will have him help with them as well. Eventually, feeding the pets will be totally his responsibility but I am very happy with his helpfulness in feeding them now. 

Another thing that Oliver helps with is feeding himself. I let him make selective choices about his meals. I give him a few options for meals and let him choose. Then once he makes his choice, I have him bring me a plate or bowl. This doesn’t seem like a big deal but I’ve seen many parents share about how their kids are having a meltdown because their food is in the wrong color bowl and that’s not something I’ve ever experienced. I can’t say that it’s never going to happen, but Oliver makes his own choice about his plate based on what is in his cupboard and he is always very happy with his choices. He gets me a cup of his choice and tells me if he wants milk or water to drink and for the most part he gets what he’s asking for. I will say that the cupboard is a disaster area and I can’t even look in there so it’s best that Oliver gets his own stuff for my sanity. He has also recently started fishing around in the silverware drawer for his own spoons and forks. He’s tall enough to reach in, but not quite tall enough to see what he’s grabbing so it usually takes a while for him to find what he wants but he typically understands whether he needs a spoon or fork based on what he’s having to eat. That seems like such a simple thing to us as grown adults, but I’m pretty impressed with him for knowing the difference on his own. 

Oliver also helps me with putting dishes away. The biggest help is with his dishes since he knows exactly where they go and they’re not breakable so I can just let him do that all on his own. But he also helps with the tupperware (which I often go and re-organize later) and any lids to pots and pans. He knows right where those things go and is very helpful in putting them away.

Oliver is like most toddlers in that he loves to copy what we’re doing. Since I clean the house to some extent every single day, it makes sense that Oliver wanted to copy what I’m doing. So, I got him his own little broom and when I sweep he will go get his to help me. When I vacuum, he will take another part of the vacuum and pretend to vacuum the rug or couch with me. While these aren’t necessarily helpful for the time being, I like to promote this cleaning behavior and plan on giving him some basic cleaning chores as he grows. I think his main chore will be wiping the baseboards. He’s a great size for it, and it’s something I despise doing so it would work out good for both of us. 

Putting coins in his bank

This one might not be a chore per se, but it’s helpful in its own way. Oliver is great at finding coins laying around the house. The perfect and grossest choking hazard. I won’t lie, I caught him pop a quarter right in his mouth one day and knew immediately I needed to shift the narrative around coins in the house. Luckily, Oliver has a couple of piggy banks that were laying in wait for this exact moment. I went and got one of them and showed him how to put money in it so it can stay safe for later. Now every time Oliver finds coins around the house, he asks for his bank instead of making a snack out of them. Not only is he not being gross and eating money, but he’s saving for his future when he wants to buy all the weird things kids want to buy, he can use his loose change money. 

“Helping” with laundry

While the food focused tasks are the easiest for Oliver to do, there are some other tasks that I’ve been working on with him that haven’t fully stuck. Oliver is okay at putting away his toys when asked. I’m not going to say he’s great at it, but I’m trying to be consistent in showing him that we clean up one thing before moving on to the next in the hopes that he’ll believe that’s the way it should always be. We’ll see how that works out.  Oliver will often help pick out his clothes and put dirty clothes in his laundry basket. I’ve attempted having him help me sort dirty laundry to help with color matching and sorting, but it didn’t work out yet. He had much more fun climbing in the laundry basket and throwing the clothes around than focusing on what color pile they needed to go in. We’ll try that one again as time goes on. 

I love having Oliver help me around the house and the list of things he can help with just keeps growing. Not only is it good for him to learn to be a part of the house by doing his part, it helps me keep things on track. It also helps me with maintaining patience with my little human. Trust me, feeding the dogs now takes much longer than when I did it and getting the table set is a whole thing now instead of a few seconds. But I want to allow him to do as much as he can so that he can learn as much as he can.

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