One of the biggest challenges of early childhood development is teaching kids independence, autonomy, and responsibility. Many parents overlook the opportunity during the toddler years, when a child's desire to please leads them to mimic, but this is an ideal time to start teaching your kids how to build some independence and be responsible for some things around the house. The easiest way to do this is by getting them involved in the day-to-day home maintenance with chores. Here are a few chores that are developmentally appropriate for toddlers to help you get started.
When your child transitions into a toddler bed, it's the perfect time to start teaching that with the "big kid bed" comes responsibilities like making the bed every morning. Just remember that you can't expect it to be perfect. If they can get their pillows and blankets straightened out and put their stuffed animals together, that's usually sufficient, even if the blankets still have wrinkles. The finer details will improve with time. Encourage your child to make the bed every morning as part of the early morning routine, and give him or her complete ownership of the task. That means not going in behind your child to "straighten it up." That just tells kids that they didn't do it right, which discourages them.
With the placement of a laundry hamper in their bedroom, toddlers and preschoolers can have responsibility for putting their dirty clothes in the hamper when they change each day. For kids not yet dressing themselves, they can assist with putting their own clean laundry in their drawers, a task that can continue as they get older. Eventually, when fine motor skills start to improve, you can even have your kids help you fold laundry.
Clean Up Toys
Institute a period of time before bedtime that's earmarked for cleaning up the toys played with during the day. You'll have to help with this in the early stages of the process until your child learns all of the steps and where to put everything. Younger kids may feel somewhat overwhelmed by the task without some direction to break it into steps, so try instructing them to pick up a certain type of toy first, then another type second, and carry on until the toys are taken care of.
These are all tasks that directly affect your child's immediate environment, so they are able to see the results of those activities and appreciate their own efforts. Encourage your child to be active in the general household maintenance with these tips and then find other chores that he or she enjoys doing to help teach both independence and a sense of community in the house.
For more ways your child can help around the house, talk to a professional who specializes in early childhood development, like those at the Northside Center.