Toddlers have an unfortunate reputation. They aren't babies and they are transitioning to being a bonafide child. Transitions are hard for persons of any age. Often toddlers feel powerless and lacking choices in their life, which leads to frustration and tantrums. Offering choices (both of which are OK with you) is an empowering experience for both parent and child.
Toddlers also want to be BIG! They love feeling like a "big kid" and contributing to the home is a great way in instill feelings of appropriate accomplishment. All it takes to successfully coach your little one in the process of helping around the house is some confidence and a little knowledge in child development.
The National Association for the Education of Young Childrenstates, "Young children love to help out, but many times we don't let them. Why? Because we think it's easier - and faster - to do every day jobs ourselves. Your child might take 15 minutes to finish a job you can do in one minute, but in 15 minutes your child can learn a lot!"
I train my children to do chores in 4 steps:
Have them watch me do it
Do it with them
Watch them do it
Have them do it independently with an inspection at the end
Each of these steps will take repeating and time. Be patient! Toddlers learn best by repetition and observation. Make it fun and enjoyable. Remember, as a parent you are a coach, not a drill-sergeant. Working together is an excellent relationship-builder for parents and children. Sing songs, listen to music, or tell stories to make the chore a fun time.
Try not to start the process when you are stressed or under time constraints. Wait until you are relaxed and ready to be patient and undisturbed for 15-20 minutes.
Some great ideas for chores/responsibilities for the 2-4 age group are:
Empty small trash cans into larger ones.
Put away clean utensils.
Washing or rinsing unbreakable dishes.
Helping make beds.
Helping fold cloths and small towels.
Washing inside windows or mirrors.
Assisting with baking by adding ingredients.
Sweeping with a small broom and dustpan.
Putting away kid plates, bowls, and cups in a kid-accessible cabinet.
It helps if you enjoy the time as well as your kids. Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, it takes some extra time, but one of the intentional parts of parenting is ensuring that our children contribute to the order of a home. We want our children to know how to work, have success and pride in a job well done, and become industrious as they enter school and the workforce.
As with anything it starts small and it starts early. Don't be afraid! Parenting is a process in which we are certain to make mistakes. Children are remarkably forgiving and just want your attention and love. Happy memories can be made anywhere, anytime. Why not make some while up to your elbows in bubbles and suds?