Age-appropriate chores for your toddler—from 14 months to 5 years old

Keep their little hands and minds busy working alongside you.

Age-appropriate chores for your toddler—from 14 months to 5 years old

As an occupational therapist, building skills for functional independence is basically my thing. Giving kids (no matter their age) chores that are within their functional abilities will:


  • Give them a sense of accomplishment + pride
  • Empower them to become a contributing family team player
  • Build functional skills that can be built upon in other areas (such as categorizing, reaching, balance skills, problem solving, etc)
  • Teach them life skills for the future
  • Help you out with your endless parenting to-do list

When you keep their little hands and minds busy working alongside you, they (hopefully) won't undo all that you're trying to accomplish.

It is SO important with toddlers to find just the right task. By that, I mean, the activity must have just the right balance of challenge and feasibility. You want them to be challenged but you also don't want them to become so frustrated that they give up.

I thought it might be helpful, to other parents out there, to make a list of age-appropriate household chores (listed by age range)—and remember that the idea isn't necessarily for them to be thorough, but to learn and feel as though they're helping.

14 months to 2 years old:

Meal time

  • Help prepare veggies/fruit for snack: Wash and place pre-cut food items onto plates. At around age two, they can peel bananas and oranges (adult starts the peel, child finishes).
  • Help set table: Bring utensils to the table while the older children can place them properly
  • Help set table: Bring everyone's drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Wipe the table down after dinner with help

Laundry

  • Place sorted laundry into basket (to keep hands busy)
  • Help take out items from dryer and place into basket with you
  • With help, can transfer clothes from washer to dryer
  • Place sorted clothes into washer with you, and pour pre-measured laundry detergent in
  • Help push button to turn on washer/dryer

Miscellaneous

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away into bin
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed)
  • Can pull a small sized garbage bag to the outside garbage (with an adult)
  • Take out the plastic cups and silverware from the dishwasher and hand them to you as you sort and put away
  • Starting around 18 months, they can start sorting the silverware into forks, butter knives and spoons drawers. If they can't sort types, start with only forks and spoons (they will only have to divide their attention by two vs three)
  • Clean the cabinets—give them a wipie or wet cloth and have them get busy
  • Clean up spills with a towel
  • Help feed pet by scooping and pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Clean up and put away one singular toy set at a time with adult encouragement (LEGOs, blocks, one puzzle). Learning to clean up is easiest when an adult models desired action (like putting blocks into container)

2-3 years old

Meal time

  • Help prep snacks and veggies: Peel and cut bananas and other soft fruits with butter knife, break broccoli stems off, peel oranges, sprinkle seeds, toppings or spices (salt, chia seeds, nuts, etc.)
  • Help plate pre-cut food items
  • Sort knives, forks, spoons into appropriate drawers from dishwasher
  • Set table by bringing fork, knife and spoon and placing properly in desired location (adult will model desired place setting first)
  • Help set table: Bring everyone's drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher or sink and can begin to learn how to put plates into dishwasher and silverware, etc.
  • Wipe the table down after dinner
  • Can use a small hand broom to clean up spilled food with some help

Laundry

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer
  • Help sort clothes into baskets (lights, darks, whites)
  • Put laundry into washer and pour pre-measured detergent
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage)
  • Match socks: First find the matches, then lay the match atop each other (may be able to roll them as well)
  • Help each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Fold washcloths with adult modeling
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold towels
  • Put away individual folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, one clothing item at a time (for example, “Put away this stack of shirts, hold them like this.")

Miscellaneous

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed)
  • Take out items from dishwasher and hand them to you while you put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets—give them a wipe and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Help feed pet by scooping and pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Clean up 2-3 toy sets at a time with adult encouragement (for example, “You clean up the blocks and LEGOs, I'll clean up the dolls.")
  • Clean up bookshelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing

4 to 5 years old

Meal time

  • Prep snacks and veggies: Cut bananas, break broccoli stems, peel oranges, use a butter knife to spread peanut butter/jelly/butter etc. on toast or crackers, add toppings/spices/salt and pepper
  • Help to taste and add spices, salt and pepper to dishes (also helps to decrease sensitivity to certain spices and warm-up their palate for mealtime)
  • Help plate food items
  • Tear napkins and fold into squares, set them on table
  • Set table with silverware in correct position atop folded square napkins
  • Pour waters for everyone having dinner (pre measured water, from a pitcher or water dispenser)
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher, can learn to place plates and silverware in proper locations
  • Wipe table down after dinner, use a squirt bottle to spray first
  • Begin to learn how to sweep items into a pile (still may need assistance)

Laundry

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer
  • Help sort laundry into baskets (lights, darks and whites)
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage)
  • Match and fold socks: First find the matches, then lay the match atop each other, then roll them together
  • Put each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Fold washcloths in halves or folded squares (folded in half twice)
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold the larger item, towels
  • Put away folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, learning how to hold the folded piles with two hands without dropping them
  • Help put hangers into shirts and hand them to you while you hang them in the closet

Miscellaneous

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Take out recycling: Find a handy-sized bag they can fill and carry out to the bin
  • Take out trash
  • Help find ripe fruits and veggies at the grocery store: Give them a baggie to fill and teach how to tell if a fruit/veggie is ready to eat
  • Take out items from dishwasher and help put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets: Give them a wipie or wet washcloth and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Clean up a small room with encouragement, but break the tasks down into steps for them (for example, “First clean up the LEGO's, then the books.")
  • Clean up bookshelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "Turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help feed pet by scooping and pouring dog/cat food into bowl, filling up water bowl
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing
  • Help put clean pillow cases onto pillow while you put clean sheets on the bed
  • Around age four, they can manage pushing a small vacuum

Originally published by Ashley Thurn on Helpinghandsot.com.

It's easier for little ones to help when they have the right tools. Check out some of the kid-friendly products in the Motherly Shop!

EKOBO step stool

EKOBO step stool

Not only does this sustainably made step stool make it easier for kids to access the things they need, it can also flip over and be used as a simple storage container.

$29

Janod play cleaning set

Janod play cleaning set

This wooden set includes realistic broom, mop, bucket, dustpan and brush that they can use to help keep things neat and tidy! (Dare to dream, mama.)

$38

Yamazaki favori storage box

Yamazaki favori storage box

Ideal for corralling toys and books, this storage box makes it easy for kiddos to keep their prized possessions organized.

$33

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

True