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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
From the shop

Activity gyms + play toys to keep your baby moving


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.

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Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

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Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

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There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

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When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

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