Menu

Your toddler benefits from chores, too: Here’s how to start

This isn’t just about cleaning up the house. (Although that helps!)

Your toddler benefits from chores, too: Here’s how to start

When can we start introducing chores to our children? No one wants to end up with a teenager who can’t do his own dishes, but when we’re dealing with kids who are still drinking out of sippy cups, it’s hard to know their capabilities when it comes to chores.


It turns out that little kids can do a lot around the house.

“As you become aware of your child's gross and fine motor skills, think about what chores they could accomplish,” says Deborah Gilboa, MD, founder of AskDoctorG.com and author of Teach Responsibility: Empower Your Kid with a Great Work Ethic. “Chores help children learn to see themselves as people who help—rather than just people who are helped by others.”

Dr. Tanya Kaefer of Lakehead University calls this the development of prosocial skills and behaviors, which is actually more important than the chores themselves—at least in the early years. As she says, “Really, it’s about learning to be a helper.”

How can parents and toddlers get started with chores?

Encourage helping behaviors in little kids by assigning tasks that are more like “sub-skills” than full chores, suggests parenting expert Alyson Schafer, author of Breaking the Good Mom Myth. “The key here is to look at both where your child is showing interest and where they seem to be developmentally ready,” Schafer says. “Then just think about what the next step might be.”

Here’s how:

1. Reframe your child’s skills

Think of all of your toddler’s lovely habits: Throwing, pulling and pushing. Those can actually be quite helpful when it comes to chores! For example, Schafer says that if your toddler can pull toys off the shelf, he can also pull laundry out of the dryer. She adds, “Would I call this a child ‘doing laundry’? No. But it’s a sub-task.”

2. Promote cognitive chores

Sorting is an important developmental skill many toddlers are already eager to practice—so parents should take advantage of it when it comes to chores. “A toddler who can match for a card game can organize a tupperware drawer or pair socks from the laundry or shoes by the front door and bring the pairs to the owner's room,” says Gilboa.

3. New motor skills mean new ways to tidy up

According to Gilboa, 6 to 8 years old is a good age for kids to take ownership of folding their own laundry—but they can start helping with it much earlier than that. “A preschooler who can use a hockey stick or [can] arrange a doll house is ready to sort toys back into bins and put books by size on a shelf or fold towels,” she says.

4. Manage your own expectations

Figuring out what we can expect from our kids is the first step to figuring out how to incorporate chores. The second step is managing our own expectations.

“If your 18-month-old is helping fold laundry, you’re going to have more laundry unfolded than folded,” Kaefer says—though she adds that’s completely fine. Simply letting your toddler feel as though they are helping develops those prosocial skills. Major contributions to household productivity can come later.

5. Learn to let go

As kids get older, you’ll probably want them to contribute more. In those cases, Schafer says we may have to relinquish the idea of the “perfect house” in order to teach self-sufficiency. “We have to be willing to have things be sloppier, go slower, and be done to a messier standard,” she explains.

6. Don’t immediately correct work

Children will—and should!—take pride in the ways they’re helping around the house. But that can be replaced if they see you immediately swoop in to do a better job.“If you redo the work they've done it, they will see that the work isn't useful and stop doing it,” says Gilboa. “When it's not done right the first time, get your child to work on it some more.”

Whether you choose to let your child do the dishes or not, one thing is clear: Little hands are more capable than we think.

The Motherly Shop is here 🎉 (and it has exactly what you need, mama)

We did the hard work for you, hand-picking the things you want and need and ensuring we only bring you the best—so you can take one thing off that full plate of yours.

Since the beginning, Motherly has existed to help mamas of all experiences feel seen, understood and supported. Through expert and mom-to-mom advice and information we've been here to help you along the motherhood journey.

With that same ethos, we've created The Motherly Shop—an online collection of products curated for every stage of motherhood. We did the hard work for you, hand-picking the things you want and need and ensuring we only bring you the best from brands and makers that really care—so you can take one thing off that full plate of yours.

To make browsing a little easier, we curate the products based on mama needs + pain points. For example, here's our newest collection created to gather everything a pregnant woman needs.

Check out some of our favorites from our Becoming Mama collection and get shopping!

The sleep support

Belly Bandit SOS pillow

Finding the right position for sleep can feel like an Olympic sport when you've got a baby belly to accommodate. Belly Bandit, masters of creating wearables that support pregnant bodies, also managed to create the ideal tool for side sleeping.

$80

The wear-anywhere maternity dress

Stowaway Collection Maternity Becca dress

Finding clothes that still make you feel like yourself isn't always easy. With their premium fabrics and universally flattering cuts, we can't get enough of the maternity wardrobe essentials from Stowaway Collection maternity. Even better? They sew everything in Long Island City, NY and source USA-made fabric whenever possible.

$80

The chic but practical shoe 

OSAY the label slip on

Bending over to put shoes on is so overrated. We've got you covered with the most stylish and obsession-worthy handmade loafers with a secret. Just fold down the back, and BAM! slip-ons. Additionally, the La Babouche Loafer + Slip-On OSAY the Label beauties are made from recycled leather that literally forms to your feet.

$135

The delicate reminder

Whether it's whispered sweetly, shrieked from the top of the big slide, or echoed through the phone from thousands of miles away, 'mama' is the name you'll respond to for the rest of your life. Like all the Tiny Tags necklaces, this sweet reminder is laser engraved by highly skilled artisans in the USA.

$105

The stylish diaper bag that doesn't look like a diaper bag

Mina baie vegan stevie

When leaving the house requires as much prep as an international flight (ah, remember those?) having a spacious bag you can depend on is key. Mina Baie bags not only deliver on a space for everything, but also manage to do it in style. They're the kind of bags you'll carry even when you manage to leave your little one behind.

$178

The elegant baby book

Echo Art Bindery Baby Memory Book

From the minute they're born there are so many milestones and memories to capture. We hand-picked the gorgeous clothbound baby memory book from Echo Art Bindery for its small batch-feel and attention to detail. Made from high-quality paper it features colorful custom illustrations, a silver-stamped endive cover, and questions and prompts to help you remember those magical first days and beyond.

$62

The empowering accessory

Sontakey 'I was made for this' bracelet

Words are powerful. Reminding yourself that you can do hard things can go a long way in giving you the energy and confidence to do so. The beautiful mantra bands from Sontakey were created by two mamas who have made it their mission to empower others with these words of encouragement.

$35

The most delicious way to celebrate

Tost non-alcoholic refresher

Time to raise a glass, mama! We've long since had a crush on TÖST's non-alcoholic sparkles. The gingery cranberry tea blend is delicious on its own or even as a mixer. From baby showers to toasting an ordinary Tuesday that went off without a hitch, we think you'll be crushing on it too.

$50

The pampering belly oil

Esker belly oil duo

Moisturizing, soothing, and totally divine, Esker's belly oil duo is formulated with only the cleanest botanical essential oils. One for morning and one for nighttime, they're ideal for pampering that beautiful belly of yours around the clock.

$75

The hydration-friendly water bottle

Welly traveler water bottle

Meeting those daily hydration needs can be a challenge. (So can making it to the bathroom 700 hundred times a day, right?) We're big fans of Welly reusable bottles which not only look super sleek with their stainless steel and bamboo combo, but also include a removable infuser to brew tea or flavor your water.

$30

The pre-packed hospital bag

Belly and Bag fully prepared

Leave packing your hospital bag to the pros. After all, you have plenty of other things to think about right now, right? The brilliant women at Belly and Bag have truly thought of everything and packed it up just for you.

$225

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

Shop

12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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

Shop
Chrissy Teigen'/Instagram

As Motherly reported earlier this week, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are expecting their third child! We couldn't be happier this third-time mama!

The reveal came as part of Legend's new music video for "Wild", which is basically a celebration of the couple's love story.

Here's everything you need to know about Chrissy Teigen's third pregnancy:

Keep reading Show less
News