Menu

To get your toddler to do chores try the 'Maya Method'

The goal here is empowerment, not efficiency.

To get your toddler to do chores try the 'Maya Method'

Sometimes it seems like all that's standing between me and a clean house is my 2-year-old, a master of destruction and mess-making. But he doesn't only apply enthusiasm to tossing toys from their bins each morning. He is enthusiastic about everything, in the adorable way toddlers tend to be.

Yet, here I've been, trying to redirect that desire to do something into things that simply distract him while I do the cleaning—rather than channeling his enthusiasm into the cleaning itself.

Instead, it seems I need to take a cue from Mayan mamas by involving my toddler in chores even when it comes at the cost of productivity.

In her time visiting the Yucatan for NPR's #HowToRaiseaHuman series, writer Michaeleen Doucleff says she regularly observed toddlers engaging in chores, which gave way to children and preteens who voluntarily helped out around the house.

In consulting with the Mayan women and later Barbara Rogoff, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has studied the Maya culture for 30 years, Doucleff says it became clear this was less about setting out to get children to do chores and more about engaging with them in empowering ways.

But what if there is another way to interact with kids that removes control from the equation, almost altogether?
That's exactly what the Maya — and several other indigenous cultures — do. Instead of trying to control children, Rogoff says, parents aim to collaborate with them."It's kids and adults together accomplishing a common goal," Rogoff says. "It's not letting the kids do whatever they want. It's a matter of children — and parents — being willing to be guided."

As it turns out, Doucleff and her own 2-year-old daughter were excellent candidates for testing out the theory that children's zest for being "helpers" can be positively directed. While they learned that helping with some tasks may need to be on hold for the time being (such as picking up dog poo and helping with hot skillets), Doucleff says encouraging her daughter to help with dishes, laundry and other toddler-sized tasks may slow the progress a bit—but it's paying off in other ways.

"Such contributions are tiny—and don't really help me. But I can tell she is learning something golden: To love collaborative activities and working together," Doucleff says.

After striving to work together on chores, Doucleff says she learned positive changes can be as simple as making an activity out of chores (rather than saving them for nap time) and by identifying the toddler-friendly action in the larger chore (such as holding the dust pan or by matching socks).

As Dr. Laura Markham previously said for Motherly, kids appreciate having responsibilities. "All children want to see themselves as 'response-able'—powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem, and for their lives to have meaning."

How to try it at home

For proof, we shouldn't only look to the entire Mayan culture, but also aim to practice this philosophy in our own homes. To do so, Markham suggests a few places to start:

1. Raise your children to clean up their own messes: If they spill their milk, give them the towel to help clean it up.

2. Empower your children to do the thinking: Instead of telling them to brush their teeth, ask, "What's the next thing we do in the morning?"

3. Model responsibility: If you see trash at the playground, narrate, "I'm going to throw this in the bin because we don't like litter."

For Doucleff, practicing this has made her house a bit cleaner. But, more importantly, her daughter is excited to get involved. As she says, "When we do a chore together, she gets this slight grin on her face that says: 'Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal, Mom.'"

You might also like:

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

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

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

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.

$179

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

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

FEATURED VIDEO

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life

What you need to know about President Trump's Supreme Court pick

The President has reportedly selected his third SCOTUS nominee.

President Donald Trump has chosen his third pick for the Supreme Court—and he picked a mom.

The New York Times reports President Trump is choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee. An official statement is scheduled for Saturday.

Keep reading Show less
popular