Chores for Toddlers
When our kids are young they are eager to help. Moreover you want to get them into the habit of helping. However it can be difficult to come up with age appropriate chores. Following is a list of chores that have worked around our house.
Picking Up After Themselves
First, get your child to pick up her toys as soon as she is done with them. You might need to tell her exactly what to do with the toys at first (i.e. put the dolls in the doll crib). After several months you will not need to remind her every time that she should put away her toys. Also, do not fall for the "I'm not done playing with them" ploy. If your child is wondering off than she is searching for something else to do and is done with those toys. Just let her know that she can always take the toys out again later if she decides to ply with them again, but for now she should put them away.
Picking Up Their Room
Keeping a clean room is another important habit to develop in your child. In the beginning you will be doing most of the work while heaping the praise on your child for her excellent cleaning. You will also need to provide very specific directions for your child. "Put this shirt in that dresser drawer." "Stand the book on the bookshelf." "Put the pillow on the head of your bed." Gradually as your child gets older you will be able to provide more general directions. "Put the toys in the toy box." "Put the clothes in the dresser." Eventually your child will have learned enough from your "help" that the only direction you will need to provide is "Clean your room." But praise is always a good idea.
Helping in the Kitchen
Another place your child can help is in the kitchen. Kitchen skills are a life long necessity so it is a good idea to get your children comfortable in the kitchen early. Of course there are dangers in the kitchen but if you spell those out for them and remind them each time you use the kitchen together you shouldn't have any difficulties. Our girls know that they are not to touch the stove because it burns and that knives are only for Mommy and Daddy because they are very sharp. (Of course now that they are getting older they realize that the stove isn't always hot. So we talked about if you don't know if the stove is off and has not been used recently then don't touch.)
Dishes are a safe place to start your child helping in the kitchen. Helping to set the table before family meals will help your child feel like she is contributing to the family. Again, be sure to praise her efforts. As she practices you can help her learn proper place settings. And when she is a little steadier on her feet you can ask her to take her dishes to the sink.
Which naturally leads to doing the dishes. Putting away clean silverware is a good place to start. This will also help your child to develop sorting and matching skills - important math skills which will help her in preschool and kindergarten.
In our house we have a set of plastic dishes just for the girls. I store them in a lower cabinet, which the girls can easily reach. This way I can make the girls responsible for their own dishes, which they unload from the dishwasher and put away in their drawer. While it is not always the neatest drawer I do remind them that if they stack their dishes neatly they will be able to get to the dishes they need more easily later.
Obviously toddlers are not able to load the dishwasher. However, just to get my girls into the habbit of helping I have had them "rinse" the dirty dishes as I load them. Then as they are able to provide more help they will already be in the habit of loading the dishwasher with Mom.
Another way my girls help in the kitchen, which some moms my not like as it is very messy, is with meal preparation. Obviously they are to little to do any actual cooking, but they do help me with mixing and pouring ingredients. They have helped cut out biscuits and place them on the cookie sheet for baking. And, if the items are on a lower shelf, they have even brought me ingredients from the pantry. It can be messy but it does teach them a lot. They learn about fractions, reading recipes, and basic principles of cooking.
Helping with Laundry
Another good place to start toddlers is the laundry room. This is also a great place to work on their sorting and matching skills as most of laundry is about sorting. Let your toddler sort the clean clothes into piles of Mom's, Dad's and mine. Then as you fold the laundry your child can try to match the socks. When all the folding is done you can instruct your child in putting away her clothes. Just like with her room you will need to be very specific at first.
Your child should already be putting her dirty clothes in the hamper as part off picking up after herself and cleaning her room. Now you can have her help you sort the clothes in the hamper by colors. As she gets older you can explain about washing light colors and dark colors separately. But for know it is a good way to work on her sorting and matching skills. If you have a front loading machine you can even have her help you load the blue and green clothes (or whatever colors you are washing) into the machine.
Children like to feel like they are helping. And as added insentives you can prepare a sticker chart or provide monetary reward for chores completed. My girls love gumball machines so quarters are a great motivator. You know best what will motivate your child. So remember to be patient and allow for their imperfections. They will get better the more you allow them to help.