It can be difficult to gauge when it's time to try and trick your toddler into doing chores. After all, you're doing literally everything for them for a while, and I feel like a lot of us get used to that paradigm. And, I mean, you ever seen a toddler attempt to do literally anything? They aren't exactly careful or thorough and they take forever. But most experts agree that between the ages of 2 and 3, you can usually start assigning your kid simple tasks that can segue into full-blown chores.
But how do you get your kid to be excited about, you know, cleaning? I asked some parents to reveal their tricks, because it's high time these freeloaders started pulling their weight around here, right?!
According to WebMD, some age-appropriate chores for toddlers include putting toys away, filling a pet's food dish, putting clothes in their hamper, wiping up spills, dusting, and putting things into piles. I'd also like to include folding washcloths because, yes, I have to redo them most of the time, but my kids seem to enjoy it and that tasks gets them into the habit of folding.
Yes, as soon as I am physically able to foist laundry onto another family member, I'm going to.
But how do you get your toddler excited about something as mundane as cleaning up a spill or feeding the family pet? Here are a few ideas, from parents who have been there:
"Since I have two, I always make it a game. I pick a secret toy and whichever kid put that toy away gets a prize, usually a piece of candy. When they were younger, it was a bigger toy. Now that they are older it’s smaller toy, like a Lego or Barbie shoe."
"When we clean up toys in the family room, I’ll play a loud fun song. Everyone has to pick up until the song is done"
"We use a lot of timers as well and let the kids choose the time from a set of choices. Do you want five or six minutes to get dressed? We also give choices for chores. Do you want to pick up your clothes or the books first? Empty the bathroom trash or the dryer? Eventually it all gets done, but they choose what they do in which order from a preset list of choices."
"Reverse psychology. I turn my back on the mess and say something like, 'This room looks perfect! I love a mess! I hope no one cleans up these toys!' Then she giggles and runs around cleaning like she's playing a trick on me and I turn around and act surprised and disappointed and whiny and she giggles some more. I'm probably encouraging bad behavior but I'm just happy I don't have to clean."
"We play the clean up song by The Singing Walrus on repeat. She sings, dances, and cleans up."
"I race my daughter. I make my bed while she makes hers or I get dressed while she gets dressed. Works every time."
"My kids compete against each other. I should really get a Burger King crown to reward the winner."
"My daughter loves The Wizard of Oz and is really preoccupied with the scene where the Wicked Witch whips out the hourglass and tells Dorothy, 'That's how much time you have left to be alive!' What can I say? She's weird. Anyway, I got an hourglass at Home Goods and she's obsessed with it. I don't let her touch it except when she has to clean up. Then I take it down from the mantle and let her flip it over and try to finish before it runs out. She pretends to be Dorothy."
"I make it a game/competition. We do a 'hair-tie' round up and whoever finds the most wins."
"Chores are how they earn screen time. It's the only way they earn screen time. So: bribery. My answer is bribery."
"I'm getting him used to chores by letting him do ones he likes and we'll eventually move into ones he doesn't. So, for example, two of his chores are spraying down and cleaning the table and sweeping underneath it after dinner. I usually have to do it behind him, but I figure it's the idea that's important right now more than the finished product."
"My kid just wants to do it (when she feels like it). [She] loves unloading the dishwasher and gets a kick out of 'cleaning the shower' with a spray bottle of vinegar/water. She also 'paints' the cookie sheet with olive oil when we roast veggies. When she’s being stubborn about a certain task telling her 'I’m gonna win' always gets her moving!"
"They cannot be tricked. They are untrickable. I'm going to live in squalor until they go to college."