Chores for Toddlers? Why it is Good to Start Young – Plus, Chore Ideas for Kids and Toddlers

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Kids and Chores, chore ideas for toddlers and young children

Remember those times as a kid listening to your grandpa talk about having to shovel snow from the sidewalks when he was a kid after that crazy blizzard that dumped 4 feet of snow in one night?  Or how about the one he used to tell you about how he woke up at 4 every morning to throw papers so he could save up for that new bike he wanted.

Now, I understand that child labor laws are in place for a reason, and I’m not advocating that we give exploit our children as slave laborers within our homes, I do believe that we are losing hold of the importance of giving children work and responsibilities.

Allowing children to have responsibilities can build within children a sense of pride and confidence.  Pride that they accomplished the task at hand as well as pride that they are making an important contribution to their families.  When a child’s effort in completing the chore is recognized by mom and dad their confidence is bolstered.

Research by Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, “shows that involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. By involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives… Using measures of individual’s success such as completion of education, getting started on a career path, IQ, relationships with family and friends, and not using drugs, and examining a child’s involvement in household tasks at all three earlier time, Rossmann determined that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.

So where and when do you start?  How do you know what chores are appropriate at what age?

I think a lot of it depends on the child. Many chores for toddlers are more like simple tasks.  You know your child best and can experiment with jobs to see what they are capable of.   I asked some friends to chime in about what chores they have their children doing.  You’ll see some of their responses below.

Chores for toddlers and preschoolers ages 18 months to 3 years old:

With younger children, you want to make sure you keep all interactions with chores positive.  Chores for toddlers and preschoolers should be easy tasks done with the help/alongside an adult.

  • Clean up toys –  While on the younger end of the age range children can do simple cleaning up tasks like put toys away in a toy bucket, bin, or box. As they get older they can learn to put things on shelves, in drawers, and other places.
  • Help with laundry – Megan from MNMSpecial has her children this age can help older siblings and and Mom and Dad by handing them laundry to load into the washing machine.  They can also help unload the dryer.
  • Put dirty laundry in the hamper – Simple tasks like this one suggested by Stephanie from Moments that Take My Breath Away help a child feel successful while learning to be responsible for their belongings.
  • Put away the silverware – My kids all started unloading the dishwasher by helping with the silverware when they were 2.  I’d take out any knives first and then let them hand me the silverware.  They quickly graduated to putting away all the non-sharp silverware by themselves.
  • Throw away trash – For some reason kids seem to be intrigued by the mysteries that lay inside the trash can.  Ask a young child to throw something away for you and you almost always get an enthusiastic response.
  • Help set the table – While you can’t expect proper table setting with the forks on the left, knife turned in on the right, etc., you can begin to teach these concepts by having your child set the silverware and napkins at the table before dinner.

Chores for young children age 3 to 6

  • Fold and put away laundry – It is at this age that I have my children start to learn to fold and put away their laundry.  As a parent you’ll need to keep in mind that things are not going to be folded perfectly.  Their clothes may end up in heaps in their drawers instead of neatly folded stacks, but they will learn.  At 3 years old my boys were in charge of folding pants and underwear.  My 6 year old folds pajama shirts and hangs the rest of their shirts on hangers.
  • Clean bedroom/playroom – My boys have their toys in a playroom instead of in their bedrooms.  Because I don’t supervise their play, the playroom can get pretty messy pretty quickly.  A couple times a week they are required to do a thorough cleaning of the playroom.
  • Unload the dishwasher – I put all of our “kid dishes” in a lower cabinet so my boys could be responsible for their own dishes.  They set them on the table for dinner, and they unload all the kids dishes and silverware from the dishwasher.
  • Clean bathroom counters and sinks – While I’m not quite brave enough to have my 6 year old cleaning the toilets, both he and my 4 year old can do a thorough job wiping down the counters and sinks.
  • Clean mirrors and windows – You can either have your child clean what they can reach, or, like I do, have them climb up on the counter (before they clean the countertop) and wipe the mirrors.
  • Dust – This is an easy one that my boys love.  Lots of places get missed because they are too high for the boys to reach, but they love wiping down the blinds and all those dusty nooks and crannies in our house.
  • Vacuum – Depending on how heavy your vacuum is your child might start sooner or later.  Ours is on the heavier side so our 6 year old is just starting to vacuum.  He is responsible for his bedroom, the guest room, and the hall.
  • Wiping down the doorknobs – I’m a slight germ freak.  Each week my 4 year old is responsible for wiping down all the doorknobs with a Lysol wipe. Add the light switches if they can reach them.
  • Make bed
  • Feed the pets – One of the ways Emily from Baby Dickey is helping her 4 year old learn responsibility is by having her feed her cat.
  • Organize the recyclables – Wendy from ABCs & Garden Peas has her 4 year old learning about taking care of our earth by sorting out the recycling so her dad can drop it off at the recycle center.
  • Set the dinner table – By the latter end of this age range most children will be able to successfully and correctly set the table.

About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. What great ideas! I will definitely have to look to add some of these into our routines.
  2. Love all the new Ideas. Thanks for sharing.
  3. Totally agree about starting them early on. I just need to be more consistent with them!
  4. These are really great ideas! I need to give my 6 year old some more responsibility.
  5. Great ideas to learn kids about responsibility! I would be hesitant about letting a 3 year old unload the dishwasher though...
    • Oh, you might be surprised. Never underestimate how capable little children are. With that said, I never suggested you let you 3 year old unload any breakable dishes or sharp silverware, knives etc. That would be disastrous. LOL I unload all those things first and then my little boys unload the kids dishes and the silverware. At age 2 they started by handing me these things. I taught them where they belonged, how to stack them, etc., and then by age 3 they graduated to doing it on their own.
  6. What great ideas - they were definitely a formative part of my life.
  7. I totally agree with you that parents should start chores with their kids at a young age. It reinforces a good work ethic and a more tidy household. Thanks for sharing!
  8. shelly peterson says
    Great ideas. I do believe they should start early with little things.
  9. I think this is a great idea to get toddlers started off early on doing chores and setting them up to learn responsibility. It helps them learn for sure.
  10. Crissie Woolard says
    Love all the new Ideas. This information is so useful!