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Chores and Kids: Help Your Toddlers to Help You

Toddlers helping out around the house may seem like a recipe for disaster (or at least a big mess). But there are ways to make them feel like they’re really pitching in—and actually enjoy some benefits.

Let them sort it out. "I let my youngest daughter pull all the socks out of the pile of laundry I’m folding and sort them," says Melissa Maisel, a mom of four in Warren, New Jersey. "She never gets tired of this…and I’m glad!"

Name your own personal grocery unpacker. After food shopping, give your little one a bag of groceries with no breakable items like eggs or glass containers. Let her take each item out and put it on the table. You can even have her announce what each product is.

Plan some good, clean fun. "As toddlers, my girls loved the little squeegee that I kept in the shower to clean the glass door and tiles," says Zoe Biggs, a mom of two in Valley Village, California. "I’d let them take turns using it to write the alphabet on the door or just play around. By the time they were done, I had two clean kids and a sparkling shower."

Announce a toddler challenge. When toys take over your child’s bedroom or the living room, pull out a basket, bucket, or shopping bag and grab an egg timer. Tell your tot it’s a race to see how many toys she can toss in the basket before time’s up. Set the timer longer for a room that’s totally cluttered, shorter for a quick cleanup job.

Double up. "My two-and-a-half-year-old has her own duster, and we clean together," says Jason Jones, a father in New York City. "It makes it fun for both of us."

Have a treasure hunt. "When my two oldest were toddlers and we went grocery shopping, I’d make each one responsible for finding a few items on our list to keep them from getting bored," says Sara Adler, a mom of three in Boston, Massachusetts. "Once we were done, I’d let them add one last item to our cart, whatever they wanted. Often that was their only junk food, so they still love this tradition today!"

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