If you’re feeling burnt out from managing chores, we suggest delegating some tasks to your kids. Teaching children to participate in household duties helps build their self-esteem, encourages them to be part of the family team, and also lightens your workload in the process. We call that a win-win solution!
Not sure where to start or what your child is capable of? We’re here to tell you that all kids—yes, toddlers too—are capable of pitching in. The key to success is creating a chore list that is within their capabilities, but also a little bit challenging.
We’ve got five popular chores that most kids can do, from around age two onwards. There’s no such thing as being “too young” to do chores. Instill this routine early on, making it a regular part of daily life.
Just make sure to avoid attaching rewards or incentives to basic chores. You want your kids to learn that everyone in the household does chores. It’s part of communal living. If you’re going to offer financial incentives or rewards for tasks around the house, stick to things that are above and beyond the usual routine, like washing the car or helping clean out the garage.
Putting Away Toys and Belongings
Top of our list is teaching your kids to pick up their own crap. Because really, who wants to pick up all those Lego pieces at the end of a long day? Certainly not us. So teach them to do it!
Help create some solid systems with easily accessible storage bins. That way they can pull out a container, toss their LEGOS (or Barbies, or blocks, or whatever) into it and BAM—they just did a chore.
Toddlers can get on board with this as they love filling up bins with stuff. Just make sure you’re ready to scoop up the container once it’s full; otherwise, they’ll make a game of unloading it.
Helping with Laundry
Clothes are an easy thing to manage. You don’t have to worry about anything breaking. Start with an open hamper, one that your toddler can easily access. Make a fun game of tossing the clothes in, and they’ll want to do it every day.
Young children can assist you with doing laundry. Front-loaders on the floor are perfect since toddlers can reach in and help transfer the clothes to the dryer. For top loaders, you can hand them items and instruct them to place them in the dryer. Even though this process is bound to take longer, with them dropping the random sock here and there, it’s worth it. You’re teaching them a valuable life skill, one they’ll be able to do on their own soon enough.
Kids as young as 6-8 years old are capable of doing laundry on their own. In this video, a savvy 8-year-old instructs college students on how to do their laundry. Really, it’s quite simple. (If you’re in doubt, have your child start with a load of old towels, that way if he screws it up it’s okay).
Lastly, hand over the task of folding and putting away clothes once your child seems capable of this skill. Don’t worry about the folding being perfect—kids don’t care about wrinkled clothes. As long as the clothes end up in dresser drawers (and not on the floor), consider it a success.
Doing the Dishes
If you’re breaking your back loading and unloading the dishwasher, it’s time to delegate!
For toddlers, serve them meals on plastic plates. You can clear the leftovers onto one plate, handing them the small plate to place in the sink or the dishwasher. They can also help put unbreakable items back in the fridge.
Older kids are capable of loading and unloading the dishwasher. They can also wash bigger pots and pans in the sink (use a stool if they can’t reach), as well as towel drying items.
Organize your kitchen in a way that makes it easy for your kids to put away dishes. For example, don’t store everyday use plates in a high cupboard. Instead, have regular dishes low enough for your kids to access.
Meal planning is a tough job. You have to figure out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Why not hand over one of these to your children?
Even preschoolers are capable of packing their lunch, with enough guidance. Set out the items that they can choose from, along with an open lunch box, and let them at it. If making sandwiches is too hard, let them do what they can, and then step in to finish it up. But putting crackers, raisins, and fruit into a lunch box should be easy enough.
We suggest packing lunches together the night before. Don’t try to get your child to do this chore in the morning, with everyone rushing around. Make it a fun after-dinner activity to do as a whole family.
Unloading the Car
If you find yourself strapped down with a gazillion backpacks, shopping bags, and personal items, it’s time to make a change.
Split up the grocery bags into smaller, more manageable loads. That way, your child can carry one or two easily without complaining. Use sturdy cloth bags to prevent accidents.
Make them in charge of their belongings, even if it means another trip out to the car. This might help them limit what they take on future outings.
Get your toddler on board too. A two-year-old can easily manage to carry a small backpack or grocery bag. Just don’t hand them any fragile items.
Sometimes it may seem easier, and faster, for you to do all these chores yourself. But remember when you delegate them to your kids, you’re teaching them independent, self-sustaining, helpful skills, which will stay with them for life.
So pause next time you have your hands full and ask, “Is this something my kids can do?” If you think it’s even remotely possible, give it a try. Your kid’s capabilities might surprise you.