My students have jobs in my classroom, and I love their help. They earn extra credit, build responsibility skills, feel good about helping, and I have less work to do. Now that I have student helpers, I can’t imagine doing everything by myself. Even though Buddy is much, much younger than my middle school students, I still want to do a similar system at home.
I have seen many lists of kids’ chores online, but every one I’ve seen starts at age two. In my opinion, one year olds are capable of helping out around the house. Just like my classroom, my end goal is to have less work for myself. At this point, these chores are about giving Buddy opportunities to help. Yes, it will be faster for me to do them on my own, but eventually, he will be able to do more independently. And Buddy loves being my helper.
Here are the five chores that Buddy does in our house. Buddy was a very late walker, so he started doing all of these chores before he could walk. Now that he’s walking, he’s even better at these chores.
Putting Away Toys and Books
We started making Buddy put toys away around 10 months old. Most of his toys are thrown in the bins that are on the lower part of the bookshelf pictured above. Around 12 months, we started expecting Buddy to put books on the shelf correctly. He knows which part of the book is the spine, and he knows that he needs to have that part face out.
Some days, Buddy’s very willing to help pick things up, and some days it takes a little more effort. Giving options (“You pick up one, I’ll pick up one. Which one do you want?”) and counting (“Let’s see how many toys you can put in the box.”) are my best ways to encourage Buddy on days that he’s not interested in picking up.
Putting Clothes in the Hamper
Buddy started putting clothes in the hamper at 17 months. This one doesn’t happen that often right now. I usually undress Buddy on the changing table and throw his clothes in the hamper as I change him. But there are times that we ask Buddy to put things in his hamper. We talk about playing hamper basketball, and he loves it!
This one is my personal favorite. I hate dusting, and Buddy thinks it’s so much fun! He has a great time cruising around our coffee tables with the duster. I do have to do the very center once he’s done. I have also walked around with Buddy and held him up to dust higher objects. Buddy started dusting after he became confident in cruising, which was around 16 months.
Cleaning up Food Messes
One of our house rules is you make a mess, you clean it up. When Buddy started on solids, he had a lot of problems with throwing food. Hubby and I decided that if Buddy threw his food, he would have to pick it up. If that food is sticky, Buddy also has to wipe the floor with a wet paper towel. Making Buddy clean up after himself helped quite a bit with the food throwing. We started this chore around 14 months.
When Buddy is at daycare, he has to wipe the table in front of his space when he’s done. He loves to wipe now, so we let him do that as much as possible. (It’s also a great way to help Buddy wait in a waiting room or when we’re going out to eat. We give him a napkin, and he starts wiping the table.) I also have Buddy wipe the table after he’s been coloring to clean up the crayon mess.
I know that some people think I’m crazy for having a one year old help do his laundry. But I don’t want to do Buddy’s laundry for the next 17 years, and it’s easier for him to learn now while he’s interested. I’ve had Buddy help with every part of the laundry process. When I’m loading the washer, Buddy will hand laundry up to me so I don’t have to bend over. Then he pushes the power and start buttons. When I switch things to the dryer, he helps me push in the wet laundry and put in the dryer sheet. He also helps with the power and start buttons on the dryer. When everything is done, Buddy helps put the laundry into the basket.
While I’m folding, Buddy will go through the basket, pull out the socks, and put them in a pile. Sometimes he can do this well, sometimes it’s just laundry everywhere. In the last few weeks, Buddy has started to put things away in low drawers like socks, bibs, and washcloths. Buddy’s favorite part of the laundry process is when we’re done, so he can play with the laundry basket. (Read more about some of our laundry basket fun in this blog post.) Buddy started helping with laundry around 15 months.
Other Ways to Help
I wouldn’t classify these as chores, but I like to give Buddy every opportunity I can to “help”. He loves it!
- Turning on/off the light
- Closing a drawer or door
- Bringing something over to me
- Carrying something so I don’t have to carry it
- Putting trash in the trash can
- Pouring or stirring when I’m cooking
As Buddy gets older, I plan to increase the amount of chores he does independently. Hopefully, Buddy will become confident in his independent skills and be willing to help our family. If you have any ideas for other great chores for toddlers, please leave them in the comments.