Development FAQ: 24+ months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

My son of almost three is always trying to help me around the house. This can be frustrating at times but I don’t want to discourage his helpful nature. What things could I let him do on his own whilst I get on with my jobs?

My son of almost three is always trying to help me around the house. He will follow me around wanting to do what I am doing. At times I let him help, although it is frustrating when he insists on hanging onto the vacuum when I am trying to get the rooms cleaned quickly. Should I be encouraging him to help and what sort of things could I expect him to be able to do by himself so I can get my own jobs done.

Although as adults we are inclined to consider housework as a chore which needs to be done quickly there are so many possible learning experiences in household tasks which you can offer a small, willing helper who sees helping you as fun.

It may take a little longer for you to get the house cleaned if you allow your son to help, and things may not look quite so perfect when he has finished, but you are teaching him so many things it is worth letting him join in as much as he wants to.

Helping around the house gives a child a sense of responsibility. Doing “chores” is a good way to help a child understand how a family works, where everyone takes their share of helping to keep their home neat and tidy.

If your son likes to be with you as you do your jobs look at each room and find something you can get him to do there which will help you work through the house more quickly.

It is never too soon to teach a child to take a pride in his surroundings. Help your son to make his own bed each day. If he uses a duvet then show him how to shake it out by holding the corners and smooth it into place. As well as his own bed your son can help you with yours.

If you have piles of laundry to put away get your son to help you sort it out. He may like to sort his own washing into different categories such as pants, socks and vests. Show him how to fold them up and, if his drawers are at a suitable height, encourage him to put the things away. Again, he can be set to sort out your laundry if he wants to whilst you get on with another job. Most small children take this kind of task very seriously and will be happy to take some time over it.

If your son enjoys dusting show him how to pick up an article and dust underneath it. He will love to help you polish as well as it is a satisfying task. Use a solid wax-based product which you show him how to apply. If he wants to use spray cleaning products himself teach him he must always do so with you close by to avoid any accidents. Also, give him a duster to clean his room with. He will be happy to get into all the corners and under the radiators providing they are not very hot.

You could also show your son how to clean the taps in the bathroom. Providing you use child friendly sprays, or put on the cleaning product yourself first, he should enjoy washing off the cleaner and then having a second cloth to dry and polish the taps. You may need to keep an eye on him if he is using water so the floor is not flooded but show him ways to prevent this from happening. If you treat your son in a grown up way, praising him for his help and ability to make things clean and tidy, you will find he is less likely to make it into a game and cause more mess. He will feel that he is doing important grown up work and so will probably take great care over it. Telling him what a great job he is doing will encourage him to continue.

You will probably spend much of your day in the kitchen. This is one room where your son can really be encouraged to have areas of responsibility. Provide him with a low cupboard or shelf for his own dishes and plates. Teach him how to lay the table for you. If you show him the correct way to hold cutlery and plates, explaining why this is so, he will try very hard to copy you. If you constantly tell him to be careful and warn him about dropping things accidents are more likely to occur than if you give him the responsibility he wants, being involved in the day to day running of your home.

Show your son chores such as emptying the dishwasher. If your cupboards are too high for him, do this chore together; he can hand you items which belong in places he is unable to reach. Encourage him to keep his own crockery neat on his shelves.

Washing up is an activity most children enjoy. By thinking about how you can provide for this he will enjoy scrubbing at bowls and cutlery, perhaps at the end of a baking session. Let him stand on a small, firm stool so he can reach the sink properly and provide him with a waterproof apron.

Make sure you always thank your son for any help he has given you so he feels valued and will want to help you again.

If you show your son how to do things and provide him with the proper equipment he should be able to help you in many ways around your home. You are teaching him valuable life skills. “Chores” can become just that when we have to perform them day in and day out but to a child they are fun. Everything he does, from sorting out socks to laying a table, is helping him develop. Without realizing it, a child learns many of the basic concepts of maths. and science as he helps you around the home. You are teaching him to be both responsible and independent. It may take a little longer to get the house cleaned but the time you are spending together, talking and working, is invaluable.