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Introducing Chores to Young Children

chores for toddlers_edited-1

wesley soap dishes

The floors are freshly swept.  The room smells of lavender. The dishwasher is running.  Things are in order. All is good in the world. I walk through the house with an extra spring in my step, because a clean house always puts a smile on my face.  Then I take another step…crunch…another step….crunch. I look down and see goldfish crackers scattered all over the floor, a half dozen of which have just been crushed to smithereens under my feet.  I look over at Sawyer who has a sheepish grin spread across his face and a bag of goldfish in his hand.  He giggles. I take a deep breath, fight the urge to scold him, then scoop up his tiny body and tickle him until he gives the belly laugh that melts my heart.

I’m a boy mom. And that means mess. And chaos. Buckets of toys turned upside down.  Sandbox sand dumped from shoes onto the rug.  Chalk footprints trailed through the house.  Food crumbs wiped onto my favorite throw pillows. Toilets unflushed (gag). Dishes piled up. And of course, the aforementioned smashed goldfish cracker remnants found in every room of the house (and in the sheets of every bed in the house).

Every morning when we wake up, our home is in order. Toys are tucked away in their organized bins, dust bunnies have been swept up, dishes have been washed, and laundry has been folded.  Actually, that’s not true. Laundry is my weakness, and most of the time it’s being worn straight from the dryer. But the rest of those chores, they need to be done in order for me to get a decent nights rest.  Starting the day with a sink full of dishes can cast a shadow over my day and I like a fresh, clean start each morning when we wake up.


After only an hour of being awake, our home inevitably looks like this:

messy room
And even when I sweep every day, by the afternoon the floors look like this:



This last year has taught me that if I’m going to keep my sanity over the next 18 years,  these boys need to learn some basic chores.  But they’re still young. And compliance for tedious house work will not be well received unless I find a way to make it fun.  So that’s what I’ve tried to do.

First, we blast country music or the Frozen sound track and have a dance party in the living room–you know, to get things started.  Then we bust out our “Mom’s Helper” apron and get to work. We whistle while we work too, that helps. I figure I need to get as much goofiness in as possible now, before the “eye-rolling” stage of adolescence kicks in.

moms helper

Now, is Wesley good at dishes? Absolutely not. But with his favorite music blaring, his mom smiling, and a sink full of bubbles, he’s learning that this chore thing isn’t half bad.

moms helper apron

wes doing dishes

Dirt Devil recently gave us to the opportunity to take their Vac+Dust for a test spin, giving me the perfect opportunity to add vacuuming to their “Mom’s Helper” activities.  Our “everyday” vacuum is too heavy and bulky for the boys to maneuver on their own–but the Vac+Dust is the perfect size and lightweight for them both–not to mention it’s a breeze for me to use as well.
wes teaching sawyer to vacuum

The Vac+Dust has Direct Path™ Technology (super powerful suction) which allows the boys to pick up a ton of dirt even with their less than stellar  vacuuming skills. It also has SWIPES™ with DirtLock Technology™ which simultaneously cleans hard floors AND baseboards. Did you hear that?! BASEBOARDS too! And the pad is washable. This vacuum is a clean freaks best friend, trust me.


boys vacuuming together

wes teaching sawyer

Additional “clean up” ideas for young kiddos:

  • Toy clean up:  I bought a 14 pack of small plastic bins from Costco and I have divided up the boys toys by category.  I do my best to only let them play with 1-2 bins at a time, and then they need to pick up one box before getting out another.  This helps keep the toys organized.
  • Setting the table and help in the kitchen:  I find that my 4.5 year old is much better behaved at dinner if he played a role in preparing it. He helps me set the table with placemats, napkins and utensils.  And he even fills up cups of ice water for us.
  • Outdoors:  The boys have a lot of fun when they help me outside: picking up leaves, watering plants, hosing off the patio. We put on their bathing suits and let them get all wet as they work.
  • Sorting Laundry: This is fun and somewhat educational, lol.  I have Wes help me organize the laundry in piles by color.

wesley doing dishes



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  • Reply
    May 1, 2014 at 2:39 am

    What does your weekly cleaning Cheryl’s look like?

    • Reply
      May 1, 2014 at 2:40 am


  • Reply
    May 1, 2014 at 3:13 am

    I can not wait till my son is old enough to help with chores. I’m starting him young though, 13 months old and he thinks putting away the cups in the cabinet is a fun game. 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected]+The+Girlfriend+Letters
    May 1, 2014 at 6:20 am

    I love this! It’s so fun every time I realize a new thing my little guy can do, and I think sometimes it’s me who takes a longer time to catch on than him. They can do so much, why not start them out young with helping out!

  • Reply
    Amy K.
    May 1, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Sorting laundry is DEFINITELY educational! Both of my boys are better at it than their father. 😉 On a not-at-all related note: what kind of paint did you use on your knife block? I want mine to be a pretty color so badly, but I’m afraid that the paint will get super chipped from putting the knives in. I am fine with chippy paint, but my husband? Not so much.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I think it is fantastic that you are teaching your boys how to do chores. I have had A TON of roommates over the years and I have gotten to the point where I can almost always tell which ones never had any expectations or had to do chores at home compared to the ones who did. Which when you have a roommate who is not used to lifting a finger and has NO idea how to do even basic chores like dishes or vacuuming (yes- there is actually many people out there like that!) it does cause roommate tension in the home. As much as I hated doing chores growing up, I can now say that I am so grateful that my parents had expectations of us doing them. Your boys future roommates/missionary companions/wives will someday thank you! lol

  • Reply
    May 1, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I am very curious about why I am not longer receiving your daily newsletter/blog?? checked to see if there was some illness and you had been unable to post. Nope there you are.

  • Reply
    Beth Pankratz
    May 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Love to see your cute boys helping out! I do have one tip to add. When mine were small, I used clip art to laminate images on to plastic bins since they couldn’t read yet. I taped pictures to the bins of blocks, trains, trucks, dolls, etc. so the kids to sort accordingly. It was fun for them and one of mine called it “orgazining” instead of organizing. Now that mine are are 12 and 13, they do laundry, trash, and take care of pets for an allowance. They tithe their 10%, spend some, and save some. Dave Ramsey encourages teaching kids to equate work with money. Today my daughter purchased a new ipad otter box with her chore money. Obviously I don’t let them drain their bank account, but if they want to buy something with their chore money, I let them. They earned it, they spend it. But let me tell ya, they spend far less of their own money than they do ours!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Just one more thing that your future daughter’s-in-law will thank you for! You’re building such good men!
    Try adding some old B-52’s to the playlist…if my kids heard Love Shack or Rock Lobster, they hopped to it!
    And remember the ‘clean-up’ song from art class @ Hillview? Jump in the line….shake, shake shake, Senora.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Oh, awesome ideas! I recently wrote on this, too, because I’m in the same boat — two little kids and perpetually messy house. Having kids take some responsibility is not only sanity-saving, but it will also help them in their future households. Right on, Momma! 🙂

  • Reply
    Terin Garrett
    May 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    These are great tips! My four year old loves to help me clean, she says it’s “fun!” The eight and six year olds though… they’re over it. ha!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    You have an enjoyable way to make your kids help you on the house chores. =) thumbs up for you! And i love the ‘Mom’s Helper” apron! =)

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