Tiny Hands, Big Helpers:
Fostering Life Skills in Toddlers
Rogers Bridge » Tiny Hands, Big Helpers: Fostering Life Skills in Toddlers
Does your child help around the house, such as with chores or meal prep?
When asked this question, most parents respond with “No. Should they be involved in these things?” As an occupational therapist, my answer will always be “YES! Get them involved.” Kids, especially toddlers, want to be with you and are excited to be invited to participate in the things you do every day. Even something as simple as clearing the table after dinner or putting away laundry can be fun time spent together and can teach your child important life skills.
Most parents are trying to keep up with their own chores, running on autopilot. They often do not take the time to think about how their kids, even the younger ones, can help around the house.
We all know that parenting is a busy occupation with a thousand things that need to be done at any given time. Most parents are focused on getting things checked off a to do list. Ironically, many times, our focus is moving through required tasks so we can spend some time with our child.
But magical things happen when you let your kids help with these daily tasks.
They are not making another mess in the other room for you to clean later.
You get quality time together.
They are learning valuable life skills.
You both have a little fun.
Here are some fun ways you can get your kids involved (no matter their age):
Clearing the table after dinner: they can take items to the trash or sink, wipe the table, wipe up any spills, push the chairs in.
Washing dishes: let them stand (safely) at the sink and help you wash the dishes (plastic cups, spoons, etc.). You may both get wet, but it is just water and clothes can be changed.
Laundry: let them put away things that do not need to be neatly folded (socks, underwear, pajamas), move clothes from the washer to the dryer, or pull the basket to or from the laundry room.
Feeding pets: have them scoop the food into the bowl, put the bowl on the floor, or refill the water bowl.
Dusting: hand them the extra duster or wash cloth and let them follow you around the house while you dust
Cleaning up toys before bed: set a 2-minute timer and make cleaning up the toys a game to see who can get the most in their basket before the timer goes off.
Baking cookies: pull a stool up to the counter and let them add dry ingredients to the bowl (flour, sugar, chocolate chips), stir the dough, roll the dough into balls, add sprinkles (just because they are always a winner with kids).
“But it has been a long day and I just need to get the dog fed and go to bed.”
That is totally fine! If there are days that you just do not have the energy to let them help, that is okay!
Do not feel bad if you need 5 minutes of peace while switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer. It is not the end of the world. Independent play is also an important skill. So don’t feel guilty if you are doing the laundry while your child plays alone in the other room. But make some time each week to let them help you. 5 minutes this week is more than you did last week. You will be shocked at how much they love it and how much more relaxed you feel when you aren’t rushing through chores while worrying about what your child is doing when they get bored.
Kids learn so many skills by engaging in these activities of daily living (ADL as OTs like to say). They are learning to sequence a task, using fine and gross motor skills, and having positive social interactions.
If you are concerned with your child’s ability to participate in age-appropriate household chores and other activities of daily living, please talk to your pediatrician.
"All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them."
– Magic Johnson