Help Me Do It Myself - 13 Everyday Tasks Your Preschooler Could Be Helping With & Why

With the goal of building self-sufficiency, self-esteem and independence from a young age, let's look at ways that you can include your toddlers in housework and chores. We've made a list of 13 everyday tasks that your preschooler can do and we've highlighted the benefits of each task, as well as, some follow-up chores once they've mastered these.

Dr. Montessori had these words to share regarding a child's independence:

Laundry sorting

Sorting activities prepare the toddler for reading and analysis skills by refining their visual discrimination abilities. Being able to “match” a pink sock with the other or the fork with the fork space in the drawer will lead to recognizing the shape of an “a” or more detailed images.

What other sorting chores can you think of?

Next Steps: Putting their laundry away in the proper drawers or emptying the dishwasher

Putting silverware away 

Pouring water and food into pet bowls or feeding fish

Pouring activities help the toddler refine gross motor movements of the arms in preparation for writing. Show your child how to hold the pitcher or scoop as they will hold a pencil. Remember, this skill and the hand muscles develop over time, so do not force their hand. Just model, model, model. And allow them space to practice.

Next Steps: Pouring milk or water for meal time or pouring vegetables/beans into a pot for cooking

Watering indoor plants or garden

Sweeping up spills with handheld broom and dustpan

Spills happen with both liquid and solids and toddlers love feeling like they are contributing. So keep a hand broom, dustpan and stack of washcloths handy for them to clean up their spills. Bonus points if you put  “Clean”/”Dirty” baskets in a place where your toddler can reach them self-sufficiently and continue with sorting practice. 

Next steps: Washing the car (or their tricycle😊) and sweeping the porch

Drying a spill

Washing produce as cooking preparation

Most toddlers love water, so showing them how to wash the fruits and vegetables before chopping them at mealtime is a great way to start them in the kitchen. Once that task is complete, guide them to the table with a wet washcloth and show them how to gently circle with it until the entire table has been washed.

Next Steps: Drying and chopping the produce or drying the table

Washing a table

Setting the table

Using a placemat with the place setting pre-marked or even just a piece of paper with an outline of a place setting, show your toddler how to match plate to plate marking, cup to cup marking, fork to fork matching, etc. It’s a great way to continue practicing visual discrimination and comparing shapes.

Next Steps: Setting the table without a guide

Putting toy or “work” back in its spot

If you have set up your toddler’s Montessori-inspired space, you know that choosing a select number of materials or “jobs” and displaying them on a low shelf with adequate space between them is one of the key principles. It permits the learner to become independent in his choices and makes it accessible to him. Showing your toddler that she should return her toy or material to its spot on the shelf will help her develop a routine, keep her space tidy, boost her memory of the sequence as well as the location, and instill a sense of responsibility.

Next Steps: Helping put groceries away

Making the bed

Pulling the covers up and straightening them and putting the pillow (if used) at the head of the bed, is another great way to develop a morning routine with your toddler. It shows them the process of completing a less complex task and helps them develop gross motor movements in their arms.

Next Steps: Raking leaves or Shoveling snow

Dusting their shelves

This task is more complex, beginning with removing one object or material on the top, left spot of the shelf, and dusting that spot; then returning the item to the original spot and moving to the item in the spot to its right and doing the same. Moving across the top row in this manner, the toddler can complete the entire shelf and then begin at the leftmost spot on the next lower shelf. If you are pointing with your finger to each word as you read to your toddler, this activity will be repeating the English language reading format, Top to Bottom and Left to Right. It is also a fun way to be building muscle control of the shoulders and arms, which will help in many ways, including writing.

Next Steps: Dusting the Leaves of a Plant

Getting the mail

This task is a fun way to enjoy a family task with your little one. Most young learners enjoy looking in a small space and retrieving something. If you have your own mailbox and post, consider attaching one lower to the ground where your toddler can reach. If your box is at a community mailbox or if you have a post office box, hold your toddler and let them turn the key and pull the pieces of mail from the box. 

Next Steps: Getting a requested object/utensil for Mom or Dad

General Guidelines for Giving Your Toddler Chores

  1. Show them how to do it first. Try not to speak. Just use slow deliberate movements so they can watch and absorb.
  2. Don’t expect adult-level completion. You can wait until your toddler has turned their attention elsewhere to perfect their work. But you don’t want to teach them that their efforts weren’t good enough for you. If they seem to be forgetting the steps, just ask them, “Would you like me to show you again?”
  3. Start young. Ask yourself what you believe about your child. Are they curious, eager, intelligent, capable? Yes! So show them that you believe they are, by rewarding them with chances to show their abilities and gifts. Chores are a chance for your child to find their valuable place in the family and build their self-confidence and self-esteem as their contributions make a difference in the home.
  4. Acknowledge their efforts. “Wow! You did it!” Or, “You worked so hard on …” Or, “How do you feel about your work?” These are Montessori-inspired ways to show your child that their effort and work are noticed and appreciated. But these phrases allow them to evaluate their efforts on their own, instead of teaching them that only the adult or outsider’s value of their work matters.
  5. Be consistent. Show them the same steps in the same order every time. Set the expectation that they must complete their responsibilities or they will start to believe that contributing is optional or that someone else will pick up the slack. 


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