Involving Your Toddler in Household Routines

Do you find your toddler getting constantly bored with the same old toys? Does he whine for a half hour before dinner because there’s nothing new to do? Do you see your little one as an addition who hangs around, or do you see him as an active participant in your daily chores?

I know have struggled with these items often as my son started becoming less of a sitter/crawler and more of an independent, curious toddler. I’m currently working to include my 18 month old in the mundane tasks I perform every day. Why? For a few different reasons:

1) It makes life more interesting for him. He loves to play with Mama and Dada, instead of always being at our feet playing by himself. How boring it must be to watch my legs go by 100 times an hour!

2) It teaches him about his world. Involving him in daily activities exposes him to the way things work. It also helps him to discover new sensory experiences and to foster new cognitive and motor skills. As a bonus, he often adds to his ever-expanding vocabulary as we try new things together.

3) It teaches him a level of responsibility. As you’ll see below, I try to teach my son to help with elementary cleaning tasks. Yes, it may take more effort and time to teach him now than it would to just do it myself, but I am hoping that over time it will pay off in teaching him that helping Mama is an expected part of life.

4) It provides good bonding time. As a mostly stay-at-home-mom (I only work part-time, and only some of it requires me to be out of the house), it’s easy to get so caught up in doing chores, making dinner, checking the internet, reading books, and typing on the blog that sometimes a whole day slips by without me spending a lot of concentrated time with my son. This makes me so sad when I realize it. It is for this reason that I am trying to make an effort to consciously involve him in the things that just have to get done. This allows us to have time together that is both play time and learning time. It’s good for both of our souls to spend it with one another.

Here are just a few examples of how I am trying to involve my son in our daily, run-of-the-mill routines:

Picking Up After Ourselves

When we moved to our current place, I went to the store and purchased a couple nylon indestructible baskets for the built-in shelf that runs between our kitchen and living room. This has become my kiddo’s toy shelf. When it’s time to put the toys away, we make a game out of putting the toys back in the basket. For my son, this means a short, hard, fast chucking of the toy into its container, accompanied by an enthusiastic, “IN-nuh!!” (His way of really enunciating the “n” in “in.”) Sure, the toy doesn’t always make it inside the basket, but I figure just trying it is half the fun. (And will help him with forming the habit of picking up!)

Cooking and Baking

I have often let little J push vegetables (that I have already cut) off a cutting board (with his hand or a wooden spoon) into a clean (and cool) pot sitting on my table (not the stove!). I have also let him sit on my lap and let him hold a spoon along with me as we stir the batter for some baked concoction. When I’m using the electric mixing bowl, I often hold him up on my hip (where he cannot reach the mixer) and let him watch the whisk go round and round. If I’m baking bread, we wash our hands together, and he sits on my lap and I show him how to knead the dough by hand. Right now he’s just hitting it with the heels of his palms, but I figure his motor skills will improve with time and practice. Always use discretion and follow common sense safety rules when involving your children (of any age) in cooking and baking.

Wiping Down Spills, etc.

My child loves “ow-els” (as he says), or towels. I try to take advantage of this by handing him a clean kitchen towel to help wipe down his tray after dinner. If he spills his drink, I ask him nicely to help mama clean it up with a towel as well. He actually enjoys doing this with me.


My personal favorite, the vacuum. (As a disclaimer in this sue-happy world, please never give your child an electric appliance without supervision. This is not meant to be a toy. Do  not let your child chew cords, disassemble products, stick any part of his body in an outlet, or any other silly and dangerous thing that toddlers so often like to do. Use your common sense.) My son always loved it when I pulled out the big vacuum, and he used a little push toy as a pretend vacuum all the time. Finally, my husband and I decided to get him one of his very own so that his play time would be profitable to us too. This is a Bissell 3-in-1 Vac that we purchased at Walmart for $20. It is soooooo worth it. J can push this thing back and forth and all around quite happily for easily 30 minutes. He loves playing with it, and it’s just the right height for him. Besides, my floors have been perfectly clean since we got it without me having to do a thing!

These are just a few ideas for how I involve my son in daily household activities. What about you? Do you have any great ideas for inspiring your children to be little helpers? How do you teach your kids about everyday tasks? What do you most enjoy doing with your child that falls in the realm of the ordinary? I would love to hear your input!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Good ideas, as always :). I look forward to implementing them as S gets bigger!!! 🙂


  2. I love doing this too! Lydia ‘helps’ me fold laundry, set the table, sort the silverware out of the dishwasher, and retrieves items for the baby. Thanks for your suggestion on the vacuum- I ordered one just now! I hope Lydia likes it too!


  3. Posted by dac on April 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Great suggestions for making work into fun.


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