Everything You Need to Know About Chores for Toddlers and Preschoolers

One of the biggest complaints I hear from employers is that many of their employees lack a healthy work ethic. While we tend to associate the problem with Gen Z, it’s actually pervasive in every age group. The Bible tells us that God expects Christians to work “with all your heart, as (if) working for the Lord, not for human masters”(Colossians 3:23 ESV) – one of several passages in scripture about God’s expectations of His people regarding work.

No matter what careers or jobs your children may have, their bosses and managers will expect them to work hard – especially if they want to get raises and promotions. Even if they don’t hold a job that pays, your kids will need to work hard at school, in their extra curricular activities and even when serving others and sharing their faith. Idleness and laziness aren’t good for your children spiritually, emotionally or even physically.

Establishing a strong work ethic in your children – like many things in parenting – is easiest if you start them as early as possible. Think of it as early intervention for laziness! One of the easiest ways to work with toddlers and preschoolers on a good work ethic is by giving them chores to do around the house. Not only will chores give you an opportunity to correct a poor work ethic, but they will also provide opportunities for teaching responsibility and numerous life skills.

Historically, specific chores were given to specific children for a period of time. This made it easier for parents to track – especially if they had several children. One of the reasons I believe chores have become unpopular is that our children’s schedules are not as predictable as they may have been years ago when children had few activities outside of their home. If something throws off your child’s schedule, assigned chores may not be completed in a timely fashion – if at all.

One solution is to give your children chores on an as assigned basis. If you see something that needs to be done and your child is capable of doing it, then ask them to do it within a certain specific time frame. It gives you more flexibility and extra help when it is needed. The downside is that you have to be intentional about giving each child little jobs to do each day. If you have trouble tracking that, then the older way of giving out chores will probably work best in your family.

When does all of this start? As soon as your children have a few gross motor skills – like the ability to pick up and hand you items – they are ready for a few simple chores. For most children this is about the same time they are learning to walk, often known as the toddler years.

So what are some great chores for toddlers and preschoolers? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Handing you grocery items to put in cabinets. Set the grocery bags on the floor and let them hand you one item at a time. If you use low cabinets for storing food, some preschoolers may have the skills to put grocery items on your pantry shelf without much assistance from you. (Don’t let little ones handle raw meat packages and wash their hands after they are finished helping just in case.)
  2. Laundry chores. Teaching colors? Let them help you sort the laundry, naming the colors as they go. Depending on the type of washer and dryer you own, many toddlers can take clothing and help move it from the washer to the dryer.
  3. Dusting, sweeping and mopping. Toy brooms and mops for children sweep and mop almost as well as adult sized brooms and mops. Make sure you clear the surfaces you want your children to dust to avoid breakage. These chores require a few more motor skills, so your children may be in preschool before they can do them.
  4. Help make their bed. Depending upon the age, size and skills of the child this may vary in meaning. Using a comforter makes it easier for younger children because there isn’t any tucking involved. Older children can help you make a fresh bed by perhaps putting a pillow in a new pillowcase or helping you smooth the sheets.
  5. Put away their toys. Your house and their room will seem less messy and chaotic if you get them in the habit of putting away one toy before they take out a new one. (Note: Toy chests can be problematic because of their lids. Consider using open baskets or a closet or cabinet for toy storage.)
  6. Dust baseboards. If your house is like mine, this chore goes to the bottom of the to-do list. Put socks on your children’s hands and let them have fun dusting baseboards.
  7. Put dirty clothes, towels and linens in the hamper.
  8. Wipe up spills. Their ability to do this independently will vary from child to child and with what has been spilled. They should never be asked to clean up hot spills or any kind of spill involving harsh chemicals like cleaning fluids.

Don’t forget that your children were not born automatically knowing how to do any of these chores. Teach them how you want the chores done. Always supervise young children doing chores – even if they are doing them well. Periodically talk about how important it is to always work hard and do our best at any “job” they are given. If you work with your children consistently, you are well on your way to giving them a great work ethic!

Please note that children should never be left unsupervised near any type of cleaning fluid and should not handle them – even if the tops are tightly fastened. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Call poison control if you even suspect your child may have come in contact with a cleaning fluid or ingested one.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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