Teaching Toddlers to Work

In our household, in our family, we believe in work.

Nothing has ever really come easy for my husband or I, we both have had to work hard for everything we have. Part of our upbringings included the idea that if we wanted things done, if we wanted to get places….then, as the saying goes, engage!

We decided to raise our son in much the same manner. We wanted him to realize that life isn’t handed to you on a silver platter. We wanted him to know that although mommy and daddy love him and will be there for him and support him through anything, that does not include us doing everything for him. He needs to learn to be self-sufficient. He needs to learn the value of work.

There are many age appropriate tasks that 3-year-olds can do. On a daily basis, our son gets himself dressed, puts his dirty clothes in his hamper, and brings his dishes to the sink. He sometimes helps unload the dishwasher, even if that means his help is placing a clean cup or dish on the counter so that I can lift it into the cabinet. The main thing I have him help me with several times per week is laundry.

I have him help me load the washer, move clothes from the washer to the dryer, and of course, fold and put away laundry. These days, I’m normally running a load of laundry every other day or every third day, depending on how full the load is, in an effort to not have to deal with “laundry mountain” each weekend.  I really try not to run half loads so this does often mean that I’m still running 2-3 loads during a weekend, which means plenty of opportunities for our son to help me with various laundry tasks.

He often protests and says he doesn’t want to help. I let him know that I do need his help, that it’s important that we all work together in our family to get these tasks done. Sometimes, this results in him folding three pairs of socks while I folded the rest of the load. But, I hope that I am instilling in him that helping around the house is not optional, and that his help is valuable.

Recently, at my sister’s bridal shower, my son insisted on helping her open some gifts. She received some towels and kitchen linens as gifts, and my little guy unknowingly impressed several of the female guests by helping his Auntie to fold up those newly opened towels and linens into neat squares!

Most toddlers like the idea of “helping” mommy or daddy with a chore, and so I can only hope that instilling these values into our son early on are setting us all up for success to have him continue helping throughout his developing years.