The first thing that comes to mind when adults think about chores is ‘work.’ Naturally, many are not so fond of doing chores because of the fact they compare it to a burdensome task. Parents should realize however that for toddlers who actually want to help, chores are fun! Giving children age-appropriate chores to complete when they are young will set the stage for a lifetime of kids helping voluntarily and without being asked.
The Evidence Behind A Toddlers Instinct To Help
Harriet Rheingold conducted research in children aged 18, 24 and 30 months old. These children were interacting with their parents as the parents were doing the daily chores around the house such as folding laundry and sweeping the floor. The study asked parents to work slower than usual and to allow the child to help if they wanted. They were also told not to ask the child directly for help.
All of the children in Rheingold’s study had voluntarily helped their parents with daily chores. Many started helping their parents with the current tasks and some even started new chores the parents hadn’t started yet. In her words, she said, “The children carried out their efforts with quick and energetic movement, excited vocal intonations, animated facial expressions, and with delight in the finished task.”
Age-appropriate chores are definitely great tasks for toddlers. They want to help and will help without being asked. Many studies have confirmed the universal desire of toddlers wanting to help and while toddlers are helping, they are not thinking of any rewards. In fact, Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello in 2008 found that rewarding the helping behavior reduced subsequent helping behaviors. This is because when rewarded for helping, toddlers will continually expect to be rewarded every time they help and if no reward is given, they become likely to help.
The evidence is that toddlers are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated to help. They help because they want to be helpful. They are not expecting anything out of this help. Rewards change their attitude towards an activity they previously enjoyed. When not rewarded, they enjoy doing it, but once rewards are involved, it becomes less enjoyable.
Our Culture Today When Toddlers Want To Help
Parents in today’s culture tend to make mistakes when it comes to age-appropriate chores for toddlers. Many brush off the child’s offer to help instead seeing the children as being in the way or a burden because it slows down the process. They also see toddlers not doing the chore correctly causing them to have to re-do the task themselves. What parents fail to release in this scenario is that the learning process and the child’s accomplishments in and of themselves are much more important than the task at hand.
Parents also usually make the mistake of rewarding their child for the help they have offered. So either the parents are making their child feel they aren’t capable of helping or that they only do it because they are looking for something in return. Parents should hold back on offering rewards for chores done.
What Parents Should Do When A Child Wants To Help
Parents should try to remember that if their toddler wants to help, it is family work and not just work for them to do alone. They need to assume that any and all help from their child is genuine. If the child is given the chance to help, with just a bit of guidance they’ll eventually become good at completing these chores on their own. Parents should also avoid demanding or bargaining for help, or even rewarding them or micromanaging the process. This all reduces the child’s intrinsic motivation to help.
All a child wants is a simple smile and a ‘thank you.’ They are not looking for anything more. Parents should keep in mind that a toddler helping with chores helps the child grow in a positive way. Their help is not only good for the parents, but also for themselves. They learn valuable skills and feelings of personal empowerment, as well as a sense of belonging as they contribute to the family. When a toddler is allowed to help with age-appropriate chores, their unborn altruism is nourished.
10 Age Appropriate Chores For Toddlers
- Getting dressed on their own as well as putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.
- Help pick up their toys/room or any room where they made a mess.
- Make their bed (of course, this won’t be perfect but with time and practice it will be!).
- Help put away folded laundry.
- Set the table for meals as well as help clear the table when finished.
- Dust around the house with a sock on their hand.
- Wipe down different areas of the home with a wet wipe.
- Empty small trash bins.
- Feed pets if there are any.
- Water any plants if needed.
Toddlers do want to help and they want to do so naturally without being told to. There are plenty of age appropriate chores for little ones to do. Parents just need to relax and allow them to help. As much as it may be hard for the parents to let go and allow for this integral growing and learning process, the household chores and the contribution of the child to the family will improve over time, creating a better cooperative relationship and pleasant living environment for everyone.
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Check out this article on IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS FROM MY TODDLER.