I see a lot of age-specific chore charts floating around online. But I gotta say, some of them make me wonder if the author even has kids. Particularly when they ask a toddler to put their clothing in the hamper, clean up their own shoes, mop the floor, make their bed, or carry firewood. (OK, so maybe I’ve never really seen the firewood thing specifically, but you get me.) Here’s what I know to be true about toddlers and “chores”: It’s best to keep your expectations low. VERY low. Because with toddlers, you are working with a very raw product.
As a father of three kids, the youngest about to turn two, I thought I’d give a list of a few chores that my toddler can actually perform. Expecting anything more out of them is really just setting yourself up for disappointment.
- Help Mom and Dad maintain sanity by not flipping out for 20 minutes at 2 AM because you lost a sock.
- Clean up after yourself by not rubbing banana into your hair.
- Tidy up the tub by not pooping in it.
- When finished eating, leave your food and plate on the table rather than throwing them on the floor and laughing as if you’re our damn king.
- Help your parents maintain respect in the community by keeping your pants on at church.
- Tidy up the house by not pulling poop out of your diaper and using it to paint the walls like some sort of Poop Picasso.
- Help dad not swear so much by placing BOTH your shoes in the closet, rather than hiding them.
- Take longer naps.
- Take more than one bite from all apples before falling on the floor and kicking and screaming and insisting on having another. It makes Dad want to call a priest.
- Refrain from eating money, rocks, or LEGOs. They will kill you.
- Maintain your health by not sneaking into the bathroom and sticking the business end of the plunger in your mouth.
- Place un-eaten cheese in the garbage can, not Mom’s underwear drawer.
- Help care for the cat by not eating cat food or drinking from the cat dish. You are not a cat.
- Help with the grocery bill by not wandering into the fridge to eat mustard and then throw up on the vegetables in the crisper.
- Get into the car seat without kicking Mom or Dad in the face.
- Promote family happiness by not standing on Dad’s sleeping face each morning so you can see out the window.
- Help do the dishes by not climbing inside the dishwasher.
- Help with laundry by not throwing folded clothes on the floor so you can sit in the laundry basket and pretend to drive a car.
- Clean the kitchen floor by keeping food in your mouth.
- Don’t die.
I know that this is a long list for a toddler, so feel free to add or subtract what you’d like for your own kid. Perhaps just work on one task a day. Maybe two. Set your own expectations, but above all, remember: Keep them low.