Toddlers helping in the home

By Dr. Lin Day, Toddler Sense

Toddlers enjoy helping with everyday chores such as dusting, cleaning, baking and sweeping. Given a toy screwdriver, toddlers will attempt to fix everything from the washing machine to the DVD player, so safety is important. Helping with household chores builds self-esteem and confidence and keeps toddlers busy and stimulated. If they are praised for their efforts, they are more likely to want to help again

If toddlers are given an active part to play, they will be less likely to get bored and frustrated. Toddlers are easily distracted, so they may not join in for very long.

Helping in the home provide a range of educational benefits from social interaction to communication, movement, problem-solving and imaginative thinking.

If they are encouraged to help from an early age they are more likely to be involved with household chores as adults.

Housework provides the opportunity for toddlers to:

  • Play
  • Re-enact real-life events
  • Imitate the actions of others
  • Rehearse future roles
  • Coordinate their feelings and ideas
  • Relieve tension & frustration
  • Make sense of the world
  • Learn about shape and size (marching lids to pots, stacking kitchen containers)
  • Take turns
  • Learn important skills such as negotiation, reasoning, cooperation, and organisation

The adult provides a safe and secure environment, reassurance, praise and encouragement.

The key is to make housework an important part of the daily routine and a fun, interactive and safe experience.


Toddlers will decide what they want to do, but they enjoy:

  • Pretend play with dolls, soft toys and tea-sets
  • Taking care of pets
  • Preparing food (mixing and sifting ingredients)
  • Rolling, kneading, squashing and cutting dough
  • Picking up sultanas or raisins
  • Pouring drinks from a jug to a cup
  • Using tongs to pick up small objects such as sugar cubes or pasta
  • Cutting up dough with scissors
  • Setting the table
  • Dusting
  • Helping with the laundry
  • Washing up
  • Washing toys, chairs, tables and the car with a sponge
  • Watering plants with a watering can
  • Painting the garden fence with water
  • Raking, sweeping and collecting leaves, sticks and pebbles
  • Putting on and taking off lunchbox and drink container lids


When toddlers are encouraged to help, they learn how their bodies work, build muscles, strength and endurance, burn off excess calories and sleep better at night.

Housework provides opportunities for hand and finger development, and the development of essential precision skills for later activities such as holding a needle and writing.

Squeezing dough, making ‘spider’ movements with the fingers and cupping sand or water help the hand grasp objects of different shape and size.

Even the process of opening doors, whisking an egg, emptying the washing machine, and helping with everyday chores around the home or nursery, increases manual dexterity and control of the fingers.

A rolling pin or cutter, a knife and fork, pegging, pouring water, washing cups and other objects also improve grip strength, manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

Weight-bearing activities such as lifting and carrying the laundry basket will increase muscle strength and control.



Even two-year-olds can be encouraged to put away their toys, clear the table after a meal and help with the laundry. They can carry objects, use sponges, rollers and other tools with increasing proficiency.

Hand coordination is still developing, but most toddlers can use both hands to match lids to containers and match and sort socks and other objects. 3-yearsIn their third year, toddlers learn how to cooperate with others and they move on to more independent activities.

They also soak up new words at a phenomenal rate. They begin to understand abstract concepts such as ‘in’ and ‘out’ and opposites such as ‘big’ and ‘small’. They can also hold a conversation and ask questions.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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