Looking for some chore ideas for your preschooler? Learn why we should give our preschoolers chores, what we should expect or request from them, and how to encourage and foster independence and a desire to care for their belongings and their home.
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out! This isn’t an article about giving our children strict chores and deadlines. Especially at preschool-age, that’s just honestly unrealistic and ridiculous. Anyone who follows me knows I’m personally very anti-authoritarian parenting.
It also isn’t one of those rage-inducing, smug articles about how perfect my family is.
No, this is about the philosophy behind giving our children chores, and how many of us have the wrong idea about why we expect family members to contribute to the home in the first place. Not to be dramatic, but it actually probably comes from a place of trauma for many of us. The desire to enforce strict rules and chore lists is not because it’s the best way to parent, but because it’s what we know.
To be demanding of our children isn’t setting them up for a better life than parents who are gentle or relaxed, no matter how much we want to believe it is.
However, giving chores as a benefit for your child as opposed to an actual help to the household is a different topic entirely.
We don’t strictly follow a Montessori lifestyle in our home, but I do read about it and implement some of the techniques where I see fit. And something all Montessorian parents agree on is giving our children more freedom than is typical, even as a toddler!
Those that choose to follow a Montessori lifestyle believe in fostering independence and freedom (within reason, of course), and under that category, falls chores.
Don’t Step in
So often as parents, we find ourselves jumping in and completing tasks for our children because, well, we’re much better at it. But how can we expect them to improve their skills when Mommy and Daddy step in and do it for them every time?
Plus, think about every time your preschooler has thrown a fit because they wanted to do something on their own, and you insisted on finishing it up for them. And look, we can’t always wait 10 extra minutes to put on shoes when we’re already running late.
So, instead, we adapt. We do our best to get ready super early, to allow our kids to move at their own pace a little more. When that’s not possible, we gently explain why we’re helping them move a bit quicker, even if they continue throwing a fit through it all. It’s important, even if it feels like we’re talking to a (screaming) brick wall.
It’s not about giving our kids a list of chores to make our lives easier, it’s about letting them try new things out
Actually, my son is almost 4 now, and is arguably not great at putting on his own clothes because I did it for him far too often all this time. He will be okay, but it’s something I’m consciously working on. It takes patience on both of our ends.
Allowing them to take on chores when they show an interest is beneficial all around. No, it won’t be done perfectly, and no, it won’t be done quickly. But allowing our preschoolers to take care of small chores here and there helps them develop these skills, teaches them that household management takes effort from everyone, children and adults alike, and it even teaches us as parents to let go of some of our control.
Giving our preschoolers chores is about many things, but at the bottom of that list is the task being completed.
Relinquishing Power isn’t Easy, But It’s Necessary
This has been a long, uphill battle in our house for years. It doesn’t come easily, especially for those like me that enjoy their lives and their homes being a specific way.
I wrote an article about things our 2-year-olds should do on their own a few years back, and it’s been widely misinterpreted over time. Some understand the message behind the freedom, and others argue that we can’t allow our toddlers to do these tasks alone.
Remember, this isn’t about expecting our children to complete anything 100% on their own. It’s about fostering a desire to be self sufficient and to practice life skills that are arguably lacking in a handful of adults. (We’ve all met someone who doesn’t know how to keep their house decent).
I like things in their designated places. I like beds made a certain way, and clothes put away in specific spots. But who am I to tell my son he can’t help put away his shorts? I’d hate to make him carry this idea that he’s incapable of doing these simple tasks, and that it should all fall on Mama’s shoulders.
Plus, it’s his clothes. His room. His dresser.
While I can’t leave his room in his hands entirely, my job is not to fuss over things being folded properly. My role as a parent is to guide him and show him how to keep a room to his liking, not mine. Clean, but not perfect if that’s not how he likes it. It just needs to be functional, safe, and enjoyable.
How to Get Your Preschooler to Do Chores
- Consistency. As with anything else, you have to make it a routine if you want it to become the norm. At some point, it’ll be second nature to both you and your child.
- Watch how you set the tone for these chores. Do you usually have a certain tone or attitude when doing chores or requesting your family to do things? This is something many of us have to catch ourselves on. Make it a positive experience. No, it’s not fun to pick up clothes daily from the bathroom floor, but our attitude affects everyone in the family. We can nicely ask and get the same point across. We sound like broken records either way. Do we want to sound like a positive broken record, or a frustrated, fed-up one?
- Have clear boundaries, but flexibility. Let your child know what’s expected and acceptable. For instance, under no circumstances is my son to take the trash out by himself, because it’s too close to the road. Mommy must always be with him for that chore. Also, sometimes it’s not fun to clean up toys, but it is still necessary the majority of the time.
- If it’s something you actually expect and need your preschooler to do, don’t ask. With a positive but firm tone, tell them that it’s something that needs to get done now. For instance, at the end of bath, I tell my son that it’s time to clean up his bath toys so they dry out and last longer. I don’t ask, and I don’t demand. I just firmly explain that it has to be done, and I know it’s sad, but it’s what is going to happen. I offer help if he’s really not feeling it, because it’s what family does for each other, and we knock it out. When we ask our children if they want to do things, it can actually be confusing. Think about how much you want to hop out of bed and unload the dishwasher every day. You don’t. If anyone asked you if you did, your answer would be a clear, “no.” You’re an adult, so you know it has to be done regardless, so you do it. We have to teach our preschoolers that things have to be done, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. We do it, and we do it with a positive attitude, and then we move on to greener pastures.
Chores for Preschoolers
Here are some chores to consider letting your preschooler take a crack at. The experts agree, giving our children chores is beneficial! They love contributing to the family, and feeling like they’re part of the flow of the home.
This list is not meant to be used as a strict schedule to implement, or tasks that you demand from your child on any sort of regular basis.
Here is what I suggest:
The Relaxed Approach
When your child is bored or on the cusp of a fit, distraction can be powerful. Try offering them a random task from this list of chores when you think they’re getting bored, and read their reaction. If they’re interested, great! If not, don’t force it.
Also, if your child shows an interest in helping with something you’re working on, say yes as often as you’re able. (I literally shudder when I’m rushing through dinner and my son eagerly rushes in with his stepstool. Some take my tips as unrealistic, but I want you to understand that it’s hard for everyone. We all struggle with these things. It’s a decision we have to make each time, and sometimes these tips can be followed, and other times they can’t).
Do they want to help you wipe the dining table down? Let them! Give them a spray bottle with vinegar and water, and ask them to clean the windows when they have time. Preschoolers have very busy schedules if you didn’t know.
The Structured and Fun Approach
Download and print the chore chart FOR FUN. It can bring so much joy to your child every time they get a sticker or feel like they completed a task that’s helpful to the family.
If they don’t care for it, or you don’t want to use it, no biggie! These are still some great ideas for things that many preschoolers enjoy helping with around the house.
Chore Ideas for Preschoolers
1. Sorting Laundry
2.Putting Toys Away
3. Cleaning Windows
4. Getting Mail
5. Folding Towels
6. Throwing Away Trash
7. Putting Shoes Away
8. Wiping Down Surfaces
9. Setting the Table
11. Watering Plants
12. Taking Dishes to the Sink
14. Putting Clothes in the Hamper
15. Bringing In & Putting Away Groceries
16. Putting Laundry Away
17. Loading and Unloading the Dishwasher
What chores does your preschooler do? Do they enjoy contributing to the house, or are you stuck in a rut of tears? Let me know in the comments and we can discuss ways to help!