12 Things Your 2-Year-Old Should Do on Their Own

Check out these 12 things your 2-year-old should do on their own as often as possible. Toddlers are constantly pushing for independence and autonomy, and even when they’re not quite ready to handle certain tasks by themselves 100%, now’s the time to start giving them more freedom to explore and perform daily chores.

12 Things Your 2-Year-Old Should Do on Their Own | Modern Homestead Mama

First of all, let me be clear and say that your toddler should be experimenting and learning to do these things on their own. In no way should they be experts at any of these tasks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust my toddler to do much of anything by himself 100%.

Sure, he can put on his own shoes, and I encourage him to do it! But, they’re usually on the wrong feet, with part of the heel still sticking out a little bit.

He’s able to “brush his own teeth,” but there’s no way I’d leave that task completely up to him. We’d be drowning in dentist bills already.

Here are the top 12 things I believe you should encourage your toddler to do on their own as often as you can, as it builds independence, which they desperately crave at this age. Ultimately, it’s not black and white. There are no set of rules or tasks that you need to write down and remember to let your 2-year-old complete on a daily basis to be a good mom.

The key is to simply let your toddler try new things within reason. We can’t always let them put on their own shoes, because sometimes we’ll be in a hurry. But every time you find yourself in a position where your 2-year-old wants to get involved and help, I say let them! It helps them learn life skills and build confidence!

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12 Things Your 2-Year-Old Should Do on Their Own

2-Year-Old Washing Her Hands

1. Clean Their Spills

Your toddler should be learning the basics of cleaning up after themselves, and that includes wiping up small spills and messes. For whatever reason, I find it easier to get my son to wipe up his own spills vs. getting him to clean up his toys.

I push for both, because they’re equally important parts of keeping a clean home, but cleaning up spills is a specific one that I encourage you to enforce.

Plus, something about a toddler wiping up spilled milk with a rag is just so damn cute.

2. Help With Cooking

Ahh yes, cooking. My least favorite part of the day. For the longest time my son was a nightmare whenever I tried to cook. He had no interest in watching tv, playing independently, or reading. He only wanted to help Mommy prepare dinner.

A little after he turned 2, I figured, ‘what the heck?’

I pulled up a step stool, brought out a little Montessori-style safety knife, and let him help me prep dinner!

Guess what? He. Loved. It.

I highly recommend allowing your 2-year-old to assist with making dinner. They love getting involved and mimicking us!

3. Take Dishes To The Sink

There is one major downside to teaching your 2-year-old to take their own dishes to the sink: they’ll want to take every dish, all the time. The glass of water you’re currently drinking? The bowl you forgot on the coffee table? Yeah, they’re going to get swiped the moment you look away.

On the plus side, you’ll get in the habit of consistently taking your own dishes to the sink!

Whether you have a step stool at your kitchen sink or not, your 2-year-old should be able to reach up and drop their sippy cups and plastic bowls into the sink. It’s actually one of the most helpful things my son does. Well, when he remembers it’s dishes in the sink and trash in the trash can, and not the other way around.

4. Feed Themselves

Maybe I’m just a lazy mom, but I let my son start feeding himself as soon as he started trying. Please, by all means, feed yourself! Sure, I’ll have a huge mess to clean after, but it’s worth it most of the time.

Surprisingly though, many moms still find themselves feeding their toddlers, especially when it comes to messier meals like yogurt or spaghetti. I understand, even if I don’t do it myself! It’s a bonding experience, they’re only small for so long, and it saves you a huge mess afterwards.

But it’s an important part of their development! They’re working on their fine motor skills. Even when they do nothing but smash their dinner all over their high chair, they’re exploring different textures, cause and effect, and more!

5. Wash Their Hands

Your toddler isn’t going to be great at washing their hands, but they should at least be going through the motions on their own. And of course, every child develops at their own pace, but they should understand what you mean when you tell them to “go wash their hands” at some point between 2 and 3 years old.

Now’s a great time to build good habits, especially when it comes to hygiene!

6. Pick Up Their Toys

This is one of the many reasons I swear by organizing your toddler’s toys into small plastic storage bins. Or, at the very least, have them organized into a toy chest or drawers or something.

There needs to be a clear spot for everything, so your toddler knows how and where to put things when they’re done playing with them. No matter what your setup looks like, your 2-year-old is more than capable of picking up after themselves, and starting this early is going to be oh-so worth it.

7. Putting Away Groceries

This is 100% a task that your toddler can “help” you with, not something they should do on their own. Your toddler likely can’t even lift a jug of milk, after all.

Sure, we could unload the car and put away all of the groceries faster if our kids stayed out of the way. But it’s important to let our toddlers get involved in daily chores.

8. Put Dishes Away

When the dishwasher is done with its cycle, let your 2-year-old help you unload it! Usually I grab all of the knives and breakable plates from the bottom rack before my son comes over, so I don’t have to keep as close of an eye on what he puts away. His favorite is the silverware!

Nothing is ever put away in the right spot, but it’s adorable, and honestly, better than nothing! Who cares, as long as the dishwasher is empty for the next load, and the dishes are put away… somewhere.

9. Getting Dressed

2-Year-Old Toddler Washing Her Hands

This one actually didn’t cross my mind. It was my husband’s idea to start allowing our son to dress himself more and more. I’m not sure why I didn’t think about it. Probably because it’s such a hassle, honestly.

He gets extremely frustrated super fast, and I can’t help but want to finish the job for him before things get out of hand. Thankfully, my husband is really great about being patient through the tantrum, and it’s always worth it to see how proud my son is after he successfully gets his arms in his shirt all by himself!

So, if you’re like me and you think your 2-year-old isn’t ready to dress themselves because they get frustrated quickly, give it a try!

10. Picking Their Own Outfits

Another thing you should let your 2-year-old do on their own is pick out their outfits. I’ve given this one a try time and time again, and my son doesn’t seem to care what he wears at all yet. But there are many 2-year-olds who are thrilled at the prospect of picking out their own clothes!

11. Throwing Trash Away

This is my favorite chore that my son does on his own. He keeps the living room so tidy! Any time he finds a scrap of paper on the floor, or a bit of trash in his play area, he immediately runs it to the garbage can. It’s great!

Of course you’ll have to check for items that aren’t meant to be thrown away every so often, but it’s worth it.

2-Year-Old Brushing Teeth By Herself

12. Brushing Their Teeth

No, they won’t be good at brushing their own teeth, but your 2-year-old should at least be interested enough to mimic the act. If your toddler is anything like mine, teeth brushing time is a nightmare. You absolutely will have to brush them yourself afterwards, but giving them the freedom to do it on their own at the beginning is a great way to get them in the habit of doing it every night.

Besides, they’ll feel more in control of the situation, and over time it’ll make your job easier!

Which every day tasks do you encourage your toddler to do on their own? Are there any that haven’t crossed your mind? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

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36 Comments

  1. A 2 year old is way too young to brush their teeth on their own! Ask any dentist! Unless you like having high dental bills from filling cavities. They just don’t have the proper motor skills to do it good enough.

    1. Hi Mindy! I recommend brushing them afterward 🙂 I do not advocate for toddlers being left in charge of their hygiene or care; rather that they should be given the opportunity to practice and engage in self-care activities and household duties.

  2. Awesome article, I love the ideas on here and agree. I make my toddler clean after herself and do most of things and I feel like she has become her own little person and is paving the way for her little sister. 😍

  3. I’ve been encouraging my 2-yr-old to put his shoes away as soon as we walk in the door, to put his pajamas in the hamper every morning and his clothes in the hamper every evening so Dr just before his birthday and 6 months later, he does all of it on his own. It is very rare that I have to remind him that shoes and clothes don’t belong in the middle of the floor.

  4. I try to let my 14-month-old daughter help with as many tasks as she’s interested in, and I am working on teaching her to clean up after herself. She used to throw her food on the floor a lot when she was younger, so I started having her help me pick up the pieces of food off the floor after meals. She also loves to throw away trash and help unload the dishwasher.

    Even though it takes longer to get things done with a toddler helping, for me, it’s actually really nice to have her trying to help instead of just wanting me to hold her while I’m doing housework.

  5. 2 year olds should absolutely NOT be brushing their teeth on their own. They actually shouldn’t until 6 because their fine motor skills haven’t been fully developed. The dental facility I volunteer for sees so many young children with so many cavities because many of these parents let them brush their teeth on their own and don’t floss. It is a hassle to do it every night but it’s so important if you want your children to have healthy teeth.

    1. I agree with you 😊 I believe I addressed that in the article a couple of times.

      “No, they won’t be good at brushing their own teeth, but your 2-year-old should at least be interested enough to mimic the act. If your toddler is anything like mine, teeth brushing time is a nightmare. You absolutely will have to brush them yourself afterwards, but giving them the freedom to do it on their own at the beginning is a great way to get them in the habit of doing it every night.

      He’s able to “brush his own teeth,” but there’s no way I’d leave that task completely up to him. We’d be drowning in dentist bills already.

      Here are the top 12 things I believe you should encourage your toddler to do on their own as often as you can, as it builds independence, which they desperately crave at this age. Ultimately, it’s not black and white. There are no set of rules or tasks that you need to write down and remember to let your 2-year-old complete on a daily basis to be a good mom.

      The key is to simply let your toddler try new things within reason. … Every time you find yourself in a position where your 2-year-old wants to get involved and help, I say let them! It helps them learn life skills and build confidence!”

        1. Hi Lillie! I am just a mom of 3 that reads extensively about different approaches to parenting. 🙂 I am very upfront about that on every social channel and website. I advocate for children and encourage parents to try different methods created by professionals far more qualified than me. Hope that helps!

      1. Great post, it’s so important to allow 2 year olds to embrace their independence. My son won’t even let me pick out his clothes anymorel. When I try to pick out his outfits, he says, “No Mommy, put back!” lol. Are there any particular meals that you find easy to allow your little one to assist with?

    2. Hi. Is your mom and dad Miriam and james Garcia and you have many siblings? I’m afriend of family for years

    3. What I do is we take turns brushing teeth. I brush their teeth first then I let them brush their teeth. I know for sure their teeth are well brushed because I did it first.

    4. Wow you went off for bo reason, she clearly stated that u will have to actually brush their teeth again afterwards but letting them learn how to and getting in the habit of doing so is so important. I let my neice do this and she loves it and then I go over them again when she’s done. Read more thoroughly next time before jumping and acting like a know it all, please…have a blessed day!!!!

  6. I loved this so much! You sound a lot like me when it comes to letting your child help! It’s the only way they’re going to learn! We have a 17 month old daughter who loves to do things herself, makes her proud to do it and she loves the phrase ” thank you”, if she hears that, she is always very excited to do that chore again! She also loves to feed herself,(with a big mess) because half of it was eaten with her hands, sometimes! Another favorite chore of hers is helping to wash dishes, I of course need to keep knives and breakable dishes out of reach but she loves to help! Makes me hope I’m instilling a love for washing dishes already! I wish you all the luck and patience in dealing with the messes in your life till they grow up enough to be neat, however I believe if we chose not to mind the mess and we all enjoy life as it is right now, later years will come soon enough!!

  7. Great article! We encourage our 2 year old son to throw his dirty clothes in his laundry hamper. He actually really loves it! We also have him put his shoes away, pick his 3 books at bed time, choose which “potty treat” he wants, and what craft activities he wants to do at craft time. The choices really help make him feel like a big kid, and I feel like it’s respectful to let his little voice be heard. 🙂

  8. We have our 2 yr old bring us his shoes of choice for outings. He loves it. He also likes to climb onto his kitchen table bench seat & wait for his meals. Recently we’ve started asking him to push his bowl towards us if he wants more food. And he loves wiping his own hands off- which we wouldn’t have to do so often if he used his silverware- lol.

  9. My toddler loves to “help” do laundry. He helps me unload the clothes from the washer in to the dryer. I hand him a few pieces and he puts them in then I let him throw in the dryer sheet. Then after they are dry, he helps by taking them out and carry them to where we fold. He loves it and I do too! It makes me hate doing laundry a lot less. Lol

  10. Great post. My son is in his 40’s so it has been a long, l-o-n-g time since I had to think of these things but, guess what? I start working in a Daycare next month! This list will be so very helpful!

  11. I loved your article! Sometimes I need a little extra encouragement on what things to try next and these are some great things for my daughter and I to work towards. My daughter is only one year and a couple months but I try to let her get involved whenever I find a safe way she can help. One thing I do is she has a bedtime bottle of milk about half an hour before bedtime and I go through these steps. I pull the empty bottle out of the cupboard and hand it to her. And then depending on how empty the milk jug is I will hand/lower it to the floor for her (the lid is still secure). Once she gets the chance to fiddle with them she will hand them back to actually fill the bottle. After I fill it and put it in the microwave she knows which drawer to open to get the tops out even if she can’t reach in yet so she’ll open that drawer for me. I will get the top and hand it to her. Then we stand in front of the microwave and wait, patiently. When it’s done I pull it out and hold out my hand for the lid. If she chooses to stand there and fiddle with it I let her, I do not rush her because she’s processing, she’s weighing the options. She knows that if she holds onto the lid that the now full bottle will be placed on the counter out of her reach but sometimes she chooses that she’d rather carry it around the house for a few minutes, who cares, not me. When she chooses to hand it over I cap the bottle and we sit together with something on the tv while she drinks it. Did I make the process longer then it really needs? Yes. But I’ve found that even my 15 month old likes to get to make the decisions on things when she can. Thank you so much for your article, again I really enjoyed it. 😁

  12. I’m actually a little shocked at a couple of these things. You have a boy, you say? I have 3. A 14 year old boy, a 20 month old and a 4 month old. I came across this on Pinterest and it sparked my interest so I read it. First, let me say, Go YOU! Parenting is so hard and the fact that you can get your 2 year old to do all of these 12 things is AWESOME!
    For me, I just couldn’t imagine trying to let my 2 year old cook. He hardly listens as it is since he is going through his terrible 2 stage. I’m simply trying to get him to follow simple direction and not be a butt head. Lol.
    I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve always thought my toddler is super smart for his age and could do a lot. Now, after reading this article I”m wondering what I”m doing wrong. He is approaching 2 fast and doesn’t do most of these things. Hmmmm…. Shame on me? Lol

  13. “ Whether you have a step stool at your kitchen sink or not, your 2-year-old should be able to reach up and drop their sippy cups and plastic bowls into the sink. It’s actually one of the most helpful things my son does. Well, when he remembers it’s dishes in the sink and trash in the trash can, and not the other way around.”

    This is definitely my favourite bit in this post. It reminds me SO much of my son.
    I don’t usually comment on blogs, that made me truly laugh though as i pictured my son doing the same thing.
    My son does all of the above things, and always hated having his teeth brushed when he was younger. He just turned 2 a week ago, and it was like a switch instantly got flicked as now he likes it when i brush his teeth after or before he does(depending on his mood as to when i do it).
    He loves cleaning as well, counting my blessings there.
    My daughter was like that too when she was little, and she often narrated what she did too as if she was in a movie haha. Shes 7 now and still likes to help.
    I enjoyed this article, glad I stumbled upon it.
    All the best to you and your family!

  14. I love this article and want to start incorporating some of these today! Our daughter is on the short side and wouldn’t even be tall enough to toss her dishes in the sink, let alone put dishes away or prepare dinner. Is there a tall stool you recommend?

  15. Every 2 year old!! What about the 2 year olds who will never be able to do these things! You’ve just made a list of things these parents will never see! Your opinion on your child is lovely but not every 2 year old should be doing this, my baby boy is 5 month old he was a premature baby, complications will he do these things when he is 2 year old??

  16. Hey, nice post. Thanks for the encouragement to let my daughter give things a go. I already do some of these things and recently I see she loves it when I give her a choice, such as between a dress or shorts. Look forward to reading more of your blog!

  17. “Your toddler likely can’t lift a jug of milk” insert my baby hulk who has been carrying gallons of milk and water around the house since before she turned one. Obviously, we didn’t make her do it, but she kept sneaking the milk out of the grocery bags before I put them away so we finally gave her a gallon of water and carrying it around was her favorite activity for quite some time lol

  18. Hi! I just can’t deal with the tantrums after we have to stop one activity and move to another. I’ve tried letting my son help me with dinner but once the food was ready he didn’t want to stop playing with whatever he was preparing and go to the table to eat. The same thing happens with brushing the teeth sometimes. So I end up not encouraging him to do some tasks because I know they will initiate a whole problem.

  19. I knew a lady who didn’t let her child use silverware for the first 4 yrs. of her life. Finally, the doctor asked her why she doesn’t use silverware… she didn’t have a reason, she just thought her daughter wouldn’t do well with them. The doctor told her she needs to try. It’s important fine motor skills that need to be learned.
    Someone else I know doesn’t let her daughter use a plate. She thinks her daughter will just throw it on the ground. I say, “That’s a good time to teach her that’s a ‘no!'”

  20. My 2,5 year old daughter helps with laundry.. Putting the dirty laundry away, helps sorting it, helps with putting it in the washingmashine, puts her clean clothes in her closet (all her clothes is at her height in the closet).

    She helps with cleaning. The toilet, sink, tables etc..

    She’s always the one locking and unlocking the front door..

    She walks the staircase herself.

    She puts on her jacket herself.. The jacket on the floor reversed, the top facing her, then she sticks her arms in and flips it over her head = voila.. Only needs help the zip and then shes zipping it herself afterwards.

    She washes/soaps herself in when bathtime.

    Well that’s just some of all the things she’s teaching with me. Being a single mom i let her be as independent as she wants – teething etc i always do after she’s done 🙂

  21. Hi
    I agree with you, children should be taught to do little things like clearing their toys, picking their dishes, managing their shoes and washing hands and wiping their mouth.

  22. I let my toddler do all of this except cooking but I let her watch, she knows she is not supposed to touch my knife and always reminds me to be careful when ever she sees me using it. I do however let her help me with the laundry and she gets really excited when she knows iam going to start laundry, it gets a lil annoying to see coloured cloths with the whites which gives me an extra work of separating colours again but it sure is helpful and she cones when I am about to hang them out which helps a lot cox I hate bending down to remove all the clothes.

    1. My 18 month old is already doing most of these but I love the idea of having her put away her dishes after each meal. I’m going to try that one out today.

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