Chores for Toddlers

Chore Chart for Toddlers

One day our oldest son randomly asked me for a chore chart.  I was so taken back by this request because he was 2 years old, and I had no idea where he learned this term.  Looking back, I think it must have been on an episode of Curious George.  I happily obliged and granted him his request of a chore chart.

I showed him his chore chart, and explained that he had 2 chores: feed Stripey, our cat, everyday and clean up his toys every night.  These are both things that he was used to doing already, so I knew they were age appropriate chores.  I also explained that when he did his chore he would get a sticker for completing his chore, so he ideally would get 2 stickers per day.  Additionally, he would get a quarter at the end of the week if he did all of his chores.  I then explained that when he got 4 quarters we would go to the store, and he would get to use his chore money to buy a car.  He was so excited!

Rules of the Chore Chart For Toddlers

1.       The chores need to be age appropriate, as well as, the number of chores needs to be age appropriate.  Our son was 2 years old when he asked for a chore chart, so I only gave him the responsibility of completing 2 chores.  His chores were also tasks that he had already done, so they were not new to him.  We don’t make our oldest son clean up our youngest son’s toys to earn his sticker—just his own.

2.       Your toddler should be rewarded immediately after they complete the chore.  This will help reinforce the association between doing the chore and a reward or acknowledgment. It’s also unlikely that they or you will remember if they completed a chore at the end of the day or week so it helps to mark the chore complete as soon as possible.  We chose to use stickers as the immediate reward.  He gets a sticker to add to his chore chart after he completes each chore.  Then we do high-fives or a “yahoo” dance.  It adds a little extra emphasis on how proud we are of him. A former co-worker, who was a grandmother, once reminded me that small children are still learning social cues so it’s important to really emphasize when you are proud of your child because they may not pick up on a smile or approving nod.

3.       Be flexible.  Some days our cat has enough food in his bowl so our son doesn’t need to feed him that day, or we get home late so there isn’t time to clean up his toys before bedtime.  He doesn’t get a sticker for that chore that day, but it also doesn’t prevent him from earning a quarter that week.

4.       If they refuse to complete the chore, then there is no reward.  Do not reward bad behavior.  Do remind them that they will not receive their sticker if the chore is not complete.  This usually helps motivate them to complete the chore. I sometimes have to remind my son that he needs to complete the chore to get his quarter if the sticker reward isn’t working. It is sometimes difficult to clearly explain the association between the chore and the quarter to a toddler. Be careful not to use negatives when explaining because it tends to make the association more complex and confusing. For example, I could say “If you don’t do your chores then you won’t get a sticker and then you won’t get your quarter.” I’m actually preaching to myself here too because I have said that exact phrase, and it will be hard for a frustrated toddler to comprehend it. I have better results when I speak with a positive reference, for example, “you need to complete your chores so you can get your quarter.” That sentence is saying the same thing, but much simpler structure and easier to understand.

5.       Your toddler should be “saving” up for a bigger reward.  I think saving up their stickers towards a bigger reward will help them learn about working towards a goal, patience, hard work, and responsibility.  They work hard all week, and should be rewarded for it; just like you work hard and get a paycheck.  We chose to reward our son with a quarter at the end of each week, but you can choose the best incentive for your toddler.  He puts his quarter in his “quarter jar” each week, and counts how many he has each week. We decided to up the ante a bit with our son and make him earn 4 quarters to be able to buy his reward of a little hot wheels car.  He absolutely loves cars, so saving up his quarters and being able to go buy his very own car is a huge reward for him.


Chores and Rewards For Toddlers

We chose for our son’s chores to be to feed our pet cat and clean up his toys.  These are things that he was already starting to do regularly, so it was appropriate that they become his chores.  You can pick different chores for your toddler, like:

·         Put their clothes in the hamper

·         Make their bed

·         Set the table

·         Put their dirty dishes in the sink

We also chose our son’s weekly/monthly reward based on his interests.  He loves to play with cars, and our grocery store has a hot wheels car bin with cars for a dollar so we thought it was fitting that he be rewarded with a car once he earned 4 quarters.  You can choose to reward your toddler with a reward each week or have them save up towards a monthly reward.  Just be clear about the expectations and reward system at the beginning of the process with your toddler.  Other examples of rewards are:

·         Hair bows

·         Trip to get ice cream

·         New book

·         Rent a movie at Redbox

Isn’t a toddler too young for chores?

If I had not witnessed my son doing chores, I would have said yes.  But he has really done a great job with the chores, so I would now say no a toddler isn’t too young to do chores.  I actually think doing chores helped potty train him so quickly.  He was learning responsibility through chores, which made him begin to take responsibility for controlling his bladder.  I also don’t think doing chores has prevented him from enjoying childhood at all. The chores take around 10 minutes per day, so it’s just a tiny part of his day, but is a great start to teaching some great life skills. 

Our younger son, 19 months old, has picked up on our oldest doing chores, and enjoys doing chores just like his big brother.  He will help our oldest feed the cat and he also helps to clean up his toys at night.  So we have started to reward him with his own stickers to put on his own chore chart each time he completes a chore.  He gets so excited when we say it’s sticker time and runs as fast as his little feet will carry him to his chore chart.

How is it going?

Our oldest gets so excited when he earns his fourth quarter!  We all go to the grocery store together, and he leads us to the car bin with his “quarter jar” in his hand.  He looks through the cars to find the one he wants; he proudly places his new car on the conveyor belt at check out, and then hands the cashier his quarters to pay for his car.  We explained to him that he would not have any more quarters when he bought his first car; we thought he would be upset about that, but he didn’t care as much as we thought.  He can tell you each car that he has bought with his chore money from his car collection, and he is very proud of the hard work he put into earning those cars.

We have now been doing chores for about a year, and it is going awesome!  We have had two weeks that our son has not earned his quarter for the week because he refused to do a chore.  We have had a few nights where we really had to work with him to motivate him to complete his chore, but that’s just part of the process. You will have nights where it would be 10 times easier to do the chore yourself than to convince your toddler to do it, but just hang in there and be strong. This isn’t about a chore or a quarter; it’s about teaching your child something meaningful.

Here is a very simple chore chart that we use each month:

Feel free to print it out for your little ones.  I print it front/back so that I can use it for the whole month.