It's never too early to teach your toddler or preschooler to help out around the house. No, you probably won't have her scrubbing floors or toilets, but many age-appropriate tasks help introduce the topic of home economics, otherwise known as keeping a house running. Getting your child in on this is beneficial for both of you, and she'll thank you when she moves out on her own someday.
Not all areas of home economics are appropriate to teach to a toddler or preschooler. She likely isn't going to grasp making a grocery budget or understand what's involved in hosting a family dinner. However, you can begin to teach her cooking, cleaning and laundry skills. A preschooler can probably understand nutrition basics, such as healthy versus unhealthy foods, and is likely to enjoy gardening with you. Sewing is something else that a preschooler can try as long as you use age-appropriate tools and projects.
There are so many options when it comes to activities to learn about home economics that you're sure to find one that works for you. Let your toddler stir the batter for muffins or pour the ingredients for pudding into a bowl. A preschooler can help you choose an easy recipe, such as a smoothie, then assist you in preparation. Let her throw frozen fruit, a scoop of yogurt and some juice into the blender, then press the button to blend it. Thread a large, plastic, blunt-tipped embroidery needle and let your little one "sew" a piece of mesh fabric by putting the thread through the holes. Let your child help you sort light and dark clothes for washing, have her put her toys in baskets, wipe the table with a baby wipe or hold the dustpan while you sweep up a pile of after-dinner crumbs. Let her help you plant flowers in the yard or challenge her to cut out pictures of healthy foods from a magazine and glue them onto paper.
Home economics for toddlers and preschoolers has many benefits. You'll have help around the house even if the job isn't always done up to your standards, and it gives you a chance to spend some time together. At some point, your little one will be able to do it without you. At home, young children who have responsibilities are better at facing the consequences of their actions, notes Jeremy Todd, chief executive of the national helpline Parentline Plus. For example, if your toddler decides to dump her oatmeal on the floor, helping you clean it up might deter her from doing it next time. Helping out around the house from an early age makes it a normal part of your child's routine.
Some young kids view cooking, gardening and even dusting as fun playtime activities, but others may need a little convincing. You don't want your child to get into the habit of expecting a reward for helping out around the house, but adding a little bit of extra fun increases the chances that she'll help you out. Set the timer and challenge your toddler to put all her stuffed animals in the basket before the buzzer sounds. Give your little one small gardening tools and let her use them to plant and weed your vegetable patch. Let her pick what chore she wants to do. If it's her choice, chances are that she'll get it done.
- The Guardian: Lack of Household Chores Making Children Less Responsible, Claims Survey
- Organized Home: Kids and Chores: Chilling the Chore Wars
- Homeschool Life Situations: 5 Fun Subjects for Home Economics
- University of Michigan: Home Economics
- Scholastic: 9 Ways to Make Household Chores Fun
- Parenting: Toddler-Friendly Chores
- TinkerLab: Even Toddlers Can Sew!
- Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images