3 Chores for my 1 year old (and how I get her to do them)


Having a toddler is my favorite thing ever!  She is starting to do things on her own, express opinions, and try new things.  While my 17 month old daughter is not saying many English words, she is definitely understanding, imitating, and cooperating.  1 year olds usually have a desire to please the adults in their life, so I intend to use that to my advantage!  I want my daughter to feel like she has a job and a purpose in our home, I want her to see that everyone in the home contributes and that she can have a helpful spirit.  

At this young age, teaching her to do the chores is much more work than doing them myself, so I’m trusting that through consistency I will reap the rewards later as she becomes self sufficient and independent. With practice, she will be able to slowly take over each of these tasks.  Can I hear an amen from moms of older kids please?  

“Doing a chore” with a 1 year old typically consists of four steps, 1-tell them what to do (cheerfully but directly). 2-show them how to do it. 3-help them do it. 4-praise them for doing it

1. Turning off the light before bed

This one seems small, but I hear so many parents complain that their older children won’t turn off the lights!  My daughter actually really enjoys this as a part of her evening routine, I think it makes her feel powerful because she always looks up at the light and says, “wow!”  

To teach her to turn off the light, every single night I say, “time to turn off the light.”  Then I point to the light switch and lift her up to reach it.  If she reaches out her hand, I will guide her hand right to the light switch and even pull it down if she is struggling with the movement of it.  If she does not reach out her hand, I’ll gently guide her hand to the light switch and turn it off using her finger.  I always tell her “thank you,” even if I was the one who turned off the light with her finger.  If she was distracted looking at the fan, I’ll remind her what she did, “you turned out the light!”

2. Picking up her toys

This one is honestly super hit and miss.  At 1 and a half, my daughter has JUST started putting items into containers, instead of only out of them.  Take out and put back in is one of her favorite games, but when she is playing independently, it always ends with take out!  At this age she is not ready to organize toys, put different toys in different areas, or stack toys nicely, but she IS ready to put something into a basket, so that is what we do.  Right now, this chore is typically only done when something is dumped out defiantly, so I need to develop some consistency around doing this chore every day, multiple times a day!  

To do this chore, I sit down with her and grab the toy basket.  I tell her, “time to pick up your toys” and I put a toy into the basket.  While we are completing the task, I say “thank you” every time we put one in.  I don’t require her to pick up every toy-I probably pick up 90% and she picks up 10% but at this age, the cooperation and hard-working attitude matter more than actual achievement!  At the end, I always tell her “all done, thank you for picking up your toys!”  

*pro tip- If your child is being defiant and refusing to cooperate in this chore, don’t accept that they will not do the chore.  Without anger or frustration, require obedience of your child.  Sometimes Emmy will throw herself down and shout, “no!” so I simply and calmly pick her up and tell her that it’s time to pick up her toys.  I carry her to the toy and use her hands to pick it up and drop it in the basket.  Even though she may be thrashing or whining I praise her extra for her (forced) cooperation, typically by the end, with a lot of encouragement, she is helping willingly and sometimes even running across the room for an extra toy that I missed in the initial pickup

3. Wiping up spills

I don’t know about your 1 year old, but mine thinks it’s funny to turn her sippy cup upside down when no one is watching and bang it on the floor until milk comes out.  Anyone else?….No?…Just me?…Okay.  

Well, what I do in this situation is RUN to the kitchen to get a towel to try to throw it on the spill before she splashes in it.  I tell her, “oops, you spilled, help mommy clean it up.” I show her how to wipe the towel back and forth on the spill.  If she doesn’t do it on her own, I gently place her hands on the towel and wipe it around on the floor.  I always tell her “thank you for your help!”

While these are the chores that we “assign” to our 1 year old, she can be involved in any chore by following the same simple steps, tell her what to do, show her how to do it, help her do it, and praise her for doing it!  As she sees my positive attitude towards chores and wants to be involved in chores, she is learning how to contribute to the household.  On a non-regular basis we have also been able to have her involved in scrubbing the bathtub, sweeping the floors, doing laundry and even the dishes.  Does her contribution in any way help the chore get done: no, in fact it’s usually harder,  but we are accomplishing something much more important and long-term by taking simple steps to get her involved in our lives and our home.  

I hope that these ideas help you keep it simple and fun so that you can get your toddler involved in chores today!  Let me know how you get your kids involved and helping by leaving me a comment below

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