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There’s a reason that the term “threenagers” exists.
A three year old wants to express individuality and do things independently. They’ve also got a real knack for being a little sassy (that’s one word for it) and stubborn as hell. With that said, greater age brings greater responsibility, and this is the point where you can start assigning them age appropriate chores for three year olds
We have a chore chart and a responsibility chart for toddlers..and my three year old LOVES them (I wish it would last!) You’ll find a copy of these below.
Look…I KNOW that young toddlers end up making more work for you when they “help”. I promise this year that’ll change. I look at pictures taken six months ago of my three year old, and she’s transformed from being a toddler to a kid sized real person.
Anyway – just know that as we discuss chores for three year olds, some of it won’t be applicable for a while (like if your little one just turned three). Regardless, I recommend bookmarking this article throughout your child’s third year because I promise you’ll find it useful.
I am not talking out of my butt about this either. I am speaking from experience with my toddler, who is three and a half, as well as my professional experience working with troubled children this and other close ages.
So…here we go!
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AGE APPROPRIATE CHORES FOR THREE YEAR OLDS
I have split this into a few different sections that’ll hopefully make it a little more digestible. There are plenty of creative chores for your three year old, so pick something and try it. Don’t forget to keep scrolling so you can learn about using a responsibility chart for toddlers too.
All of this said, sometimes the biggest thing holding us back is awareness. Here are a few of the more obvious chores that you can utilize to get your toddler started. Dunno where to begin? Let’s start right there, in your little lion’s den.
BEDROOM CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Pick up clothing off of the floor and put it in the hamper.
- Put toys away (be specific on which toys and where they go).
- Put the books back on the bookshelf (this can even evolve into a organizational exercise when you’re ready to tackle “big” and “small”.
- Help make the bed.
- Wipe down bedroom walls.
- Put laundry away.
BATHROOM CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Get towels off of the floor and put towels in the hamper.
- Put hairbands/brush/clips back into the drawer.
- Put toothbrush away.
KITCHEN CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Wipe down the bottom cabinets.
- Wipe off the table and the counter using a chair/ladder and some close supervision.
- Gather dishes from around the house and put dishes in the sink (maybe make a pirate adventure out of it?)
- Help wash and rinse dishes (my three year old LOVES this one!)
- Help sweeping the floor (you can even grab a mini broom like this one – we have it and my toddler loves to help me sweep!)
OTHER HOUSEHOLD CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Help give food and water to your pets
- Aid in unpacking and stocking groceries with minimal disruption.
- Dusting (grab an old sock for this if you don’t already own a feather duster.
MEAL TIME CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Setting the table (with help, particularly with fragile dishware).
- Clearing the table (again, with supervision to avoid dangers).
- Helping “cook” meals–remember that your toddler doesn’t actually have to ADD VALUE here, just give him or her the chance to be present, see what’s going on, and maybe pour what you’ve measured once in a while.
OUTDOOR CHORES FOR 3 YEAR OLDS
- Cleaning up dog poop (proceed with caution – we use this poop scoop).
- Rake/clean up leaves.
- Pull weeds.
- Let dogs outside/let them back as time necessitates.
- Clean up yard toys.
- Water any potted plants around your or your neighbor’s lawn.
RESPONSIBILITY CHART FOR TODDLERS (+ CHORE CHART)
You should consider having a responsibility chart for your toddler. Fundamentally it doesn’t seem like there should be a HUGE difference between a responsibility chart and a chore chart. In our household, the responsibility chart is used for personal care expectations (like brushing teeth) and our chore chart lists household things that need to be done.
A chore chart printable is fun… and I’ve found it gets my toddler even more excited about doing chores. Something about a visual chart is more fun and interesting to kids this age. You can download the 3 year old chore chart printable that I use (and made!) here.
PERSONAL CARE RESPONSIBILITIES FOR TODDLERS
- Brush your teeth.
- Get yourself dressed in the morning.
- Attempt to brush your hair (it’s OK to ask for help).
- Put pajamas in the clothes hamper.
- Put your socks and shoes on.
TOOLS TO UTILIZE WHILE DOING CHORES WITH THREE YEAR OLDS
There are some thing we don’t really want our toddler’s messing with. Toilet bowl cleaner, for example. Or cat poop.
There’s a difference between teaching your three year old good life lessons and introducing them to something downright dangerous or disgusting.
I’ve listed some of my favorite toddler-friendly cleaning supplies. Now, they won’t be able to do a lot of “real” cleaning with these items. I still firmly believe they’re a great investment to get the littles excited and (somewhat) knowledgeable about the cleaning process.
This Melissa and Doug broom, mop, and dustpan set is a favorite of my two toddlers. It’s fantastic quality, looks realistic, and gives them an opportunity to feel like they can really “help”.
Check out this Spray, Squirt, and Squeegee set from Melissa and Doug. The supplies come in a waterproof caddy, and the supplies include a scrubber, sprayer, cleaning powder container, a rag, and more.
This play Dyson Ball Vacuum is definitely a LOT cheaper than the real thing. The fact that it makes noise and actually uses suction makes it a win in my family’s opinion.
I’ll just mention there are plenty of other pretend play cleaning supplies you can pick up, I’ve only listed the ones that we personally own.
TODDLER SAFE CLEANER
Something like this multi-purpose cleaner from Babyganics is a pretty safe bet if you want to let your child clean with the real thing. You can also check out this post of natural and toddler-safe cleaners that you can make at home!
MAKING CHORES EFFECTIVE
If you want chore time to be effective, there’s a few basic rules you need to follow. We’ll go over these below.
SHOW THEM HOW
I think the MOST important thing you should be doing when asking your three year old to do chores is making sure you SHOW them how to do it. At this age, it’s totally age-appropriate for you to stay close to them and walk them step-by-step through the cleaning process.
Do the chores WITH them (if you can). Remember, your three year old wants to be just like you right now, so lead by example.
At the same time – don’t micromanage. Nobody likes that. Show them how to do something, then let them try. Encourage them to ask for help if they need it.
If you tell your three year old to go clean their room, you’ll check on them five minutes later and find that they’re playing with their toys. Be very specific with your request and say something like, “Please pick up your jammies and put them in your hamper.”
At three years old, you’re probably going to need to stay in the room to supervise your little one. You’ll need to ask them specifically what you want done, and you cannot expect them to remember more than 2 or 3 step instructions.
PRACTICE, NOT PERFECTION
Chores at this age provide a growth opportunity for your toddler. Sure – it’s important to show them the right way to do something. Remember that it may not be developmentally appropriate for them to be able to do it the “right” way. Praise them for their effort, even if the floor is dirtier than it was when they started.
GRADUALLY ADD RESPONSIBILITIES
Be careful that you aren’t giving your toddler chores that they truly cannot do. My three year old originally couldn’t do the same things that she can do now. There’s a startling contrast between 3 years and 4, for more toddlers. Start with a few little things and see how your kiddo does before adding more responsibilities.
MAKING CHORES FUN
This age is all about play, and it’s pretty easy to make chore time fun. Seek ways to make it feel like less of a chore (see what I did there?..)
Make it exciting. Your energy IS infectious with your kids (read more about mirror neurons), so if you’re excited, they’ll be excited.
Play some music. Chores inherently are NOT very exciting. It’s just a fact.
Make it as much of a game as possible, and I bet your toddler will associate chores with fun. The only caveat to this is that you don’t want to make it too fun, or else there will just be dancing and no cleaning happening (and rest assured that as I’ve had to handle multiple changes at home, been there). Try having them pick up toys to the beat, or run from toy to toy when putting them away.
Use a reward system. We’ll talk more on this below.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT MY CHILD IS CAPABLE OF?
You’ll find plenty of chore and responsibility charts for toddlers, but that doesn’t mean that the chores you see are developmentally appropriate for YOUR child. Our kids experience growth at different rates, and YOU know best what your child is capable of.
If I find that my toddler is getting increasingly frustrated and doesn’t seem to understand the concept of something, we come back to it later. It’s okay for them to be frustrated, as long as they have a chance of being successful. Frustration is actually a marker of new mental connections being created within the brain.
Your kiddo will get there mama, just give it time.
HOW DO CHORES TEACH RESPONSIBILITY?
Experts all agree that chores teach responsibility to your toddler. You’re laying the groundwork now for future behaviors.
Now..I’m certainly not claiming that doing chores now will help you avoid fights with your future teenager, but you’ll be providing consistency in your expectations.
Keep in mind that your toddler will be expected to follow 2 or 3 step directions in Kindergarten, so now is the time to start preparing. Practice giving two step directions to older three year olds.
BENEFITS OF CHORES FOR TODDLERS (AND ALL KIDS, REALLY)
- A sense of accomplishment
- Foundational good habits (cleaning up after yourself, etc)
- Taking responsibility
- Feeling included as a contributing member of the family
- Reduced stress with order and organization
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR 3 YEAR OLD REFUSES TO DO CHORES
Luckily you’re at the magical age where this won’t be a problem for most parents. If you find that your toddler is resistant to chores, it’s time to reexamine how you’re approaching it.
Your toddler WANTS to feel like a valuable contributor.
BE AWARE OF WHERE THEY’RE AT EMOTIONALLY
The WORST thing you can do is make a scene when it comes to your toddler doing chores. If your little one just finished having a meltdown about NOT getting that cookie, it’s probably not the right time to try and get them to put away their toys.
If you make a scene of their behavior, you’re a lot more likely to see them recreate the situation and assert their independence. They are fascinated by your reaction so they recreate it to hopefully understand it.
For us, we operate mostly on natural consequences. This means that we have certain things that can or cannot happen depending on whether chores got finished.
For example, we cannot the blocks out until the Peppa Pig dolls are put away. We cannot go to the park until we clear the kitchen table. Stuff that has an immediate impact will be easier for them to understand than the concept of a later reward.
CHORES REWARD SYSTEM IDEAS
A chores reward system can be a lot of fun. Honestly, something like this will work better with older kids, but there’s nothing wrong with having a reward system now – just be aware that they’re still learning about cause and effect. They’ll catch on soon enough.
Because money is somewhat meaningless at this age, you can do something as simple as a sticker chart. They get to choose a sticker and place it on the chart after doing their daily chores. This in itself is exciting enough for most kiddos. As they get older, you can start introducing the idea of getting a coloring book or some paint when they get a certain amount of stickers.
Wrapping Up Chores for 3 Year Olds
Personally, three has been my favorite age so far. Our kiddos are growing into real people who say and do some pretty crazy things. I hope this guide will help you with understanding appropriate chores for three year olds. If you have any further suggestions, I’d love to hear more about it in the comment section below!