My daughter is 23 months old and the biggest mess maker I have ever known. Before becoming a mother I often would say “ugh! My house is such a mess!” Then my little tornado came to live at my house. No really, my house actually IS a mess now!

“Oh no! Uh muss!” my daughter yells several times a day. I’ve started to feel like I’ve made my poor little daughter afraid of messes. Being a toddler she will of course make messes. Learning how to handle the mess with grace is the lesson I’m working on.

Breathe – Yes, the ridiculous mess you child has just created is very frustrating. No, you don’t have time for it. Before you explode with your feelings of irritation, take a moment to release the pressure valve and breathe.

In addition to managing my own reaction to the messes that come with parenting a toddler, I’ve also begun to teach my girl how to participate in the keeping of our home. Here are a few of her current “chores”…

1. Throwing trash away
I will hand my daughter something that needs to go in the garbage and tell her “please throw this in the garbage.” This is a super simple chore that she really enjoys doing for me. It is actually a help to me when I’m cooking and it keeps her busy as I send her to the trash one piece of garbage at a time. TIP: keep your trash can clean! I wipe the top and front down daily so that my girl isn’t touching a germy trash can. It literally takes seconds to do.

2. Wiping up messes
When she spills something I hand her a towel and say “please clean up the mess.” When she is finished I help out with a quick finishing wipe of the previously messy surface.

3. Cleaning up her toys
Well, we try. This is one thing she is not very good at. We sing the “Clean Up Song” which may actually be a bad idea! She is great at singing the song, but not so great at actually cleaning. Still, being asked to help clean up her toys is a reasonable request and we will keep at this until she does it.

4. Cooking helper
This is certainly less of a help to me and more important for her. Kids should be involved in simple food prep from a young age. Usually I have her pour ingredients into a bowl when I’m baking. Occasionally I’ll have her help stir. I always let her stand on a chair and watch me prep food (be careful!). It is fun for her to watch and gives her a sense of comfort in the kitchen which will be helpful as I teach her to cook over the next few years.

5. Trash bag getter
This is my daughters favorite chore and she is very good at it! Taking out the trash is my husbands job. As soon as he takes the full bag out of the trash he says to our daughter “will you please get me a trash bag?” Then she runs over to the lowest shelf in the pantry, retrieves a new trash bag, opens it up, and takes it to my husband. This is actually helpful and she seems to feel so proud of herself when she brings the new bag to my husband!

What chores does you toddler do?

Carissa Shaw

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