By Kyla Cole, COTA/L
Engaging young children in age-appropriate chores and tasks around the house not only instills a sense of responsibility but also promotes their overall development. These activities play a role in enhancing fine motor skills, coordination, sensory integration, and overall independence. Before assigning chores and tasks to young children, it’s important to consider their developmental readiness and any safety concerns regarding the chore. 2-4-year-old children are still developing their fine motor skills, sensory processing, and cognitive growth. For example, a 4-year-old will know that the bowl of pasta they are bringing to the table is hot, a 2-year-old may not.
- Picking Up Toys: Encourage your child to help clean up their toys after playtime. Provide bins or designated containers to sort and store toys. You can work on sorting by color, shape, room, or grouping like items (cars, dinosaurs, books, etc.).
- Setting the Table: Let your child assist in setting the table for meals. They can help place napkins, utensils, or non-breakable items like cups or plates. Pushing in or pulling out the chairs can provide calming and organizing heavy work which can support mealtime engagement as well.
- Sorting Laundry: Ask your child to help sort laundry by color or type (e.g., socks, shirts, pants). Two-year-olds can push the laundry basket to and from the washer and even load and unload laundry. For 3 or 4-year-old children who have access to where their clothing is stored, they can put their clothes away into the correct drawers.
- Watering Plants: Provide a small watering can or spray bottle for your child to water indoor plants or a small garden. This activity improves hand strength, coordination, and sensory integration.
- Carrying in the Groceries: For smaller children, carrying one bag at a time is appropriate. They can bring in a bulky item like the toilet paper, paper towels, or even a gallon of milk. 4-year olds will surprise you with their strength, they can carry in multiple lighter bags at a time or even a heavier bag of cans or drinks.
- Emptying the Dishwasher: Allow your child to remove items from the bottom rack and put them away into the correct drawers and cupboards. You will have to show them where everything goes at first, but soon they will be separating spoons and forks like a pro.
- Assisting with Pet Care: Encourage your child to participate in age-appropriate tasks related to pet care, such as filling food or water bowls or gently brushing the pet’s fur. This promotes empathy, responsibility, and fine motor skills.
- Assisting with Basic Food Preparation: Involve your child in simple food preparation tasks, such as tearing lettuce, stirring ingredients when baking cookies, pouring contents of measuring cups into the bowl, or spreading butter on bread. This is also a great way to include picky eaters with new or non-preferred foods in a safe way outside of mealtime.
Remember, the focus should be on participation and enjoyment rather than perfection. Offer praise and positive reinforcement for their efforts, building their self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.