Toddler Responsibilities: How To Set Routines

Trying to get toddlers to clean up after themselves or help out in ways that are helpful can be painful. Even when they know how to do things and when to do them you still have to nag, micromanage, lose your mind, and suffer through tears. While I still have to deal with all of this from time to time, Reece and Kat are able to help out often time with excitement or at least minimal tears.

Start ASAP

As soon as we realized they were able to do a task we insisted they do it. This doesn’t mean we weren’t helping out at all, but we did let them struggle a little instead of jumping in and helping.


Shocker, right? Kids are all about routines, so making cleaning up part of the routine is the backbone to success here.

Baby Steps

Kids want to be independent, it makes them proud. But you aren’t just going to let them carry all your porcelain plates from the dishwasher to the upper cabinet. We started with bringing the silverware from the dishwasher to Rich or I who were standing next to the drawer and we would put them away, then the kids put the silverware in the drawer themselves, then carry dishes and cups from the washer to a parent standing by the cabinet, once they are tall and strong enough we will let them put the plates in the cabinet.

Done, Not Perfect

As I said above, the kids now put the silverware in the drawer. This can mean the forks and spoons are mixed together, but it’s a completed task that Reece and Kat are proud of. Try to not focus on the outcome and instead on the work that was put into it. Kind of like all those scribble art works you have, slowly they become stick figures, then people.  Which goes hand in hand also with…

Done, not perfect silverware drawer thanks to my little helpers.
This is one of the kids personal bests with the silverware.


The more we practice anything the better we become at it. This goes even with cleaning. When Reece started helping me fold our hand towels it was just crumpling them up and putting them in a ball. But he kept working on it and his hands started to figure it out.


It’s so easy pointing out things that are done wrong. Try to also point out what is done right, or cheer them on. “Awesome, you worked so hard!” or “Thank you for helping fold alll those towels.” This reinforces positive feelings towards something that isn’t always super fun to do.

Here's Reece showing off his clean room, so proud.
Here’s Reece showing off his clean room, so proud.

Make It Fun

Cleaning is boring. Adults and kids alike aren’t rushing to do it usually. Since we have two kids we will sometimes make it a game. Who can put their laundry away first? You would not believe how fast they can do it when motivated this way, haha. There have been a couple fights resulting from being competitive, but some sibling fights are worth it.

Know It Can Be A Struggle

We clean up every day, a couple times a day. It doesn’t mean it happens in five minutes. Sometimes there’s a lot of crying, bargaining, complaining, etc., before cleaning even begins. Sometimes a small time out has to happen before clean up can begin. It’s hard for kids to switch gears, so we just have to try and stay consistent, stick to our guns, and not lose our minds.

I know this is a lot of ‘steps’ but you don’t have to do all of these things. This is what worked for us, and in our house helping out is a priority for us. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but if you want to work on giving your kids responsibilities, these tips might be a starting point for you. Let me know if you have other ideas/tips for getting kids to help out around the house in the comments!

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