Fostering Learning Through Chores

I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Well, not just a bit… at times it takes over my life (especially when my parents are due at my house in an hour). There, I said it. Zach probably just gasped, not out of surprise that I am a perfectionist… more-so because I ACTUALLY owned up to it. My Type A plays out in many ways, both at home and at work. At home, I like things to be in order, neat, and spotless which is laughable when you have a toddler and two big dogs. The bathroom and kitchen are my most anxiety-inducing areas that are never clean enough. My perfectionism paired with a curious toddler can lead to entire days just following her around. As Ellie started walking/doing somersaults, I quickly learned that I need to work alongside her rather than chasing after her with a rag in hand. Picking up and cleaning not only plays into her natural curiosity, it also helps me feel productive in keeping my life moderately organized. Here are some of the little things that Zach and I do to foster learning and responsibility through housework with Ellie.

Picking Up

It’s incredible how quickly (we’re talking minutes) your living room can turn from this:

living room

to this:


While I wish Ellie could just run the vacuum for me, I suppose I can settle for her simply picking up her toys. Ellie has learned that at the end of everyday, before bedtime, we pick up. She has a bucket of play food she loves to dump everywhere and Duplos. Zach and/or I sit on the floor with her and encourage her to drop the toys in the corresponding bucket. While doing this, we talk her through it and have started to work on her colors and numbers by saying , “Ellie, grab the red one” or “Let’s count how many are left”. Not only does this begin instilling responsibility for her possessions, it also helps to reinforce what she is learning in daycare (e.g., colors, numbers, animal names and sounds).


As I have mentioned before, thank goodness for my built in floor cleaners, the dogs. Anyone with a kid eating solids understands that the floor is a minefield after mealtime. Since my dogs take care of the floor, Ellie’s tray is her responsibility (to a certain extent, she is after all, only 18 months old). The food that has not been thrown at the dogs gets wiped off the tray, then we give Ellie a wet wipe to clean her tray. She actually does a pretty meticulous job of this and even occasionally gives her hair a good wipe down (maybe I wash her hair those nights, maybe I don’t). Ellie also loves helping unload the dishwasher. She can just reach the silverware drawer, so it’s become our new routine that she takes care of the silverware.


Ellie loves to help with laundry. While it is a slow process to load and unload when Ellie is helping, I think she gets a lot out of it. I like to have Ellie help sort clothes into piles by color and she also is getting really good at identifying different types of apparel. She loves to throw things into the machine… which is not super helpful because the dirty clothes end up in the dryer…. a lot. So, when I show up to work with a dirty shirt on, it’s because my kid did my laundry.

With all of this being said, while your kid helping out may be counterproductive to your desire for an organized life, I think it so worth it. My kitchen usually has plastic bowls EVERYWHERE because that is the only cabinet with out safety locks on it, but to Ellie, she’s just helping Mom and Dad in the kitchen. The learning that goes along with helping alongside my kid is cathartic. She is picking up so many skills through the process and I am learning patience and to appreciate the time I spend with her doing chores rather than being over the top concerned with my need to have a pseudo-Marie Kondo life.



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