Around the House: My One Year Old Does Chores

The other week on a mom chat forum someone asked if it was appropriate to expect her 7 and 9 year old sons to pick out their own clothes and pack their own lunches. The responses ranged from "hell yes" to "I still do those things for my teenager." 

I get it, I do. I totally understand the desire to do everything for my sweet nugget. The world is cruel and demanding, and I only have 18 years with him before I have to turn him out on his own. It makes sense for a mama to want to make every moment magical and easy.


I also want him to succeed and have healthy relationships and be self-sufficient one day. He's got to remember load his dishwasher and wash his clothes and go grocery shopping. He needs to learn some things the hard way, too. Mom can't always be there. Mom doesn't want to always have to be there.

I worked as a RA  (resident advisor) in a freshman dorm my sophomore and junior years of college. Move-in day was a great predictor of how the year would go for the new students. The ones whose parents were micromanaging were absolutely the ones who struggled to pass classes, get along with roommates, and just really had a hard time surviving the year. I'll never forget the mom who asked what time her son would be fed dinner, and could not understand that an adult wasn't going to appear to line up the students and walk them down to the cafeteria.πŸ˜‘ These are the students who inevitably utter the words "but no one told me I needed to..." about something or another. Seriously, you don't want your kid to be THAT kid.

When your kid graduates from high school you fully expect them to be able to meet all of their basic needs, get along with others, and be a functioning and contributing member of society right? Right. If not, perhaps you should reevaluate your expectations.

All of this to say, my one year old has responsibilities and "chores" that he performs on a daily basis. Am I stealing his childhood in someway by making him do child labor? Absolutely not.

Guidelines for Tot Chores & Responsibilities:
  • Follow their lead. Your child will show you what they are capable of if you give them the space they need.
  • Don't force it. If they are interested in something else, let them be. I never make Everett do anything on the list.
  • Encourage desired behavior. I give a big round of applause when Everett is first showing interest in a task. He grins and usually gives himself a round of applause to match. Eventually he just enjoys doing the task without any encouragement.πŸ‘
  • No punishment. This goes back to not forcing things. They are toddlers! I know adults who get lazy and leave their underwear on the floor. Certainly I can cut my one year old some slack.
  • Have realistic expectations. It's not going to be perfect. This is especially difficult if you like things perfect, but I really think it's worth it to teach them. Just try not to criticize!
  • Keep it simple. This should go without saying, but just in case. When Everett "helps with snack" I don't expect him to get the strawberries from the fridge, get the knife from the drawer, put everything on the cutting board, etc. I just ask him to cut it, and then move it to a plate. It's simple. We'll build and add more steps as he develops and matures.
What My Tot is Doing:

at 15 months
  • Changing window clings: We put up holiday themed window clings every month. Everett takes them all down and puts them in a pile for me, and then puts up the new ones.
  • Wiping windows: In between window clings I have him wipe the finger and nose prints off the windows. He uses baby wipes.
  • Starting washer and dryer: Everett loves to hang out in the laundry room with me. When I'm done loading and adding detergents I let him hit the start button. He also closes the machine doors for me. Sometimes before I'm ready. πŸ˜‰
  • (Pretend) vacuuming: My parents got Everett a toy Dyson for his birthday because he was OBSESSED with my Dyson. I literally could not vacuum because he would cry and chase my vacuum around. Now whenever I have to vacuum we get out his vacuum and he "helps" me. This started at 12 months (he was walking at 9 months) and now we are looking for the right real vacuum for him. I'm open to suggestions! It's hard to find something lightweight and short, and cordless would be even better. (I'm leaning towards this Dirt Devil, but it's not cordless.)
at 16 months
  • Watering the plants: This really started when Everett was 14 months old. He had a small plant (green onions) in a little pot and he watered them every day with a watering can. We have progressed and now he waters all of the plants in the backyard, as well as the new garden.
  • Loading washer and dryer: We got front loaders specifically so Everett could help with laundry. I hand him a few things at a time and he throws them in. He thinks it's a game and he LOVES it. 
  • Taking his plate to the sink: He signs "all done" and I tell him to take his plate to the sink. He picks up his plate and I carry him to the sink. He (very gently, thankfully) places his plate in the sink. A step stool or a learning tower would be great and he could be more independent with this task, but right now we have neither of those things. 
  • Giving treats to the dog: We are training our dog to lay in a certain spot during meal time, and Everett gets to give him a treat for staying in his spot. He pretty much gives him treats any time he notices the treat bag on the kitchen counter, too.
  • Opening the blinds: This is the first thing we do in the morning. I carry him around the house and pulls the cord to open the blinds.
  • Turning lights on and off: This is yet another task that I hope to eventually let him do with a step stool, but for now I lift him. Bryan leaves two lights on when he leaves for work, and Everett gets to turn them off during our walk around opening blinds. He also turns off the bathroom and hallway lights after his bath.
  • Helping with snack: He uses a cutting tool to chop fruit and put it on his plate. He also gets handfuls of nuts, raisins, etc. and puts them on his plate. He does this either standing at his little table or sitting in his counter-top high chair. Again, we really need a learning tower.
  • Dusting the blinds: We have a Swiffer duster that he uses to dust the blinds. He just does what he can reach, and I hold him up for the rest.
  • Throwing away diapers: We've been doing this for about a week, and it's the highlight of his day. Any time we use a disposable diaper he gets to carry it to our bathroom and put it in the diaper pail. A week in and I no longer have to ask, or help. He has learned how to open and close the pail himself, and he never deviates from the steps. I simply follow him to the bathroom to open an close the door (and to make sure he doesn't get into the toothpaste after he completes his taskπŸ˜„).
We add to this list all the time. Sometimes I see another tot (on social media, usually) doing something that never occurred to me. Sometimes it's simply that Everett takes an interest in a household task I'm working on. Like everything else, this is child-led. I want him to have fun and be happy.

Recently, he's shown a real interest in our floor Swiffer. I put a dry pad on it and he thought it was the coolest thing ever, but I hesitate to use a wet pad because I don't want him to slip on a wet floor. He's really into our broom too. He has the Melissa and Doug cleaning set, but he is well aware that they are not the "real" thing that Mama uses. We tried folding wash cloths a few days ago, but he wasn't quite ready for that. It's much more fun to mess up my example wash cloth.

My goals for his 17th month are to get him putting his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, wiping down his eating surface (we're using the table more and the high chair less), and picking out his own clothes.

What tasks is your tot doing? Any suggestions for adding to our list?

Products mentioned in this post:


  1. Wow you've really got him doing a lot of awesome things around the house! All Hank wants to do is toss things and run and climb. Sometimes he helps close doors or put objects in things, like in the sink or laundry basket, but certainly nothing like your awesome kiddo!

  2. I love this my 20 month old has chores as well. Her dad doesn't get it but we definitely have to mold our kids so they can be the best version of themselves!

  3. This is great! I have my four year old doing chores, and I supposed I did more with her when she was younger, but I haven't done as well with my second. She just turned two. Your post has encouraged me to give her more work, too! I think it is important to teach them while they're young so they don't end up as selfish, entitled teenagers. It's also fun when they're this young-they have no idea they're 'working'.

  4. That is so adorable! My littlest pretend hoovers too and my eldest (4) can use the real hoover and helps empty the dishwasher most days, she loves feeling responsible.

  5. My son picks up his toys each evening before bed. He's 15 months old, so still requires some help, but I think it's adorable to see him placing everything in his toy box!


  6. This is seriously the best blog post I've read today! I love how your super sweet little guy is learning to be helpful and self sufficient early on. This is absolutely terrific! Kudos to Everett and kudos to you. :-)

  7. My little does chores also and she's fifteen months! I think a lot of parenting is just directing energy, sometimes I forget this and make my own job harder by stepping in to "help"! Great post and message.

  8. Your Everett is so cute. And I love how he smiled when he did the watering of plants and even how serious he can be on chopping the fruits. We parents can sometimes spoil our kids and do the household chores ourselves but we always end up frustrated when they do not lend a hand. How would they, in the first place. when we didnt taught them. This is a helpful and insightful one to read. Thank you for sharing. I have an eight-month old boy and I cant wait to ask him to help his mama.

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  10. I love this! Makes me want to do more with my little burrito =)


Be kind. I'm just a mom behind a computer wearing yoga pants with unwashed hair. -k