There’s lots of talk about how terrible the two’s can be. Temper-tantrums, messes, and back-talk are just a few symptoms of a bored toddler. Keeping your little one busy with a few age-appropriate chores can teach them the importance of pitching in, and may grant some sanity to mom and dad. More importantly, it will lay the foundation for teaching responsibility and understanding consequences.

Caring for Nature. From a very early age, children can learn what it means to nurture the living world around us. Allow your child to help in the process by watering houseplants or filling the birdfeeder. Use the opportunities as teachable moments to explain how plants grow or the signs of the changing seasons.

Teamwork. Every family is a team. By assigning chores that contribute to the overall function of the household, children are allowed to feel important. This will help later on when they are expected to contribute in larger ways. Bringing their dirty dishes to the sink (plastic, of course), putting dirty clothes in the hamper, taking clean laundry out of the dryer, and picking up toys are all great ways to foster independence and family unity.

Self-Care. Just as we take care of our house and belongings, children should learn that good basic hygiene and healthy habits are important chores to accomplish daily. By putting simple tasks such as, “Brush teeth” or “Take a nap” on the chore list, you are communicating to your child that they are special and need to put self-care on their own list of priorities.

Acts of Kindness. Foster a spirit of goodwill towards other by having little ones do good deeds for others. Chores may include drawing a picture for a sick relative or making a phone call to a far-away friend. Making the to-do list about others can help shape a world where caring is just as important as a clean home.

At first, it may take a little extra time from the caregiver to guide the child in the proper way to finish their chores. Words of encouragement, careful correction, and plenty of praise are vital to keeping chores a positive experience. The investment of time now, however, will pay off later, as you help your “little” helper to grow into a happy and productive adult!