Even toddlers want to help around the house and be a part of the family unit. Let me show you what you need to encourage their help too. Here’s a short guide to help you figure out how to Get Your Toddlers to Help Set the Table and Clear the Table.
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Tools For Setting and Clearing the Table
You could think setting the table is completely off the list of what a two year old can do, especially if you don’t use paper plates, plastic cups, and the like for your family dinners. This is where the right tools are essential. While our kids are young we have decided to shy away from porcelain plates and dinnerware. We strictly use Corelle plates and bowls!
So why are these plates so great, they’re shatter proof, and almost unbreakable. We can allow our children the independence to balance a plate in their hands without the worry of the dishes being dropped and broken. Some of our plates have been dropped hard, even thrown, but you’ll only see one or two chips out of all our plates! We didn’t go buy a whole set, you don’t need to really. I’ll promise you, you won’t like the coffee mugs much.
For drinks we use stainless steel cups, again we won’t be crying if they’re dropped from the table during dinner. Using these cups instead of the sippy cups or even the plastic cups will allow your child to practice using glassware as they grow. Sometimes houses we visit don’t have anything specifically for children, and we can rest easy knowing our kids have had practice with the heavier model of a drink without a lid.
Great! Now I have the Tools, How Do I Achieve This?
As mentioned above, most kids want to help out at first and learn a new task! We have a process that starts with the parents hovering over to the parents directing from a far to the parent asking once and then doing their own thing. It’s not as bad as it may seem.
The very first thing I do, is call the child over to the table as I set it. I talk with her about what I’m doing and hand her a plate to place in a specific spot. We talk about who the plate is for and we count how many all together. This process is repeated for forks, napkins, and drinks.
I’m also telling her about how she’s big enough to do this without me, and I can’t wait for her to do it on her own. Big smiles and loads of encouragement to be an active member of the family is reward enough for your child. Don’t bribe or promise anything here. If you do, you’ll regret it.
On the second day, I show the child where to retrieve each item. We made an easy access for the plates and silverware at a low level. Part of being independent is not needing mom and dad for ANYTHING. Our kids could push a chair to the counter to get the plates, but we think it’s best not to worry about a second or third child coming and pulling the chair out or knocking the kid off.
See if you have a lower cabinet that could be partially emptied to put some of your daily dinner dishes.
Begin giving demands. “Set the Table.” “Get a plate.” If your child is struggling to remember everything use gestures to guide her. Don’t repeat the command unless you think she didn’t hear you. Always get your child’s attention before giving a command, but don’t repeat the command over and over and over again, or you’ll always repeat yourself for basically the rest of your life. (Scary enough for you?)
Keep this up for awhile, and eventually you’ll be directing less and less. Mostly, just be patient with the process. Your kid will forget things that you think they couldn’t forget. Children need grace and mercy too. If you see them struggle or forget something use phrases like, “Oh no! where’s dad’s fork? Should he just eat with his hands?” or “If you need help, you can ask me?”
What are some other chores your toddlers do around the house?
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