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Teaching Kids to Empty the Dishwasher

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Emptying the dishwasher is an important part of chores for many kids. It is for my kids! Not only does emptying the dishwasher help kids learn how to contribute to the family and keep their space clean, it can also help them develop responsibility, discipline, and even fine motor skills. Teaching your kids to empty the dishwasher might just be the secret ingredient in your parenting recipe. It’ll help foster self-reliance and problem solving for your kids. But, it can also feel difficult to get your kids started in a chore they’ve never done before. Let’s chat about it!

Why Chores Matter in Child Development

Chore matter for our kids! Engaging our kids in household chores isn’t just about getting help around the house…although that is a perk down the line. Chore are a cornerstone of child development. Wit chores, children blossom into responsible beings, their self-esteem rising with each dish they neatly stack away.

Chores are the building blocks of self-reliance. It’s not really about the dishwasher at all, but your kids learning life skills. Responsibility is learned when our kids have consistent expectations, discipline through the routine of daily tasks, and self-esteem through the pride of contributing to the family. These elements are crucial, not just for the immediacy of a smoothly run household, but for a future of empowered adults.

Read also: Life Skills Kids Should Know by 8 Years Old

Shot of a mother and son using a dishwashing machine.

Age-Appropriate Dishwasher Duties

Let’s tailor dishwasher duties to your child’s age and skill set. Even toddlers can help with the dishwasher! I promise they can! Let’s chat about age-appropriate dishwasher duties.

  • For toddlers, start with simple tasks like handing them plastic items to place on the counter. This strengthens motor skills and begins to introduce the concept of helping out.
  • Preschoolers, involve them in sorting cutlery (minus the sharp knives) and stacking dishes. They’ll feel like a valued part of the team while learning to categorize and coordinate. All of our kids have started dishwasher duties by doing the cutlery first. Right now our youngest son’s job is putting away the silverware and he does a great job at age 4! In fact, he does a better job of it than me! He takes it very seriously.
  • As children grow, so should their responsibilities. School-aged kids can manage to empty the dishwasher’s bottom rack, placing dishes in designated cabinets. Supervision is key here, making sure they handle dishes carefully and understand what goes where. Our 8-year-old twins do a great job with this, but struggle with getting glass items in the higher cabinets of our kitchen, so we help with that.
  • For preteens and older, the full task of emptying and loading the dishwasher can be assigned, but remember to emphasize the importance of the practical aspects, like ensuring the dishwasher is not overfilled and the correct amounts of detergent being used.

Every child’s pace of learning is different, so assign these tasks according to their comfort and competence level. Celebrate their milestones, no matter how small, and encourage them to take pride in contributing to the household. You’ll be amazed at how capable young minds can be when given the chance to shine in the kitchen. Just don’t forget to revisit instructions and safety tips regularly, building their confidence while keeping them safe.

Son helping father with the dishwasher. Chores concept.

Step-by-Step Guide to Involving Kids

  1. Start with Observation: Pull up a chair and let your little helper watch you unpack the dishwasher. Narrate the process, making it fun – you’re the explorer and each dish is a treasure to be stored safely.
  2. Teach Sorting: Begin with unloading the silverware. Show them how each piece has its own special place. Praise their effort as they match spoons with spoons and forks with forks – it’s like a puzzle that they’re solving!
  3. Progress to Plastics: Hand over plastics next; they’re light and less likely to break. Demonstrate how to stack and store them neatly. Your child is not just cleaning up, they’re mastering the art of organization!
  4. Collaborate with Cups: Guide them through cup unloading. Start with unbreakable ones and as they grow, introduce glassware with care. They’ll feel proud and you’ll be there, ready to catch any slips.
  5. Graduate to Plates: Once they’ve shown they can handle the previous tasks, entrust them with plates. Show them how each plate fits into its space, turning them into confident mini-chefs in your home’s cozy diner.
  6. Expect a few blips in progress: All of our kids have broken a dish while emptying the dishwasher. In fact, so have I. It’s a normal part of life. Make sure your kids know what to do if a glass dish breaks (don’t walk on glass). Remind them that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes if they do break something.
  7. Encourage Autonomy: Eventually, let them take the lead and watch as they independently clear the dishwasher. Step back and admire, but stay close by for any help they may need.
  8. Consistent Praise and Improvement: Celebrate success and gently guide improvements. Your dishwasher duty turns into precious family moments and lessons that stick. They’re not just chores; they’re stepping stones to independence and growth.

Enhancing Problem-Solving and Motor Skills

Emptying the dishwasher is a great way for kids to learn problem-solving and motor skills. Delicate glassware demands careful precision, while assembling stackable plastic bowls becomes a 3D jigsaw puzzle, encouraging kids to gauge shapes and sizes with each placement. In addition, thinking about which items are dishwasher safe helps kids think about the bigger picture. Organizing cupboards can also develop spatial awareness and nurture problem-solving skills. As your kids stack dishes they’ll learn to perform mini feats of balance. Their grips will strengthen as they grip slippery plates and silverware.

Maintaining Consistency and Routine

Setting a regular schedule for children to help with the dishwasher helps them get into a regular rhythm where they help in the home. Jot down a weekly chore calendar and place it where the whole family can see; this visibility reinforces the routine and holds everyone accountable. Adapt the timetable to fit your family’s unique routines, perhaps tying dishwasher duties to a specific time of day or linking them to another consistent activity, such as after dinner.

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart | Toddler Routine, Kids Reward Board, Chores Chart, For…
  • MAGNETIC RESPONSIBILITY CHART: The Melissa & Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart includes a pair of fabric-hinged dry-erase boards with 89 magnets featuring behaviors such as “Clean Room,” “Set Table,” and “No Teasing,” as well as rewards.
  • PAIR OF FABRIC BOARDS: This Melissa & Doug magnetic chore chart features 2 fabric-hinged dry-erase boards: one with spaces to track 7 goals, and one that’s blank for storage of magnets.
Blissful Diary Chore Chart for Kids, Magnetic Behavior Chart for Kids at Home w 72 Magnetic…
  • I DID IT – Kids enjoy completing chores when they are properly motivated and rewarded for their behavior and actions. Encourage good habits by earning stars or cute dinosaurs, which is a fun way to introduce positive reinforcement and your kids will enjoy it!
  • CUSTOMIZABLE & REUSABLE- The magnetic chore chart for kids has 7 sections to set activities, you can customize the tasks and we also provide a chore and prize suggestion for your reference. 14‘’ x 10.75‘’ large size provides enough space. It contains 72 reusable magnetic stickers includ 7 different patterns of dinosaur and star magnetic stickers.

Learning to unload the dishwasher is an essential life skill that all children should learn. At first, that might look like simply putting away the silverware. As your children grow, so too will their capabilities. They’ll be able to unload the whole dishwasher without extra help. Eventually, you’ll be able to ask your older children and teens to unload AND load the dishwasher without help or direction. Doing this will empower them with a lifelong skill, as well as develop problem-solving and fine motor skills today.

Do you kids unload the dishwasher? At what age do you start?

Kid wiping dishes in kitchen. Child cleaning and doing housework at home. Cute boy helping with housekeeping in kitchen, cleaning with text "Teaching kids to empty the dishwasher"

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