How to teach your toddler to load and unload the dishwasher! Tips to help you show him what to do, plus a free clean/dirty sign!
Toddlers aren’t always super helpful. In fact, we actually have a baby gate blocking off our kitchen from the living room because our son gets in there and tries to “help” me in the kitchen. But recently, we’ve been trying to actually start letting him do things. One thing we’ve been working on is teaching him how to load and unload the dishwasher. It’s actually going surprisingly well, and he’s learning where things go and how to do it right.
As toddlers get more independent, it’s a great idea to teach them new things and let them do more things on their own (obviously, right?). Since our little adventure has been going well, I thought I would share some tips on how to teach your toddler to load and unload the dishwasher.
1. Let him clear his dishes. When he finishes with his food, have him take his plate to the sink. You can either rinse it off, or you can have him rinse it off. Either way works, it just sort of depends on the skill level of your toddler. This will help him learn the first step in what happens to dishes after he is done with them.
2. Show him where things go inside the dishwasher. For us, it’s plates on the bottom and bowls and cups on top. Our silverware holder is on the bottom, too. It helps to have a few things already in the dishwasher so they know where to look. But if you want him to learn how to load the dishwasher, you have to show him where to put things!
3. Use a clean/dirty sign on the outside of the dishwasher. Growing up my family used to have a plastic clean/dirty sign we would use on the dishwasher so we’d know if the dishes were clean or dirty. You’d be surprised how often that mistake was made. To help Little J, I made our own little clean/dirty sign. I had him color the dishes on the dirty side so they looked different than the ones on the clean side. And if you want, you can download it for free here and use it on your dishwasher, too! Just print it on some cardstock and stick a magnet on the back, and your toddler will know if he can put dishes in or not (it’s great for husbands, too!).
4. Get him involved in turning on the dishwasher. Obviously you probably don’t want to trust your toddler to pour a big bottle of liquid dish cleaner into the tiny space. We like using Finish Powerballs because Little J can put them in! There is no need to pre-rinse (perfect for toddlers), it cuts through grease stains, rinses away residues, and now, new Finish® Powerball® Max-In-1® is wrapper free. So it’s perfect for a toddler to grab and put into the dishwasher!
After you get your detergent in, have him close it up and turn it on! I was actually super surprised that Little J new exactly what to do once he closed it. I told him to turn it on and he locked it and moved the dial!
5. Use a rinse aid to make sure everything comes out clean. If you are going to be teaching your toddler to unload the dishwasher as well as load, you’re going to want to make sure you use a good rinse aid so your dishes shine and don’t have anything left on them for him to grab. Before I turned the dishwasher on, I filled up the rinse aid dispenser and put the stopper in. It was that simple to speed up drying, fights spots and film, and protects glassware to leave nothing but the shine.
6. Let your toddler put away silverware. The first thing I have Little J do after we open up the dishwasher is to put away the silverware. I take out the knives and any sharp utensils, and then he puts away the rest. Our silverware is in a drawer he can reach (which I assume most people’s is) so it’s the perfect way to get him involved. And even if I have to move a few spoons, it’s teaching him to put things away!
7. Have your toddler hand plates and cups to you when they are clean. At least in our house, our plates and bowls and cups are all up high where my son can’t reach. But I want to involve him in unloading the dishwasher, so I have him hand me things and then I put them up high where they go. It’s easier for both of us this way, and like I said, it gets him involved and teaches him to put things away while helping Mommy.
If you follow those seven tips, you are going to have a dishwasher loading and unloading professional in no time!