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Unloading the Dishwasher

Sweet Pea is 26 months old.


From: This was an activity created out of desperation because Sweet Pea wanted to be so involved every morning when I unloaded the dishwasher.  She liked to roll the racks in and out,  hunt for sharp objects such as knives and vegetable peelers among the utensils and upturn the plastic cups that had flipped and filled with water during the previous run.


  • A dishwasher containing recently cleaned toddler cups, plates and utensils.
  • A drawer and/or counter top that your tot can easily use to store his or her cups, plates and utensils.


  • Remove the utensil basket, cheese grater or any other sharp objects from the dishwasher before including your tot in the activity.
  • Ask your tot if he or she would like to help you unload the dishwasher.
  • Point out one of your tot’s plates or cups and show them how to use both hands to remove it.
  • Carefully carry the plate over to your tot’s drawer or shelf and gently set it where  it goes.
  • Point out another plate or cup and invite them to pick it up themselves and put it away.
  • Continue until all of your toddler’s items have been unloaded.


Observations: Sweet Pea has a great time unloading the dishwasher now.  It is a little hard to keep her focused on her own items, but mommy’s frustration has been reduced quite a bit.  It is much better for her to have this “job” than to be climbing onto the open dishwasher door.

Sometimes Sweet Pea is interested in this and other times she isn’t.  I don’t push it, but if she starts playing with the dishwasher I can now redirect her with “Do you remember where your bowl goes?  Will you go put that away, please?”

We also have a basket that I keep her utensils, sippy lids and valves in.  She loves opening the basket and unloading  the whole thing by herself.


I think this works best if you have about 3 types of items which each go in different locations.  This way your tot has to move around the kitchen and can’t just dump everything in one drawer.  I use a drawer for plates and utensils, a tabletop for sippy valves and a counter top for cups.  After she has finished unloading her items, I move the sippy valves and cups to their correct location in the cupboard.

Notes from the Trenches: I have to work to unload the dishwasher quickly.  If I’m not done before Sweet Pea has put away her own things, she wants to take out regular plates and hand them to me.  I let her do this, but obviously you may not feel the same way about the possibility of  your dinner plates getting broken.

Rating: 4 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Independent, Frugal)

6 comments to Unloading the Dishwasher

  • We’ve done the same thing since the boys were about the same age. They love it! We’ve switched over to plastic plates so they can also have the responsibility of setting the table (minus steak knives). It’s been quite a bonus.

    • admin

      I have an activity planned to teach “Setting the Table” pretty soon which I think Sweet Pea will love. She is always a little obsessed with things in their correct location. 🙂

  • Bear started setting the table for me the other day. However, she used all her cutlery and little plates (real ones, not plastic) that are in her drawer. I made her a Set the Table place mat for when we play with her dolls in her kitchen.

    As for the felt pizza on my post the other day, it doesn’t involve velcro, but that would be so neat to be able to change the toppings. Sewing was involved, but I used fabric glue for the mushrooms and green peppers. I machine stitched a full circle that we had been using as a tortilla, Since we weren’t using it much, I cut it into quarters and then added the sauce and cheese and hand stitched that using a blanket stitch.

  • admin

    Julie, You are so crafty!

  • I just happened upon your blog (one link leads to another link…!) and I absolutely love it!! I have a daughter that just turned two and am excited to try some of your activities with her. Thanks for the inspiration!

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