If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know that we're big into taking everyday items and events and turning them into entertaining things to do as a family.
That goes for household chores, as well.
Gv is probably most happy when she's able to join in with whatever project or task G or I happen to be working on, even if it just seems like drudgery to us.
The difficulty lies in figuring out ways Gv can truly help with an activity and not just finding ways for her to participate that end up creating more work for us in the long run.
Even though her helping abilities continue to expand, we hit upon five easy ways that she was able to get involved in work activities from a very young age:
PeelingWe began with plopping her down on the kitchen floor (after spreading out our handy-dandy shower curtain liner) and letting her peel the papery skin off of onions. Since these skins often practically come off by themselves, this was one of the first tasks that Gv was able to handle. The best part is that even if she's not able to remove every last piece of skin, it still saves me prep time and usually she can at least get down to all but the final layer that needs removing.
It's also really easy to just shake the peels off the shower curtain liner into the compost bin (I have to do that if I'm the one doing the peeling, after all), so the mess factor is pretty much nonexistent.
As time passed and I noticed how much Gv loved to play with stickers, I began to give her other items to peel, as well. Another easy one to try is to peel bananas, especially if they're frozen and over-ripe for a recipe such as yummy banana bread bites.
All this peeling is not only helpful to me, but helps to refine her fine motor skills, which means she'll be able to handle more advanced tasks soon.
StirringThis is a common thing to have little ones help out with, but I found that I could start Gv on this activity even earlier than I expected by choosing the right foods to have her stir.
By starting off with moist things like mashed bananas or potatoes (or even frosting, like in these brownies), we avoided having our counters covered in a layer of flour dust or splashes of liquid.
Once your little chef has gotten the hang of things, they can then move on to just about anything else you need stirred up without making a mess.
TransferringThis is another activity that your toddler can start helping you with very early on, as long as you choose the right things to work with.
The first way Gv began helping me transfer items was with the laundry - even before she was able to walk! I'd have her stand in front of the open dryer and then put clothes in as I handed them to her one at a time.
Although this obviously takes longer to transfer an entire load than if I were doing it alone, my back actually gets a break from all the bending and straightening I would do by completing the job myself.
Once your clothes are dry, your toddler can then help take them out of the dryer and place them into a basket for folding or hanging.
|Gv can even put some things away once they're done drying, like her diapers!|
The same idea goes for emptying the dishwasher, but obviously you need to get to the point where you can trust that your child can remove a glass and hand it to you without dropping and breaking it - and you know what? You might just get a broken glass or two while trying this out, but just remember that it's only stuff and that the skills being practiced are worth it.
Because she's so used to this activity, Gv is even able to put away all of her dishes and utensils (stored in a lower cabinet) all by herself now, along with a few other odds and ends, like plastic mixing bowls and spatulas!
Watering PlantsThis is an especially fantastic job for a toddler to do because it's also an introduction to gardening and teaching how to care for living things!
The best way to start is by using a watering can, because that way you can more easily control the amount of water being dumped on your plants at one time. (Don't have a watering can? Just use a plastic pitcher from your kitchen!)
Anyone who's been exposed to Maria Montessori's methods knows that pouring water is an excellent developmental skill for young hands to work on, so why not start practicing this outdoors, where a little bit of splash and overflow won't create puddles that need wiping up (although wiping up happens to be another way your toddler can help around the house!)
Once it's a breeze for your child to water plants in this manner, you can move on to introducing a hose, for those large areas of your garden. There's more to this skill than you might think about, because not only does your toddler need to ensure the water is being dispersed evenly over the plants (you'll get a hole in your dirt, otherwise!), but the pressure needs to be regulated, as well (we teach Gv to spray up in the air or along the wall, so that the plants don't get blasted from the stream of water and topple over).
Adding Spices & Other Ingredients
This is a fairly recent task that Gv has learned to help with, but after I started letting her try it, I was finally brave enough to introduce glitter into some of our craft activities. You'll want to begin with either pre-measured spices, or recipes that don't matter if they get a little extra kick tossed in (think big pots of soup or pasta sauce that take a ton of spice anyway).
Don't start with the salt, unless you want to pucker up the first few times you eat the dish your child helps with!
I really saw the benefit in teaching Gv this skill this past month when we were camping. Preparing meals all hunkered down on a step stool while balancing a cutting board on my lap is difficult enough, but when it comes time to get the raw meat ready for the fire, things really get messy. It's not like I can just wash my hands off easily in-between the cutting/meat handling and "shake shaking" of whatever spices we're adding, so having a helper standing next to me to add the flavors comes in really handy!
Back at home, it's a breeze to work together with my little girl to make something like this tasty soup - I do the chopping and she dumps it all into the pot!
|Yes, our kitchen typically looks like this when we're cooking, and yes, Gv often wears fabulously uncoordinated outfits like this while puttering around the house!|
I know several families who are hesitant to allow their very young children to help around the house for fear of all the mess, but the five ideas I've just given you are a great way to start. Before you know it, you'll have your own little helper who thinks it's the best treat in the world to wash dishes by hand while you
To a toddler, joining you in everyday chores isn't work, but play. In what ways does your toddler help you around the house? I'd love to hear! Leave a comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.
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