An odd thing has been happening in my house over the past few weeks... I've been enjoying doing chores. This change of heart has come about because of the wonderful helpful stage my wee frog is going through at the moment. He loves nothing more than putting the laundry in the washing machine or putting his nappies in the bin. I even had a mean-mama moment earlier today when he got into trouble for going into a cupboard he shouldn't, only to find later that he was trying to put something away that I left out. I'm fully expecting this to be a stage, but I plan on taking full advantage of it while it's happening. So here are my tips for having a toddler help you around the house:
#1. Stop complaining about chores!
I grew up in a house where housework was a frequent cause of conflict and a constant source of complaining. It certainly gave me a bad attitude about doing chores, and it's not an attitude I wish to pass on to my children. Yes, I know some chores are horrible (ironing and bin-emptying come to mind), but for me they're not as horrible as the sinking, muddled mind I have when my house is in complete disarray. So try not to complain about the housework, at least around the kids - of course they won't want to help when they hear from you how bad it is.
Yes, it takes at least twice as long to do any chore with a toddler. I don't make the frog help, but I enthusiastically suggest he does, and do a lot of cheer-leading when he gets it right. (Let's take a moment here, fellow mamas. Being constantly upbeat and praising, all day, is exhausting. More so than I'd ever have imagined. So when I say cheer-leading, please know I realise the energy it takes, and applaud those of you who don't get tired of it - I know I do). My tip is if it's something you really need to get done, thank them for their help and direct their attention elsewhere so you can finish. Otherwise your helpful toddler will quickly become a hindrance in your mind.
#3. Make it their choice
If my toddler is getting distracted or doesn't want to help, I don't make him. I know there's a thin line here of encouraging helping and insisting upon it, but I know right now he's too young to understand. I want him to WANT to help, not to feel like he has to when all he wants to do is play cars. I can't think of a quicker way to begin the dread of chores.
#4. Make it a game
I have songs for most of the chores, and if we beat the song, we've won. My son loves it when he knows the end of the song is coming and rushes to finish.
#5. Ability appropriate, not age appropriate
I know there are lists of chores by age, but when they're so young and have such different abilities, I don't think this is appropriate. My son is 14 months and quite a confident walker, and here's the chores he actively helps me with:
- Putting the laundry in/out of the washing machine/tumble dryer
- Wiping down his highchair tray after eating
- Making his bed (putting his soft toy in the corner)
- Picking up rubbish from the floor
- Putting the shopping away (saves my back!)
- Tidy up of toys. This is the only one I insist upon (of course with my help).