For those without littles, this might be a boring post and you might want to just look at the photos (by Paula Bartosiewicz). ;) Today I'm writing about toddlers and housework and chores. Zoe will be 3 in June, and Naomi is 1 1/2 (WHERE did my babies go?). They are both eager to help (Zoe way more, especially since Naomi isn't walking much yet). I feel like I'm at a crossroads...do I do it all myself or do I let them help? I obviously don't want to discourage Zoe's enthusiasm, and I want her to learn how to clean and keep a home organized. It's such an important life skill, and I want her to feel like she's helping out our family. BUT at 2, she's not the greatest helper, usually takes at least twice as long, doesn't always do things the way I would, and sometimes makes a bigger mess in the process. I know I sound like a control freak, and perhaps I am one. Sometimes it's just easier to wait until nap time or bedtime and do it all myself. And she's definitely not always an eager helper, and I'll frequently ask her to clean up a mess or her toys, and she's less than enthusiastic. But I'm learning here and there HOW + WHEN to let [or encourage] her help around the house, and thought I'd share a bit! If you have toddlers or had toddlers or work with toddlers or whatever, please chime in and tell me all your secrets!
Singing A Song and Working Together
I've found that Zoe usually wants to help when it's LEAST convenient for me, and when I actually ask her to do something (clean up spilled cereal, organize toys), she's less eager. I want to make housework fun and not something she resists. I don't know who wrote that wonderful "clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere..." song, but THANK YOU! Singing a song helps so very much in making a task more enjoyable. If I break into song AND join her in the work, it's almost guaranteed she'll join in with a smile on her face. Even Naomi knows the song and will clean up (in her own very messy way) toys when I sing. It's pretty great! Working together is also a great way to TEACH kids how to clean. Yes, they can watch you/hopefully learn something from sitting on the couch watching TV, but there's nothing like that hands-on assistance and encouragement.
Don't Give Tasks That are Unmanageable
When I put the toys away, I like to organize. Everything has a designated place, and when they're all organized neatly, it makes this mama quite happy. But I don't always have time for that, and Zoe isn't the most perfect organizer (although she is getting better). So, when she puts toys away in the living room, they usually go in the big basket, and then I clean that out about once a week. It also helps to not have too many toys...because if they are all spread out on the floor, it's a HUGE mess and it just overwhelms...she don't know where to start. We have toys that stay downstairs in the living room, and toys that stay upstairs in the girls' room. That way, neither location gets too congested, and everything has a home.
Establish a Routine
This is one that we're REALLY working on, because I'm a bad routine-setter myself. But when we do things regularly, like make our beds as soon as we get out of bed, get dressed in the AM before breakfast, put our PJs in the hamper, etc., it helps with forming that habit and then these tasks become routine. Zoe can't quite make her bed, but she does help with placing her stuffed animals on after the blankets are smoothed. And she loves when her room is neat and tidy. So, we need to keep up this morning routine!
We usually take our shoes off when we come in from outside, and Zoe throws them anywhere. I've been trying to teach her to take them off and place them on the shelf and then hang up her jacket/sweater. She's struggling here, so I try to always do those things myself to lead by example. Two other routines I'm working on trying to establish are cleaning up big messes before getting out another one, and cleaning up the play areas before going to bed. At the end of the day, though, it's super easy to just get the kids to bed and clean up myself...so I'm working on neatening before dinner.
Helping in the Kitchen
We spend a ton of time in the kitchen....preparing meals, eating, shooting recipes, school time, playing, etc. Zoe is most enthusiastic about kitchen related tasks. They're also the most messy and sometimes dangerous. This article is wonderful; it has lists of kitchen activities sorted by age. Zoe helps with setting the table, which just melts my heart, since setting a table is so near and dear to my heart. She loves including candles, too. She also helps with spinning and tearing lettuce, peeling eggs, measuring & mixing dry ingredients, and unloading and putting away clean silverware from the dishwasher. She also loves to sweep the floor. She recently learned how to open our very stubborn refrigerator door, and she enjoys retrieving items within her reach.
1. The girls both LOVE helping to fold laundry, which usually means unfold all the things I've already folded. So I don't get frustrated and so they feel like they're helping, I give them a pile of easy-to-fold items to work on, and keep my piles out of reach. Zoe is much better now, and can actually "fold" (crumple) items. It's adorable <3
2. Zoe always washes her hands and face after meals...she just stands on the closed toilet and washes away. She LOVES this, and it makes my life so much easier to not have to worry about this. We have a little nail brush on the shelf, and whenever she comes in from outside with dirty fingers and nails, she washes up "with all by myself."
3. A friend suggested putting together a shower caddy with pre-approved cleaning supplies for the kids to carry around when I'm cleaning. I love this idea!
Phew! That was a book! BUT, I hope it's helped you with your toddler & housework journey! I know it's been helpful for me to actually write all this out and be reminded of the benefit of teaching and encouraging children to participate in housework. It's also reminded me of the habits and routines we still need to work on as a family! Please share any and all stories and advice you have, friends!
Photography by my wonderful friend Paula Bartosiewicz.