AThe holidays make me nostalgic. Songs will come on the radio and it takes me right back to the the home I grew up in, anxiously waiting for Santa Claus. There are lots of things that make me nostalgic for childhood: Arthur, pancakes, The Police (the band, not law enforcement), Hamburger Helper, leaf piles, Disney Channel, and, oddly enough, carpet lines.
The home where I learned to vacuum had magnificent carpet lines. Who knew something like cleaning could make you nostalgic? Maybe that’s why I am a clean freak now? I read an article once that said you need to start your kids cleaning early on to “trick” them into thinking it’s fun, and then when they’re older they will still want to do chores. I mean, I did have one of those cool vacuums when I was a baby that had the little beads that would rumble when I would push it--I was totally Tom Sawyered into cleaning.
So, how can you Tom Sawyer your kids into cleaning, you may ask? Great question (unless you are asking what Tom Sawyering someone is, and if so, you’re breaking my English teacher heart--it means making chores fun!). I mean, a lot of cleaning includes water, and what little kid doesn’t enjoy water?! Truly, my little girls think cardboard boxes are fun. I give them a whisk and the possibilities of play are endless. So, buttons to press, spray bottles to spray, or mini vacuums to use are party central.
I know what you are thinking though, "I will lose my ever living mind if I give my toddler water to clean with!" or, "I don’t let anyone touch my beautiful Dyson vacuum!" or, "My toddler will make a bigger mess than what we started with!"
Set Some Boundaries
It is important for your child to have chores and learn responsibility, but not at the expense of your sanity, so this is a great time to set some boundaries. Some of my boundaries are:
- No actual cleaner
- No real life mopping
- No touching my clothes to fold
- No toilet cleaning
You may have other boundaries that you set for the chores you allow your child to do or not do, but those are some of my examples.
Now that you’ve thought about your boundaries, keep them in mind as I list off some suggestions for your toddler to help you with. Just as with any parental advice, if it makes your stomach turn or makes you feel unnecessary pressure, don’t do it. Chores are important to create well rounded people, but this list isn’t the do-or-die of making sure your child grows into a self-sufficient adult. These are just some ideas to get you thinking about what chores your child can do.
- Sort laundry
- Fold shirts and pants
- Match socks
- Put clean laundry away
- Dry dishes/put away their dishes
- Sweep with a child-sized broom
- Clear their place at the table
- Put toys away
- Wipe up spills
- Wipe bathroom counter
- Make bed
- Straighten their room
- Brush dogs
- Empty trash
- Water plants
- Clean Mirror
- Prepare snacks
- Put toys and buts away in proper baskets
- Wipe table
- Wipe baseboards
- Put dirty clothes in hamper
- Throw away garbage
- Hold dust pan
- Feed pets
- Set table
- Sort silverware
- Put dirty dishes in sink
- Throw dirty diapers away
- Help bring in groceries
- Start the dishwasher/laundry machine/dryer
I try to steer clear of any chores that I thought someone who has never met a toddler suggested. My list includes tasks that a child can do fairly easily, and without tons of help.
My 3-year-old has done every one of these chores at some point. Does she do them like a professional cleaner? No way. I mean, obviously. She doesn’t do them perfectly, and I need to help her with a few of them, but she has done them and she thinks she is so grown up when she does! She loves doing what mommy does. It empowers her to think that I trust her enough to help around the house and, boy, does she get a kick out of chasing me around with a spray bottle!
I have tried to follow the Montessori idea of creating independent littles and included my daughter when doing my everyday chores ever since she was able to walk. I adjust chores to make them more kid friendly. Like when she wipes things down, her spray bottle only has water inside, she uses a dry mop, she vacuums using a little hand-held one, she puts her plates/bowls/cups in a drawer she can reach, and I don't care if her clothes are folded in the drawers.
Have I created a bit of a monster? Sure, she wakes up some mornings at 6:30 am and insists that we start cleaning her room, or she emphatically tells me my room is a mess, but she knows how to start the washing machine, and I had a boyfriend in college who didn’t even know how to do that.
One thing that I have learned from being a teacher is that if I am excited or indifferent about something, my students will feed off of my mood. They aren’t going to think something is fun or even want to do an assignment if I come to class with a bad attitude. I have had students pumped over novels or essays because I am truly ecstatic about the content.
Your toddlers are even more in-tune to your emotions (and they care more than a group of teenagers), so I'm telling you, fake some excitement over a small chore and they will think it’s the best activity ever!
For more parenting tips go to babycubby.com.