Is it just me or are there a load of posts going round about the chores that kids can, and should, be doing lately? I thought perhaps I could bring some added insight on this debate as a solo mum. Raising a child alone means doing all the housework, and – ironically – it means doing none of it alone – every chore is done with your little one in spitting distance (unless you’re lucky enough to have childcare). Necessity has therefore taught me that the best way to do these tasks is to is to involve the kid too. That way the task gets done, they learn new skills and you have quality bonding time all at once. It’s like a win-win-win. Three year olds aren’t good at all chores though, so I’ve outlined the best ones to start them on below. You will likely find that most two year olds can also manage these but of course it will depend on the individual.
1. Cleaning cereal off the floor. Caked in cereal is the worst. Admittedly if I didn’t leave it till the evening (of the next day) it might not be so difficult to remove. My son has a unique way to deal with this: 1) Put the plug in the sink. 2) Turn on the kitchen taps full blast. 3) Wait for the water to overflow. Once you’ve flooded the kitchen and left the cereal to soak for a good few minutes you’ll find it can be removed with a gentle wipe.
2. Decorating the house. This chore falls more into the DIY side of things and doesn’t need doing too often. I find the best way to approach it is to place the marker pens “out of reach”. Your toddler will wait until you’re otherwise occupied before working out how to climb to said ‘out of reach place’ and retrieve the pens. You’ll find little ones are naturally creative. My son is good at drawing on walls, windows and objects, it’s mainly been abstract art so far and takes some getting used to but it’s cheaper than a painter.
3. Gardening. This is one of my son’s favourite tasks. He can uproot a flower in a matter of seconds, drench a plant pot on demand and pull off all the baby flower buds. It’s perfect for people who like plain gardens and aren’t into all those pretty flowers the neighbours seem to have. Also allergy families, this is useful for you, unless of course it’s the gardening toddler who has the pollen allergy, then it’s just messy.
4. Hanging out the washing. This is a great one. My son has his own special technique. When the machine has finished he gets out the pincer things (what are they called again? The ones you use on a BBQ). He then pulls each sock out one-by-painfully-slowly-one. This is a task you mustn’t interfere with as doing so will only prolong the process by adding a meltdown into the equation. If you have one of those clothes horses in the house you may find that once the washing is on there the little one will push it over and repeat the task again, or at least for the first three socks before getting bored and handing the task back to you. Still, at least they’ve tried. If you count the socks as you hang them too then you’ll also be simultaneously develop their numerical skills so it’s a win-win.
5. Cooking. This one requires close supervision. My son is a dab hand at pushing his chair up to the cooker. Always with the back of the chair against the cooker to minimise the risk of tipping. You have to teach them to hold the saucepan handle as they stir whatever ingredients you’ve
thrown in the pot today carefully prepared. The trick is to encourage slow and gentle stirring so as to not lose most of the contents of the pot over the sides and splatter them over the hob/ tiles. We tend to lose about 25% of the food per meal but we’re working on getting this down to a more reasonable amount.
6. Rearranging furniture and objects. Small people are incredibly resourceful and stronger than we realise. My son is yet to perform this chore on demand, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. He often moves chairs and even tables around. I think he likes to ensure we have positive zen, or is it feng shui. Anyway, one of them. As for moving objects, that’s an everyday occurrence. Despite his smallness he can get huge items down the stairs too, usually via the trustworthy method of throwing. Occasionally some of the objects, like draws, do tend to crack and break, but it’s good preparation incase he wants to go into the removals business when he’s older (especially the breaking part as I learnt in my recent house removal). Again counting can be incorporated into this task somehow.
7. Washing up. Sometimes he combines this chore with number one. The sink is filled. The washing up bottle is emptied into the sink. The bubbles are everywhere. At this point he chucks in all the dirty dishes on the side. Splashes the water around a bit and then gets half of them out to lay them on the side. It’s hit and miss whether the food remnants are removed or not but he has about a 60% success rate so it’s not too bad.
8. Packing. Again this isn’t a daily task, it’s only for when you’re heading off for the weekend (or moving home) But he’s really good at collecting together ALL his toys and clothes and trying to shove them in his trunki. Closing it is another matter but that’s where mum comes in to play.
9. Putting his nappy in the bin. He’s been doing this one since about 18 months so it’s down to a fine art now. He takes great pleasure in not quite pushing it down so it peeks out of the top of the nappy bin, you know, the ones that are carefully designed to prevent the smelly nappies smelling if you actually put the nappy in them properly. When he goes to put in the nappy the next morning he pushes yesterdays one down and does the same again. So I know he can push it down, it’s just a matter of choice that he doesn’t. I can only assume it’s because he likes the lovely aroma it provides.
Who else has a little one who is a dab hand at helping our around the home?