It’s official! I have a toddler. I don’t know when my beautiful little baby became this mobile, talking ball of energy, but somehow, he has.
He has also turned into a destructive force to be reckoned with. I’m sure you moms of two year olds (or three, or four) are rolling your eyes because I have no idea what is coming, but right now, it seems like Alex gets into everything.
I was talking to my mom on the phone about this, because it seemed like I was spending my entire day cleaning – especially during naptime. That had been me-time, and I was missing it badly.
Mom told me about how she used to keep the house clean, even when she’d had three little holy terrors running around. Years ago, she’d read an article. In it, the author had encouraged you to work with your kids, not in spite of them. Because of that, Mom chose not to clean when we weren’t watching, but to clean with us. That was her secret.
I’m trying to find ways to do this with Alex. Instead of cleaning while he sleeps, I have him follow me around. I talk to him about what I’m doing, and show him how things work (You press the lever and the bottle squirts! Then I get to wipe up the blue stuff with my paper towel and the mirror is so nice and shiny!)
This takes much, much longer than just doing things myself, but there has been one cool side to it. Alex wants to help! I don’t know how long that will last, but I’m going to milk it for as long as I can.
Which brings me to the title of this post – 5 Ways Toddlers Can Help With Housework. Alex now has five jobs that are “his,” and he does them while I do the mommy jobs. Granted, I usually have to go back and fix his work, but he is helping and he is happy. It keeps him busy while I do the real work of cleaning.
Also, we are building a good relationship with chores. Alex associates them with fun, at least for now, and I am hoping that we will be able to build on that in the future.
Let’s start off with the favorite. Alex has his own little feather duster, and he dusts everything within reach (including inappropriate things, like his stuffed duck). He loves dusting so much, it can be hard to get him to put the feather duster away when we’ve finished.
This is the job I started him with since it’s low-risk and seemed like it would be a lot of fun for him.
I’m sure you’ve worked it out, but giving Alex jobs is not actually about having him clean. On that note, we had such success with the feather duster that I bought a little squirt bottle, filled it with water, gave him a paper towel, and let him go to town.
When we’re in the bathroom, he mimics me, squirting down various surfaces and then rubbing his towel across them. We did have one bad time when he squirted himself in the eyes, but normally, he squirts down the tub or the toilet lid while I take care of the mirrors and sink.
You know what’s a great brain game for toddlers? Sorting. You know what needs a lot of sorting at our house? Laundry!
Alex has quite a few ways he helps with laundry. First, he goes and gets his basket and pushes it from his room to the kitchen (we live in a 1-story apartment).
Then, he helps mommy put his laundry into the washer. I hold him and let him drop the clothes in piece by piece (What did I say about things taking longer? Case in point.) He loves to watch the little onsies and pants drop down into the depths of the washer.
Later, when things are dry, he helps me put them away. We’ve done this one of two ways. When he was younger, I’d take a piece of clothing out and tell him where to put it. Now, I let him decide, sometimes telling him what the clothing is (That’s pants. Where do pants go?). This does mean I have to go back and fix things later, or be comfortable with the occasional sock in the shirts box, but he is getting it, which is really exciting!
Also, the final product sometimes looks like this:
Another favorite for the little guy. He has a tiny dustpan and dust broom and he runs around the kitchen making sweeping noises (which sound suspiciously like car vrooming noises. We’re working on this). He mostly just moves the dirt around, but when he actually gets something in his pan, he is super excited. I help him empty his dustpan at the end and put it away.
Just the other day he dropped some cereal on the ground and ran and got his dustpan to clean it up. He’s learning!
Toddlers can pick up their toys. I have to be reminded of this sometimes myself since it’s so much easier to just throw the toys back in the box and move on. Alex is very good at putting things in, but he does need direction.
And that’s the other secret to working with your toddler. Toddlers love to help, but they need clear instructions and goals they can reach. They also need patience from you.
That’s why these five jobs are perfect for Alex. He hears me talk about how to do the job, I give him instructions, and he’s watched me do this many, many times. He is perfectly capable of everything I ask, so it doesn’t usually cause extreme frustration (sometimes we do NOT want to put our laundry away). And the best part is that he feels included, which he shows by being happy while working.
And you know what, things take longer, but I have a much more fun time with them. Also, I’ve gotten naptime back to do all those important mommy things.
Win-win solution, right?
How do your kids help out? Let us know by leaving a comment below!