One of the things that Bart and I marvel at constantly about a child is how they have no interest in the things that we would DIE for (a daily two-hour nap? Sign me up) and are desperate to do things that, as an adult, have long since lost their charms.
Which means it is not very hard to put Ella to work. I want her to see work as just a regular part of our lives, not something really tedious or horrifying. I also try not to give her tasks that are too difficult because I don’t want to overwhelm her. I’ve been surprised, though, by how much she is capable of doing even at not-quite two years old.
- Watering the plants – I have about seven potted plants on our balcony and so while I do the dishes, I fill up a large yogurt container of water and send her out to water them. Because it’s outdoors, it doesn’t matter if she spills, and she’s gotten really good at holding the leaves aside to pour right into the dirt.
- Putting the silverware away – I take out all the sharp knives and dangerous items, then put the silverware basket on the dishwasher door alongside our silverware holder from the drawer. She sorts them into the proper slots and gives me anything that belongs elsewhere (like spatulas or measuring spoons).
- Helping with laundry – She loves to pour the soup into the washer, put clothing in the dryer (when I pull it out of the washer and hand it to her), clean out the lint, put in the dryer sheet, and finally slam the dryer door shut. It’s pretty obvious she likes the slamming most.
- Cleaning the bathroom mirrors – She sprays the Windex and I wipe down the mirror.
- Putting her clothing in the hamper – When she gets dressed in the morning and then for bed, she is responsible for putting her clothing in the dirty clothes hamper. We have this mega-cheap one from IKEA with no lid, so she can easily put things in by herself.
- Setting her own place at the table – I keep all her dishes in a low cupboard, so she can reach them and she gets her own plate, bowl, and cup for each meal. The napkins are also in a low drawer, so she gets one for each family member before each meal (although they end up kind of crumpled, rather than folded, but we aren’t picky).
- Putting books away – We do a lot of reading in our family and mainly I like to read on the couch or the bed, so by the end of the day, there are usually several piles of books scattered around the house. She doesn’t have the strength yet to put the books back on the shelves (because she can’t hold up the leaning books with one hand), but she brings all the books from around the house to me so I can put them away.
- Throwing her diapers away – after a diaper change, she takes her diapers into the bathroom and throws them into the open garbage can in there.
- Helping make my bed – I am an avid bed maker (I cannot remember one day in the last fifteen years that I have not made my bed), and Ella gathers up the pillows and heaves them onto the bed while I do the sheets and comforter part of the bed-making.
- Putting her shoes away – We keep her shoes on the top of her (low) bookcase, so she can reach them and whenever we come home and she wants her shoes off, she is responsible for returning them to their little home. It’s great because I can also tell her to go get shoes on and she’ll do it. I also like to ask her to put MY shoes away too.
Any chore you have your small child help with? I’ll take all the child labor I can squeeze out of one twenty-pound girl.
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