My Ah-ha moment
I realized I was onto something one day while making a bottle forÂ my 15-month old, Weston. I mused out loud that I needed to grab a water bottle to mix with his formula. Weston had heard me, walked over to the other side of the kitchen, grabbed a bottle, and came back to hand it to me like a magic little elf. I was floored! I raised my eyebrow and quickly realized something: if he can fetch a water bottle…what else could he help with?
When you Google, “Teaching Your Toddler Chores” you get a zillion Pinterest posts about the various ways to implement chores in your toddler’s life; but, I’m here to teach you a lesson. There’s really only one way to teach your child to be helpful: you have to be lazy. The lazier you are, the better.
Let me back up and explain. Weston’s a dynamo of a little boy, the kid doesn’t stop moving, ever. Even in his sleep. Which means that all day, every day, it’s the “mama-show!” You know the drill, right? The dancing, singing, playing, cooking, cleaning show? So, when I collapse on the couch with a cup of coffee around 4PM every day, there’s just not that much I would get back up for.
Play Fetch (but more advanced)
Chores are allÂ about responsibility, so I wantÂ Weston to learn to clean up after himself, take care of his possessions, and be proud of the space he inhabits. I think it’s important to teach children to take care of their surroundings, which is why when I’m half-asleep on the couch, and Weston finishes his juice box, am I going to jump up and throw it out for him? No! I simply say, “go ahead, throw it away, I’m watching.” He’s proud to go throw it away himself, and I cheer him on, so he knows that it was a good thing he did. Since we’ve implemented this excitement over throwing his garbage away, he’s been playing with the waste-basket a lot less, since he knows he does have opportunities to use it on his own. [Related: Play fetch with your kid]
After seeing how excited he was to watch me sweep the floor, I bought Weston his own small broom and dust pan, and now, every time I go to sweep the floor (or, “broom it” as he says), he joins in with me and we make it a fun activity. Drop a paper towel on the floor? Ask the kid to pick it up and throw it out. You may feelÂ lazy, but really you are embracing a teachable moment! Your kid just learnedÂ to pick up trash from the ground. Are you sitting at the table having a glass of wine and the child wants to watch Elmo? Have them fetch the remote so you can turn it on for them. How empowering.
Sit Back and Relax!
In our family, it’s not about chore charts and finding activities the child can participate in. Instead, I sit back, take a break and let the under-three-foot tall crowd take over (within reason). As long as I’m watching, and always there to lend a helping hand, who’s to say that they can’t do a good job washing their high chair or sweeping the floor? I prefer to give the kids a chance and have been astounded at what they can accomplish because of my laziness.
[Photos by Whitney Moss]