I quite like the idea of encouraging A to start helping around the house and completing, or rather, attempting, a few chores. She’s hitting three in October and we can clearly see how much more mature and responsible she has gotten in the last year. She is well capable of understanding and completing a task asked of her but let’s face it, a toddler has to want to cooperate if any of that task is to be completed in some shape or form. Here are nine chores we’ve asked A to do with obvious mixed results. Remember, that toddler chores will always be hit and miss. But hey, who ever said the path to teaching a toddler ran smooth? This is my tongue-in-cheek guide to toddler chores and, more importantly, parental coping mechanisms.
1: Dusty McDustington – Dusting
Edges of cabinets, corners of sofas, vertical doors, the rug, the bin, her dolls and cars, the unused church candles and pretty much anywhere else where dust is unlikely to gather noticeably or for too long. God forbid, if I ask A to dust and she replies with a stern and defiant no, that I put the spare dust cloth away. I’m guaranteed to be met with squeals, shouts and flying fists as the cloth is thrown back into the press, “noooo, that’s mine, I want to dust!” I hand over the cloth knowing it won’t touch a single dusty surface.
FYI, she inevitably ends up chewing the cloth while dancing with Mr Potato and Peppa, so bear in mind Mr Sheen should never touch a toddlers dust cloth.
2: Put it Back Jack – Clearing away her toys
A is hit and miss with this one. More hit than miss, to be fair. But I have to remember that any clearing away will be done at a toddlers speed, which means she may as well be in a queue in a Post Office in Jamaica.
Chances are, about five minutes into the clean up – which will have seen one squishy pop and a loose dolls head being put away – everything will be taken out again and she will have sufficiently forgotten what she was doing and simply continue playing until Momma Or Papa Bear loses it – usually Momma Bear!
3: Little Librarian – Tidying books away
This may be the librarian in me but I quite like book collections to be orderly and tidied away on their proper shelf. A has a beautiful book collection which lives on a low shelf in our Ikea hacked Kallax unit. When I ask for books to be put back, I dont expect them to end up on the floor beside the shelf, under the sofa or in the baking press. Asking a toddler to put something away in a certain place is almost always met with a finger on chin and a quizzical “Where, Mummy?” – A knows where. She knows exactly what I’m asking but miraculously manages to half finish the task.
Bear in mind, that if by some miracle the book does end up on a lowish shelf, the corner will be poking out at a perfect angle just so you can graze your leg, hip or arm off of it. You are politely allowed to curse Peppa, Daddy Pig and his darn football shirt at this point.
4: Dirty Dishes – Clearing away the dinner plates
Dirty dishes will inevitably end up being moved from one side of the table or sofa to the other, not the sink like I asked. For such a chore, I have found that the distance is either too long or the attention span is too short to make it all the way to the sink.
I have been informed that this is not restricted to toddlers and will be a consistent phenomenon right through the teenage years. Perhaps it’s best, while they are young, to encourage or almost insist that they bring their plate and cup to the sink but I’m worried about the fall out of broken, plastic, Frozen plates. Mid journey, A tends to get distracted and dump her plate and cup on kitchen tiles. Toddlers have a knack of doing the drop and run.
5: Silver Spoons – Emptying spoons from the dishwasher
Oh, A, you are a great help with the dishwasher – 76 times you have attempted to close the door while my arm was fishing out cups and 23 times you have managed to turn it off mid cycle (more if you include the four months we lived with my parents last year. She was fascinated with their machine!)
A is a gem at emptying her cups and plates and happily helps me by taking the spoons out. The fall out is the problem with this chore. She roots for her favourite spoon and spends the next ten minutes begging for a chocolate mousse that sits in the fridge aisle of Tesco and not in our almost empty fridge. Unfortunately, she never believes me and continues a begging cycle. In fact, one time she insisted for an hour, and entire 60 minutes, that I go to Tesco and buy her a chocolate mousse, all the while holding on to her favourite spoon. (FYI I did not give in and the spoon went back into the drawer.)
6: Pretty Peg Legs – Hanging the washing on the line
Do you have clean, fresh smelling clothes, ready to be hung on the line for the warm sun to dry? Do you have a toddler? I advise not mixing the two. Your summer scented whites may potentially end up being thrown on to the freshly mown lawn with instant green grass residue marking its territory.
Also, bear in mind that a toddlers vice like grip is stronger than a gale force wind and those storm pegs you bought on sale will inevitably be broken in half.
7: Snap! – Making their bed
A toddler does not necesarily have the capacity or strength to make a neat bed yet. In general, handing the pillows to you and straigthening up the sheets is a job well done. However, where there’s a bed, there is the potential for a trampoline.
Without fail, every time A is supposed to help me make the bed she is throwing the sheets back, jumping and narrowly missing my hands while she kicks all of the My Little Pony cuddlies onto the floor. Bed making is often abandoned by Momma Bear as I question why we bought her a double bed!
8: Yum Yum in my Tum – Putting away groceries
At the beginning you think, “well isn’t this great!” as she roots through the bags and starts pulling out food. You realise about 15 seconds later that she’s hunting for the ice cream and won’t give up until she finds it. Groceries end up all over the kitchen floor resulting in much more back breaking bending than you intended for the day and possible cracked eggs. God forbid, you haven’t purchased any ice cream. You are left with an irritated toddler in desperate need of a sugar rush.
9: Can We Make Pizza? – Making dinner
Making pizza has become a tradition now since A can get her hands and elbows – and anything else she can think of – stuck in. She really enjoys helping to make dinner and I do like to encourage her.
However, what would normally take twenty minutes, with A’s help, takes a good hour or more. Throw in a disastrous clean up afterwards and your spending a good chunk of your day in the kitchen. And obviously A does not help with the clean up!
What to Do, What to Do? – Make chores fun
The experts suggest you make chores fun for the toddler, to encourage their interaction and dedication to the task. They suggest using music, chore charts, and rewards. Great idea. But I think Momma and Papa Bear should get a little bit of this special attention instead.
Make Chores Easier
1: Turn up the Music
Drown out the whines and cries of “I don’t want to”, “No!”, “That’s mine”, and “Where’s the ice cream?” In fact, put on your favourite music and go to your happy place.
2: Chore Chart
This one is basic. Whose turn is it to dish out the chores? Momma or Papa Bear? Use the chart to keep track of who is getting the grief and flack from the uncooperative toddler and remember to share the load evenly.
Whatever your preferred reward – wine, beer, Indian or if you’re like me, a Domino’s Pizza – bbq sauce, roquito peppers, tandoori chicken and pepperoni and the large tub of garlic dip. We all have our favourite rewards. Rewards are meant to be used sparingly for maximum effort. When it comes to toddler chores, parents can’t be rewarded enough.