I am learning how to keep a clean house as a stay-at-home mom. On the one hand, you think, I’m staying home, will have so much time to clean! But on the other hand, you also have tiny humans running around the house all day undoing everything you’ve done.
In this guest post, Tammy Tilley from Parent Cabin is sharing some fun little tricks to make cleaning seem like play.
We had just brought home baby number two when baby number one was three years old, a toddler. I distinctly remember worrying about how I could divide my time between the two. I certainly didn’t want the toddler to feel overlooked, as he had been “the baby” for three years. At the same time, I knew the newborn would need attention.
For that matter, I realized I would need help with a variety of tasks. How could I get the toddler involved? Even more, what were appropriate tasks for him to help with? I was clueless.
Turns out, the solution was simpler than I had initially realized. I just had to help the toddler think he wasn’t “working.” I had to make his tasks fun and rewarding (not that there has to be a reward for everything, though).
Here are a few creative chore ideas we were successful with our toddler in soliciting his help:
Help Care for the Newborn
Very soon after bringing our newborn home, we found ways our toddler could help care for her. One of the ways was to help change the diaper. We would ask our toddler to fetch a diaper for us, and we would reward him with a smooch or even a little gummy bear. We would also have him help lay out the blanket to wrap baby in. With our guidance, he would wrap the blanket around the newborn’s body. We even asked our toddler to sing or read to the newborn while we were preparing lunch. Turns out, his efforts were both helpful AND entertaining. Plus, he bonded with the baby rather than competing for attention.
Make pick-up chores part of the daily routine.
As we neared bedtime, we would set the timer for 15 more minutes of play. When the timer went off, we would set it again for seven minutes of pick-up time. We set storage baskets inside each room, and we all would run around like crazy, picking up toys, books, blankets, and sippy cups, and singing the “clean up” song from Barney (I’m sure there’s a new one out by now).
We started this task when our toddler was young, even when he was learning to walk, before he truly realized the significance of what he was doing. We made the time feel like a game. Plus, we were all involved.
The chore activity became part of our everyday bedtime routine. The task signaled to our toddler we were nearing bedtime.
Create a Toddler-Size Spray and Mop
I found this activity to be a lot of fun for myself as well as for my toddler. First, I made a toddler-size bottle of spray cleaner, making sure I was using kid-friendly, non-toxic cleaners. We would crank up some music, then together, we would spray the wooden furniture and cabinets, then wipe away, taking time to sing and dance along the way.
My toddler would also help me mop my floors. I would put old socks on his feet and let him “skate” on the ever-so-slightly wet floor. This one’s a bit tricky, though, as I didn’t want my child to fall and get hurt, so he would help with very small areas at a time. Sometimes we would hold hands and “skate” together. Mopping this way didn’t necessarily get the floor spotless, but it sure helped.
Whistle While You Work (in the Kitchen)
There’s a lot our toddler helped with in the kitchen. For example, he could get his own yogurt out of the refrigerator and bring it to the table. He had his own “pantry” where he would unload the dishwasher and place his unbreakable dishes, including his own plastic forks and spoons. With help, he could help load and unload the remainder of the dishes as well, and place the dishwasher tablet into the dishwasher. He really liked pushing the buttons to make the dishwasher run.
Our toddler also helped us make meals. Toddlers love mixing and pouring. Supervising closely, I would allow him to pour and place items into the mixer (turning off the mixer each time he put something in to protect his fingers, of course). I would let him pour pasta, rice or dry beans into bowls or not-yet-heated pans. I would let him use his freshly-washed hands to toss the garden salad (which he loved doing). He would hold the hot dog buns while we placed the hot dog in it. Then, he would be the one to sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the hot dog.
Together, we also would clean up from our tasks, which he learned was part of the process.
All these tasks involved incredible patience on our part, but it was so worth the effort! These early tasks nurtured a sense of responsibility in our toddler. It instilled a sense of ownership to our family and home. And it taught him to care about others by meeting needs.
Work is a skill to be taught, and teaching our children to work is important. Somewhere along the way, those tasks morphed into “chores” rather than fun. Yes, these tasks eventually became bothersome to our child, but he knew how to work, and now as an adult, he carries that knowledge into his own independent life.