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Little Helping Hands

All you want, is for the kids to pick up their toys after play-time. But no, the only chores they ever want to do are the more adult ones like washing the car, mopping the floor or cleaning the dishes (Notice how all these involve water and the possibility of splashing around some serious soap-suds?)

As the whining in response to your "No" gets louder and your resolve starts to falter, you get more and more certain of two things:

  • The chores will take twice as long
  • They will create larger mess.

There is another way. By taking some simple precautionary measures, you can fulfill their very positive social desire to be included in the work of day-to-day life without putting your self through too much extra hassle. It's important to keep in mind that children don't want to be entertained, they want to be included.

By allowing them to partake in some seemingly grown-up tasks, you're teaching them what it's like to pull one's own weight and be part of a team. They may not be efficient by any measure, but a sense of responsibility is imperative to nurture. Here are some appealing jobs that you can easily set up to suit the abilities of your little ones.

Folding And Sorting The Laundry

Matching socks is a good way to get started. Most adults don't like to do anyway, and it can keep a toddler occupied for quite some time. Begin by asking your child to match up the pairs. Later, they can graduate to sorting the clothes by category - shirts here, pants there - and even take on a bigger responsibility by putting their own clothes in appropriate dresser drawers. It's slow going but a great "educational" activity which involves memory, classification and matching.

Setting/Clearing The Table

A child can be a whiz at getting and clearing tables as long as they take it one step at a time. Make the effort to show them where to place the plates and how to line up utensils and cups. It's best the younger ones handle the plates one at a time, so don't hurry them through the chore.

Washing Dishes

Consider this "water play", and use it to keep your kindergartener busy while you prepare diner. Stand your kid on a stable chair, fill the sink with lukewarm, mildly soapy water and some light, unbreakable plates, cups or utensils you need washed. Expect some suds to fly so keep a bath towel on hand to mop up the floor afterwards. With older kids, you can play up the "challenge" of keeping the surrounding areas dry.

Making Beds

Your six-year-old can bring up the corners, press down the wrinkles and tuck in the unseemly overhangs with a fair amount of skill. At the very least, let them arrange the pillows and resist the temptation to straighten them out at the end. When you walk through the bedroom later, the crooked pillows will put a smile on your face.


A feather duster is a really cheap, somewhat old-fashioned cleaning tool but kids love them - they tickle, they're different and they work. Designate the areas that need cleaning and any that are off limits. Since the feather duster extend your child's reach, make sure they know what not to touch. Better yet, remove the breakables altogether.


Most toddlers can't handle a large vacuum cleaner. As for brooms, more dirt ends up being spread around than gathered in the dustpan. To combat clumsiness, let your child use a hand-held vacuum. These are great on carpets and small areas. If you designate appropriate surfaces, your child will feel like he actually accomplished something.

Preparing And Cooking Food

Among other things, kids can help add ingredients to a salad, put cheese on a pizza and roll cookie dough into balls. You can let them choose their favorite vegetables to put into the soap and make them scrub the vegetables to save you some hassle. Do whatever is needed and that keeps them occupied and included in the process.


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