How to entertain your toddler while getting stuff done
If your schedule is anything like mine, when you come home after a long day, you have certain things that just need to be done #AdultLife but also have a toddler who wants attention. While I am a proponent of independent play, sometimes I too want to spend time with my toddler! Here are a few ways I have found to let my toddler “help” me around the house while I accomplish some things.
Yes, most of these things could be done much faster if I did them alone, but at what cost? My sanity. Often times, my son is whining or pulling at my legs while I beg him to just go play. Sometimes the extra time and clean up his help requires is worth it.
- Pass your child smaller items from the washing machine put in the drier. Make sure they know to get the entire garment in the drier. This makes a 3.5 second task take 5 minutes, but look how proud he is!
- Lift them up to push all the buttons to start the machines. What toddler doesn’t love a good button?
- Allow them to carry clean laundry to the designated laundry spot. We all have one.
- Once folded, allow your child to carry their own clothes to their room and help you put them away. Explain to them which pieces go in each drawer. Try to pretend you do not care about the state of the drawers.
- Allow your child to take spoons, Tupperware, or other lightweight dishes from the dishwasher and pass them to you or put them away.
- Let them sit on the side of the sink and splash in the water or play with the soap bubbles while you wash dishes.
- Introduce them to the Tupperware or other plastic-ware cabinet and let them explore, stack, and bang on it. Really, you can call it learning!
- Pull a chair or toddler tower up to a utensil drawer and let them explore. I have been begging for this toddler tower for months, but a supervised chair works just fine.
- Allow your child to sit on the counter while you prep food. Let them sample the fresh veggies or put them in the pot. You never know what veggies they might like!
- Give them a towel and have them dry the fruits or veggies that you have just washed.
- Make sure to explain to them that the stove and oven is very hot and should not be touched. Even if it is currently off, it is a good idea to establish that it is hot and dangerous.
- Give them a designated flower pot or patch of garden to dig in.
- Play with water! You do not need a fancy or expensive water table, (although we love ours!) just fill various containers and let them splash around.
- Find some tools (rather than toys) that they are allowed to play with and teach them what they are for. Every parent knows that kids prefer what is yours over what is theirs.
- Give them a rag and a shelf or table top to wipe. If it were not for C, my garbage can lid would be filthy!
- Allow them to push a broom or a Swiffer over your hard floors. It will not accomplish much, but maybe the skill will stick with them?
- Have them use a soft scrub brush or an old tooth brush to scrub something – anything!
- If you have a suitable area in your house, maybe the kitchen or bathroom floor or even a towel on the table, give them a container of water and something to wash like a plastic toy or dish.
- Show them a piece of trash to pick up and put in the garbage. Make sure to cheer when they accomplish the task! Toddlers can be very praise-driven little creatures.
All of this might sound like a manual for child labor, but really, play time can be learning and learning can be fun! Cillian does not have chores just yet, but he does understand that if he pulls all the blankets out of his basket, he will need to at least attempt to help put them back. He does not seem to see this as work as much as an extension to his play time. If pulling blankets out is considered fun, putting them back can be too!
Some mothers might roll their eyes at me or remind me that I have only ONE kid making the mess, but if my one kid can contribute to cleaning up after himself, maybe all ten of my future children will too. Hey, I can dream!
Remember that learning looks different for every child, and that is not just acceptable, it is incredible!
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
– Benjamin Franklin