If my 18-month old isn’t MAKING messes, he’s at the very least demanding my attention while I clean up messes. Keeping a tidy house is anything but easy with a little one under foot. It’s easy to give up. Let him do his worst and then spend his whole nap time trying to put the house back together. But sometimes, we moms need to be reminded that these little humans DO grow out of their helpless baby phase and CAN be shaped into helpful toddlers! Ya gotta give the little buggers credit for their capabilities, and use them to your advantage (and THEIR advantage too, really). Because when they’re CONTRIBUTING to housework (even if it takes 10x longer than when you do it yourself) they cannot simultaneously CREATE housework.
So, go ahead, Mom, spend a morning getting the house clean WITH your toddler’s help, and then you can use nap time for something SO MUCH BETTER than housework. Here are a few things my little guy helps me do:
1.) Put the laundry into the washer. We have a top-loader, so I give him one article of clothing at a time, and he strains to put it in. It takes him up to a minute per article. Multiply that by a whole load’s worth, and we can easily spend a half an hour loading the laundry. At the end, I pick him up, we watch the clothes get wet, he shuts the top, and we wave “Bye, clothes! Have a great bath! See ya when you’re clean!”He loves it.
Tip: If your toddler isn’t quite as tall as mine, try using a stool so they can reach!
2.) Unload the dishwasher. I know, this sounds like a terrible idea. But listen, if my destructive boy who LOVES to throw things can be taught to hand dishes to Mommy with care, then yours can too! So, first thing that I do is take anything sharp out. And of course, anything that is super fragile or valuable needs to come out as well. But then, he sits on the dishwasher and hands me each dish, and I put them into the cupboard! It saves me from having to bend over and he thinks it’s great. At the end, he closes the dishwasher door and gives me a well-deserved high five.
Tip: If you don’t trust your little one just yet, try taking out everything that’s breakable first, and then invite him or her to help you with everything else. See how THAT goes before you trust him or her with your ceramics and glass.
3.) Wipe things up. Whether he spilled a drink on the floor or his high chair tray could use a quick wipe down, he’s actually really good at cleaning up messes with a washcloth! I show him the mess, hand him the rag, and he goes to work. You might have to give your kiddo an example of how it’s done, but they’ll pick it up quickly. Sometimes, before I know it, he has wiped down the whole kitchen floor! He also does good work with a scrub brush.
4.) Put things in the trash. My child has a fascination with putting things in the trash. We learned this when we drove ourselves crazy trying to find a set of car keys for 48 hours (which were thoughtfully put into the trash by my little “helper.”) So now, we are sure to correct him when he puts just ANYTHING into the trash. But we also give him specific things to throw away. If I’m going through that ominous stack of papers, I’ll hand him piece by little piece to put into the trash. Chopping veggies for dinner? I hand him the parts I cut off. He even takes his own diapers to the trash! This chore seems to curb his desire to put more important things like car keys into the trash when we’re not looking!
My son is also really bad about throwing food off of his tray during meals. We’re working on disciplining him NOT to do this, but for now, I ask him to help me pick up everything he threw down there post-mealtime. He’s learning a consequence and I’m getting help!
5.) Sweep or vacuum. There are a few ways that we collaborate on this job. I’m sure that a toy vacuum or broom would be a perfect fit for these purposes, but we do not yet own one of those. So, I’ll let the little guy use our handheld Shark vacuum while I use the upright. Or sometimes, he likes to simply hold my hand while I vacuum. Or, he’ll wait by the outlet and when I say, “All done! You can unplug it,”he’ll proudly bring me the cord and supervise me as I wind it up.
6.) Hold folded clothes. My little guy sits still for nothing, but if I’m stuffing his cloth diapers, he will diligently collect each one in his lap. I say, “Hold them! Don’t let them go!”and he’ll keep a firm hand on top.
So go ahead, Mama, take back nap time. Enjoy your clean house while your little worker bee rests. What about you, what chores does your toddler do?
Kate Skero is a young wife and mama to one crazy 18-month old, but hoping for many many more! She enjoys bike rides, big cities, and bacon maple cupcakes. You can catch her spiritual applications for marriage and motherhood at Nourishing Little Souls.