Wednesday, November 7, 2012
I used to joke with my parents that the only reason they decided to have children was to have free child labor.
Now I understand....it wasn't so much a joke as the absolute truth.
That's why we've decided that Natalie has been living off our paychecks for FAR too long and it's high time that she start pulling her weight around the house.
But in all honesty, she isn't too young for chores and it's never too early to start teaching young children about helping with a generous heart and gracious attitude. I want Natalie to learn that she is a contributing member of our household and there are tasks around the home that she must help perform in order to one day become a functioning member of society.
Now. She's not out mowing the lawn (yet) or ironing my dress pants (that's next week) but there are plenty of small tasks that Craig and I have taught her how to do. My hope is that if we start her on "chores" early enough, they will become part of her daily life and routine and she will never know a life without helping unload the dishwasher or hauling laundry up the stairs.
Granted, I'm not under any delusion that she'll always do these tasks with a wonderful attitude....but all that will matter is that the work is done, right?
So without further ado....Natalie's chore list, as of 20 months old.
- Pick up and put away toys in the play room. Usually this action is accompanied by the Barney "Clean Up" song but she does a great job all on her own. She knows where the blocks, Little People and kitchen stuff does and we hardly ever have to fight her to get things straightened up.
- Pick up and put away dirty clothes into the hamper. I tried this one out the other day out of sheer laziness. I told her to pick up my socks and put them in the basket in my closet.......and she did. So while I straightened up the bathroom and made the bed, she picked up all the dirty laundry lying around our bedroom and plopped them all in the hamper.
- Help load and unload the dishwasher. This gets a little tricky and hard to manage because there are some sharp knives and breakable bowls that get washed in our dishwasher. Luckily our kitchen isn't too big so there is always someone close by to help actively monitor the progress. She is great at picking up HER dishes and the smaller plastic cups and Tupperware that won't break or get damaged by little hands.
- Help set the table for dinner. This one started the other day and in a very limited and controlled setting. She can put up butter knives, forks, her plastic plate and napkins......and that's about it. But it does give her something to do while I'm finishing up the preparations for dinner.
- Put away Tupperware. Her favorite and the absolute easiest task for her to complete. Maybe it's because I'm lazy or possibly due to the fact that she's grown out of the "must get into every cabinet that I can" phase, but the Tupperware cabinet is totally unlocked at all times. Since Craig and I both take our lunch to school every day, we accumulate TONS of dirty (and then clean) Tupperware throughout the week. Natalie knows exactly where all the pieces go and she shuttles all the lids and bottoms to the cabinet. Now let me go on record and say this - my Tupperware cabinet is NOT organized by any means, but I'll deal with a little bit of mess if it means that Natalie learns a new task and I have one task taken off my hands.
- Get out and put away dog food. Our girl loves her puppies. She also loves routines. And one of those routines involves feeding the pups in the morning and the evening. The dog food is kept in a Rubbermaid container with a spout on a lower shelf in the pantry. She can go to the pantry, get the container off the shelf and carry it to me (or Craig) standing at the kitchen island. Her job continues with picking the dog bowls off the ground and handing them to me and then returning the container after the food has been doled out.
- Clean up spills with towel. This is one that I totally did not teach nor anticipate. The other day when she spilled the tiniest bit of milk onto the floor, without provocation from Craig or myself, she ran into the kitchen, grabbed the towel hanging on the side of the sink and then ran back and wiped up her spill. Craig and I just sat in stunned silence. I'm not sure whether to be proud or terrified of her penchant for cleanliness and order.
- Wipe down the table after dinner. Give her a Wet One and Natalie will go to town on the space in front of her chair after dinner is over. She will also attempt to wipe her own face and hands, but she's not nearly as successful with that.
- Put trash into the garbage can. Again. This one originated out of laziness combined with the fact that Natalie is pretty adorable when she knows she did something good - she claps and cheers for herself. Craig was the one that really got her going on trash detail this summer when he would be wrapping up his baseball card orders and he would have her pick up all his trash.
I'm really hoping that by putting this stuff out into the universe that karma isn't going to circle around and bite me in the butt by having my child boycott all helpfulness that I just seemingly bragged about.
And on the bragging note....I'm really not. I'm just sharing with you stuff that we've found works for us with our daughter. Most of these chores that she does started out by her showing an interest in and a desire to help us around the house. And then from there, it was easier for me to engage her in the task than to try to keep her entertained in something else while I finished working.
Perhaps the overarching theme is that I want my daughter to feel productive, competent and successful. But she won't learn how to encompass any of those traits without us as parents providing opportunities for her to try new things, carry responsibility and contribute to the family.