How your toddler can help with housework

Practical Parenting

As we all know, having children ups the amount of time you spend on housework significantly.
If you want proof, Dr Lyn Craig of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW has been researching the impact of children on household unpaid work for a number of years.
She writes, “Children are hugely time consuming. When children are born into a household, time in the unpaid labour activities of (housework, shopping and childcare) rockets.”
And, Dr Craig points out, in most households, the majority of the unpaid work is done by the female partner. But it doesn’t have to be that way… Life lessons
Most parents will recall being expected to help with at least some of the housework when they were young. But for some reason they’ll often see household duties as being outside their own child’s responsibility and ability. This attitude is so widespread that education consultant and former Perth school principal Ian Lillico recommends that part of a primary student’s homework include household chores.
“Many children have a poor work ethic and bad attitude in school because they perform too many sedentary, lousy homework tasks that deliver no benefit,” he explains.
According to Ian Lillico, many school children haven’t learnt to work around the home from a young age, so they opt out of family life. He believes that parents should get children to do their share of work in the home, including housework and shopping.
Kids who are given age-appropriate jobs around the house will develop a work ethic that will serve them for life, he says. And, while they’re not expected to do a perfect job, these kids are taught to keep improving and working. Turning the tables
Want to become part of the emerging trend where children are expected to do their share instead of watching you run around doing it all for them? Follow the lead of Supernanny Jo Frost, who’s a big believer in handing out job rosters, and Australia’s own “Queen of Clean” Shannon Lush, who has just launched a new book on the topic.
The former art-restorer who shot to fame with her bestselling book about cleaning wrote her latest one with her 10-year-old daughter, Erin. It’s called Kids Can Clean (ABC Books).
“Cleaning with kids is easy when you make it fun,” Shannon says. “You can start from a very young age by setting up systems that make it easy and fun.”

  • Put labels on drawers to help kids recognise what goes in them, Shannon suggests. Even a 2-year-old can recognise a picture of a sock and then put their socks back in the right place. “I’m a big fan of clutter buckets,” says Shannon. “These are big buckets that kids can take around the house to pick up all their toys. It makes it much easier to put them away.” Use a large cardboard box for a “clutter bucket” and decorate it with pictures of some of the toys that are meant to go inside.


  • Clean-up rules really help children learn how to pitch in, says Shannon.

Try to have just two or three different activities out at any one time, and before the child can go on to another activity they have to put away one of the other activities or toys.

  • Little children love to carry their clothes to their room. As they get older, they can start putting things in drawers and as they get older still they can help with the folding.


  • Toddlers love to come out to the clothes line, pick up the pegs and put them in the peg basket. Sure, sometimes they will then empty the basket all over the lawn, but the main thing is to encourage them to follow instructions and feel as though they are making a contribution.


Let’s play housework!
Rather than plonking your child in front of a solitary activity (or the television) while you race madly around doing all the housework, you will both benefit far more in the long term if your child helps you. Yes, it may take a little longer initially and the results may not be perfect, but their technique will improve with time. Doing housework together can be fun, and a tedious chore can become a great learning activity.
Dust busting. Kids love swooshing a bright-coloured feather duster around, especially if there’s a little tickling allowed too. Just be sure to move any valuables out of their way.
Spray and wipe. Fill a spray bottle with water, give them some paper towel or a dishcloth and let them wipe benches, tables and other surfaces. They can do easy-to-reach windows, too, and if you have a glass-polishing cloth they can finish with a little buffing.
Making beds. Ask your child to help you by standing on the other side of the bed and pulling up the sheets and blankets with you.
Kitchen hands. Kids love cooking. Let them stir, pour ingredients into bowls, wash fruit and vegetables, and assemble salads and sandwiches. At the shops, give them items to find and put in your trolley, then get them to help you unpack the groceries once you’re home. Don’t forget praise. If you appreciate the help, they’ll want to do it again. Housework with 19 kids
US parents Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar made headlines recently when they announced they were expecting their nineteenth child, due in March.
The conservative Baptist family from Arkansas home-school their 18 children (10 boys and eight girls, including two sets of twins, aged between 1 and 21) and most of the housework is done by the children. The girls do the majority of the indoor work and the boys mow lawns, take out bins and fix cars.
“It was very hard when we had the first seven,” Jim Bob told a US reporter (presumably with a straight face). Michelle and Jim Bob have put up colour-coded schedules that cover every minute from wake-up to bedtime for each child. Older kids supervise younger ones, with even the littlies helping with laundry, cleaning and food preparation. And the parents still do a regular “date night” out. (A-ha, so that explains it!) What chores when?
Kids love helping. As soon as your child can walk and carry something at the same time, they can learn some vital life skills. At first it’s less work to do it yourself but be patient and you will reap the rewards.

TODDLER JOBS
From the age of 2 to 3 your little one can help with simple chores to lay the foundation for future independent job-sharing. • He can help make beds and put clothes back in his drawers.
• He can put his toys away into the toybox with your assistance.
• He can hand you the pegs by colour as you hang out the washing.

PRESCHOOLER CHORES
From the age of 4 your child can gradually take on more complex tasks with less supervision. • She can get dressed by herself.
• She can make her own bed (raise the bar on technique and neatness gradually).
• She can tidy up her toys.
• She can put her dirty clothes in the basket.
• She can take rubbish to the outside bin or get the mail while you watch from the door.
• She can help set the table.
• She can carry her dish to and from the table.