I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but the other day I found myself stuck in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery with nothing to do but watch the screen. It was mid-morning, and there was someone banging on about how kids should learn how to help around the house from an early age. The “expert” suggested that kids “as young as three” should have simple tasks allocated to them, such as picking up their own toys.
“Ha!” I laughed to myself as I smugly watched the show. Hannah isn’t even two yet, and already we have that one covered. She loves helping out – she packs away her toys each night and she loves helping to unpack the dishwasher. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for being the world’s most brilliant father. Moments later I was rudely awakened from my fantasies of parental glory, (there’s nothing like the words “take one of these pills every night for the rest of your life” to snap you back to reality).
The problem with toddler help
Like I said, Hannah is extremely helpful. I love that she wants to help, I really do. She has a keen eye for what adults are doing and she loves to get involved. Unfortunately, at not even two years old, she doesn’t quite have the life experience to discern the fine line between helpful and not-quite helpful. I have been reminded of this a few times recently.
Unpacking the Shopping
A few days ago I was in the kitchen unpacking the shopping into the fridge and cupboards. Hannah loves helping with this task, and she even knows where a few things go.
Knowing where just a few things go, however, doesn’t stop her from trying to put everything away. She is an exuberant guesser.
As I battled to fit the fresh produce into our tiny refrigerator, Hannah beavered away behind me. She had obviously allocated herself a task and she was determined to see it through. That task was to unpack the snow-peas from their plastic bag, one at a time, and place them around the kitchen.
Thankfully, Hannah hadn’t got far before she was interrupted by her mother. Emma explained to her that we don’t need to unpack the snow peas, as they all go in the fridge in their plastic bag. Hannah handed the bag to me and off she toddled to assign herself the next task.
I continued to put my advanced Tetris skills to work on the task of fitting everything into our absurdly small fridge. Moments later I heard the words, “No, don’t put it in there!”
I spun around to see Hannah with the bin wide open. In went the cucumber from her hands. She looked pleased with her efforts, although that turned to a slightly confused expression as she watched Emma quickly fish it out. Thankfully there was a fresh bin bag in place, so no harm done. Curiously, when Emma removed the cucumber, she also found a nice fresh snow pea!
Weeding the Lawn
Hannah is a wonderful mimic. She carefully watches adults then copies their actions completely.
On a recent excursion to her grandparent’s house, Hannah watched her grandmother pull a weed out of the lawn. Eager to be involved, she diligently pulled out the nearest green thing and tossed it away.
It was adorable. It was even more adorable when Hannah pulled something out of the lawn the very next time that she visited – obviously the memories of the previous visit were still fresh in her mind.
What was slightly less adorable was Hannah insisting on pulling up the freshly laid turf back at home. A few days after we had installed a new lawn, Hannah came outside with me and went straight to work “helping”. She pulled up tiny fistfuls of grass at a time, and unceremoniously dumped them on the tiles. The worst part was that no amount of explaining could convince her that it didn’t need to be done. She was adamant that she had a job to do and nothing was going to stop her.
The kitchen sink is Hannah’s latest favourite place. You would think that with Christmas presents still freshly opened that Hannah would have far more interesting things to do than wash up. But you would be wrong.
Thanks to Hannah’s newly-found access to the kitchen tap via her learning tower, she now wants to spend large parts of her day helping “wash up”. That’s great!… Except that so far “washing up” involves holding the same spoon under running water for 20 minutes straight.
How does your toddler enjoy “helping” around the house?