Every day, we are surrounded by the to-do list. Many tasks are complicated by having children under 8. Fortunately, many tasks can include the young’uns, making your job easier and letting your little one feel included and important. Here are my ten favorite ways to keep kids engaged.
1) Be a Table
This is easily one of the best things I’ve learned from my wife. Small kids (3 and older) can hold both arms out for you, providing an impromptu horizontal surface. This is mostly for on-the-go-in-a-hurry type needs. It basically amounts to the magic “third arm” parents so desperately need, and your child feels useful in stressful situations.
2) Play the Matching Game
When it’s time to put away the laundry, set your child the task to match up the socks. This is great for kids who like standard matching games, and keeps the kid in one place while you have to focus on moving things around.
3) Diaper Changing Buddy
Having your little one pass you clean diapers, wipes, or (hopefully not needed) clean clothes during changing time. They can also take the soiled diaper and put it in the Genie.
4) Bunny Hunter
Set your child the challenge of hunting down dust bunnies. Little hands are sometimes the absolute best way to get under a piece of furniture. Since they are closer to the ground, they can see bunnies you might have missed.
5) Cleaning Pets and Removing Excess Fur
Put a fur mitt on your little one’s hands, and have them pet the dog or cat. This allows your child to enjoy pet time, and feel included in the cleaning festivities. This also occupies the pet while you try to take care of other tasks.
6) Paint the House
Hand your little one a small pail of water and a large paint brush. Show them how to “paint the house” and they can fling water while “helping” you address other outside chores. They won’t damage the house, and you don’t have to worry about them getting underfoot while you do more delicate or dangerous tasks. Of course, don’t leave the little one unattended.
The last four are “evolving” tasks. They start really young, and grow into more complex tasks as your child grows into the skills.
7) Set the Table
For smaller children, have them carry napkins, condiments, and plastic dishware to the table. As they get older, have them set placings, organizing the plates and silverware in traditional settings. The next step is to have them do so with more fragile dishes, but only for kids who are steady enough to not break the dishes.
8) Unloading the Dishwasher
The smallest children can hand you non-breakable dishes. As the child grows, they can hand you more fragile things. Next is putting away normal silverware, then putting dishes away themselves.
Start younger kids off with peeling bananas, or making crumbs. Put a cookie, toast, or whatever you need in a Ziploc bag, press out the air, seal it, and set the child at it. They can break them manually by hand, or you can set them up on a cookie sheet and have them crush the food with a rolling pin. Kids also love dumping ingredients into bigger bowls. By having to identify each item, they will become familiar with what kinds of ingredients go into the dishes they help prepare.
10) Find It
Have your child sort out dirty laundry by categories. Simple categories include the child’s clothes, bright clothes, dark clothes, etc. You can also have them sort clothes by color or body part. This helps them learn to better identify kinds of colors, and learn what kinds of clothes go on body parts such as feet, torso, legs, and head. It can be very empowering for the child helping, and they will gain confidence in their skills. To practice memory, have older littl’uns sort clothes by owner. Most kids have sharp memories for possession and association. With a little practice, they should be able to sort most items well.
Please feel free to share your tips in the comments.