There are so many ways even a toddler can help. Sure, it may not actually cut down on the time it takes to complete a project, but incorporating children in this aspect of family life is so important. The extra effort is well worth it!
From the time a child learns how to pull out the toys (and that skill comes pretty early) they are old enough to help clean up. Even though it is easier to pick up the blocks or dolls yourself than train them to do so, it doesn’t teach them the valuable lesson : if you make a mess, clean it up.
As they grow and blossom, children should value the importance of responsibility. Mom is there to help, but they shouldn’t expect someone else (i.e. mom) to constantly clean up after them.
Not only does training them to put toys away teach responsibility, but instills a sense of order and peace in the home. A tidy room makes play time more enjoyable. There is no longer an array of toys strewn across the floor to distract or be tripped on. The blocks are much more fun when the Noah’s ark is put away. One toy is more exciting when there aren’t a dozen others vying for attention.
Once the job is done, playing is even more fun.
In addition to putting their own toys away, little ones can help contribute to the family. I’m not advocating forced child labor, but even the littlest children can and should take part in the tasks required to make family life run smoothly.
My oldest is just approaching three, so there are many areas we haven’t delved into, but I’m constantly amazed at two year old capabilities. Of course, all munchkins are different, but there are so many ways a toddler can help:
- Pick up toys and clothes
- Be the errand runner
- Get diapers and a change of clothes for the baby
- Serve Papa or guests a glass of water
- Sort and put away silverware
- Empty the washing machine and load the dryer
- Water plants
- Sweep the porch
…And with a bit of supervision:
- Make rolls and mini loaves of bread
- Wash windows
- Help set the table and clear away the dishes afterward
- Wash off the table
- Feed the baby (with lots of supervision—but it’s so fun!)
Even an 18 month old can:
- Put away their toys
- Load small clothes into the dryer
- Put potatoes and onions into the “cellar basket”
- Bring Papa his shoes in the morning… and put them away when he gets home
- Help take out the trash (or at least walk hand in hand to the dumpster)
- Add flour or sugar to a batch of cookies…
Of course, helping should be fun, not drudgery. Growing up as the oldest in a large family I saw the huge difference my attitude made. If I viewed work as fun, the little ones did too. Now working side by side with my own daughter gives me the opportunity to show her the joy of work.
Through work children learn they are a useful, integral part of the family. Work is a normal part of life. God created us to labor, to take dominion and to rejoice in His creation. As we train our children to work joyfully beside us we help equip them to be godly men and women.