Toddler chores: it’s not child labor

A lot of my parenting attitude comes from thinking that whether I do it now or later, I have to teach my children, well, almost everything.  So I think I’m a bit ambitious with things I think Eliza should be able to handle and sometimes I end up frustrated, having to remind myself how old she is.  However, I think 18 months is a good time to begin teaching kids a few ways to help out.  In fact, before she was 18 months, Eliza knew how to take her dirty diapers to the diaper pail and toss them in it properly.  When Zach was born, I could keep her busy with throwing out his diapers while I finished changing and redressing him.  Here are other things with which she already helps (and how I use these as teaching moments):

1) Dishes – Eliza unloads and loads our silverware.  Yes, she hands it to me to put it in the drawer, so it doesn’t actually help save me time, but it keeps her occupied while I get other things put away.  This is how I taught her what knives, spoons, and forks are, and how she’s learned what big and small are as well (big spoon, little spoon, for example).  She is now learning how to put away other items that go in lower cabinets, like plastic cutting boards.

2) Laundry – She throws dirty clothes into the hamper.  When I wash the laundry, she helps put clothes into the washer, move them from the washer to the dryer, and put them in a laundry basket for folding.  I’m now starting to include her on sorting whites, lights, darks and delicates, which gives us an opportunity to work on learning colors.

3) Tidying up – I don’t just sigh and pick up all of her toys at the end of the day, complaining about the mess.  She knows how to help and we sing a “clean up” song so it’s fun.  (Okay, maybe sometimes I sigh and do it myself, but at least she’s not averse to helping.)

4) Feeding Zach – Yes, he might be feeding himself with a spoon by the time she gets it down, but Eliza BEGS to help feed him, so she sits on my lap and gives it the old college try.  It doesn’t really help because it takes longer, but it does keep her occupied and he loves it.  Plus, she’s refining her motor skills.

5) Feeding the dog – She can’t do it alone just yet, but she enjoys scooping out the dog food and putting it in Abbey’s bowl.  This is great because it often spills, so she’s learning how to walk gingerly while carrying something that might spill.

6) Spills and messes – She likes to use sponges and paper towels, so whenever she spills something, or when I want to wipe down the dining room table, she helps.

I’m interested in knowing what ways your toddlers and pre-schoolers help you out.  I’m sure there are other things I could be teaching Eliza that I can get out of doing myself sooner rather than later, so thanks for any input!