My son is full of energy. It doesn’t matter if it is 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 at night, he is always ready to run, jump, and play. I, on the other hand, get tired quickly by the afternoon and early evening. I don’t want him to remember me coming home and being too tired to play with him. After all, I haven’t seen him in over 8 hours and underneath my exhaustion, I want so badly to spend time with him too! There is a mental feat to overcome, knowing that I can make time to play AND still get dinner prepped and ready on time. The best way to overcome this is to let my son help. Involving my son, even though he is only a year old, in daily chores and activities occupies his time and attention and still allows me to accomplish the necessary stuff. He enjoys helping! I know it might not always be that way so I will let him help as much as possible while it’s not a struggle!
Here are some activities and “chores” that a small child can do:
- Throwing things away. If I am chopping food and there are leftovers or scraps that need to be thrown away, I hand things to him one at a time. It turns into lots of trips to the trash can for him, and a happy and occupied baby for me! You can get a good 15 minutes out of the ends of celery stalks or potato peels.
- “Cleaning”. I put this in quotations because a one-year old won’t really clean anything well, but if they can use a tool like a small broom, they feel like a grown up. No toy is ever as satisfying as a real grown-up item. For my son, we have a small handheld broom that he sweeps the kitchen with. A clean rag or washcloth works well too to let him help wipe down surfaces. In fact, after meals he likes to “wipe” his tray, which is really more of him spreading the mess around, but you have to start somewhere!
- Sorting. If I have things that I want moved from one place to another, for example move the chopped vegetables from a cutting board to a bowl, a small child can do this. I set both the cutting board and the empty bowl in front of him, and demonstrate what I want done. He is happy to pick up and move things from one place to another. One tip for this though, keep an eye out because if he finishes, sometimes he begins to undo all his work by taking everything out of the bowl and putting it back on the cutting board!
- Putting things away. If there is something light enough for him to carry, I might give him a clean bowl to put away in the cupboard. He has opened and closed our cupboard doors so many times that he knows where to put things. Sometimes I do need to direct him to the right place, but he knows how to open the door, place the item, and close the door. (Warning: this has backfired a few times because he wants to take everything out of the cupboard instead of putting things in it!)
Make sure that after each task the child does, you have something else for them to do, or else they might undo whatever they just did!