Children learn through everything they experience, and they love nothing more than imitating activities that they see you doing. By allowing them to ‘help’ you with your household chores, you not only develop your child’s understanding of the world, but you also allow them to feel part of a team, build valuable life skills for the future and hopefully occupy them while you get some boring jobs ticked off.
Poppy (aged 17 months) doing some exploring
Toddlers under two can’t really cook with you yet, but if you give them an activity to do in the kitchen, they will feel involved. Kitchens can be dangerous places, so never leave your child unsupervised.
Counting and sorting
Let your toddler sort the fruit, putting apples, bananas and oranges into different bowls. Practise counting together: 3 apples, 4 bananas, 5 oranges. Talk about the colours and allow them to do some simple produce prep like washing apples or peeling bananas.
Use spoonfuls, capfuls or scales and language such as more/less and heavier/lighter and too much/too little to compare amounts. Once measured, allow them to tip the ingredients into the bowl.
Stirring and mixing
Try letting them stir chopped fruit into yogurt.
Where appropriate let them taste the food you’re preparing, to explore unknown tastes, smells or textures. Use terms such as sweet, sour, soft, crunchy.
By turning laundry day into a game, you’ll be helping to develop your child’s motor-skills. Never leave a child unattended near a washing machine or laundry detergent.
Simply have your toddler help you sort the dirty laundry into piles by colour before the two of you toss it in the washer.
To develop language skills, talk about each item as you put it in (or take it out) the washer, eg “Can you see the shorts?,” “Oops I dropped a sock!” or “In go your pyjamas!”
Lay out all the socks on the floor and match them up together. See who can get the most pairs.
Separate each member of the family’s clothes into piles and use comparisons: who has the biggest pile and who has the smallest pile?
Poppy sorting some socks
Your toddler will probably love having a go at the washing up. Let’s be honest – be prepared for a wet child and not very clean dishes! You might want to put a towel on the floor first, in case that’s where the water ends up.
Experimenting with water
Stand your toddler on a chair in front of the sink, staying close by to make sure they don’t fall. Fill the sink - show your toddler warm water and cold water and use some plastic containers to fill and pour. Add the washing-up liquid. You could have fun splashing or making bubbles before you begin the washing up.
Involve your child when recycling and sorting rubbish, talk about the shape and size of objects as you go. Talk about why we recycle and demonstrate the different types of materials – paper, cardboard and plastic.
Whilst sorting the recycling, talk about what you can make with the objects you find. A cardboard box makes an excellent boat, cardboard tubes can easily turn into binoculars, or a castle and plastic bottles can be filled with rice or pasta to make instruments.
Time to wash up!