My little one loves to help wash dishes. But I’ve had enough broken glass in the sink (last time it was all on me) to let my little one start from the beginning. I have to prepare for my little helper. I like to wash the breakables and pokables and then let my helper help while I finish up the rest. The thing is, lately, being separated by a baby gate for any more time than it takes for me to put food on a plate is too much. The result was an hour’s worth of dishwashing, by someone other than me, on Friday night while I occupied my baby.
Because the dishes have been adding up and the whole issue was weighing on me, I tried to figure out what to do.
I posed the question to Google. I was told to encourage independent play (yeah...not this week), use the TV babysitter (can’t say it hasn’t happened, but it’s not really a thing in our home), or do the dishes while the baby eats. (That’s how I get enough time to make breakfast - I give a snack. But then we eat as a family, so that’s out.) Unfortunately, I don’t even bother considering the “do it while the baby sleeps” option anymore.
I posed the question to the other parents at school. Being Waldorf parents, they said things like “create a routine” and “offer another way to help, like sweeping the floor”. Don’t get me wrong, my little one loves to help sweep the floor if that’s what I’m doing at the moment. But I knew they were on to something, I just didn’t know how to implement it yet.
Then, while the dishes were being washed on Friday night, I shared all of what I’d learned that day with the one who got stuck cleaning the kitchen. He suggested I create a routine in which it is the little one’s responsibility to clear the table. YES! Now we’re on to something. My helper would clear the table while I do the preliminary dishwashing and then we’d be all set to finish the rest of the dishes together. Perfect!
So, Saturday morning, after breakfast, I started washing dishes. I informed my little one: “It is now your responsibility to clear the table. After the table is cleared and wiped down, then you can help me wash dishes.” (Yes, I talk to my child like that.)
I expected it to work like this: I would model and support for as many meals as it took, doing my best to get the breakables and pokables done before letting my little helper into the kitchen, but eventually it would all work smoothly.
But, something unexpected happened. I found out that running from a responsibility that one has not asked for is human nature! My baby ran away and I washed the dishes all by myself! That was my end goal!
In between running away to play, and with a lot of support, my little one did eventually clear the table and was allowed to “wash” the last three dishes while I cleared the counter and wiped it down. Then, we used all the water that had spilled on the floor to clean the floor. (I think I’ll sweep before we do the dishes next time.)
Now, my kitchen and dining room are clean and my baby didn’t cry for me once during the whole process. That’s pretty good for a first time, I’d say. Let’s see what the next meal brings!
How do you get your little ones to help (or not help)? Share in the comments below!
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