The thirty minutes between when I get home from work, with my toddler in tow, and the minute I set her plate of food down for her to eat is pure pandemonium. The balancing act of carrying in laptop bags, diaper bags, lunch bags, take home from daycare bags, grocery bags, and a toddler too eager to see her dog before dropping everything. The food on the stove, the mid-preparation of side dishes, the realization that there are no vegetables in this meal, and the toddler that now wants “up, up, up!” The dog that hasn’t been let out the potty yet, the missed call from my mom, the toddler – clinging to my leg.
I almost. Can’t. Take it.
One evening, I was going through this routine when I had to stop. I took a deep breath and made a decision I hadn’t before. I took a kitchen table chair and scooted it over to the counter. I picked up my toddler and set her down. I gave her some bowls to “help” me make dinner. I gave her a whisk and some measuring cups. I encouraged her creativity and got back to what I needed to do to wrap up dinner.
Something as simple as tasking my toddler in order to get what was right in front of me accomplished had never occurred to me before. And if it had, I likely shook the idea away because it would “take too long” or because I wanted things to be “perfect.” Really? Does anything in motherhood with a toddler around not take long? Is anything truly perfect?
When my toddler is whining and wanting something from me, I stop her and ask, “do you need help?” To which she replies in the cutest little voice I ever did hear, “he-uhp.” And I realize that sometimes I need to ask her to help me too. I’ve realized that sometimes she just wants to be a part of what I’m doing. She wants me to stop and explain to her how things work. She wants to learn. She wants to be a part. She wants to feel important. She wants to “he-uhp”. Does it take longer? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is it more rewarding? You bet.
Here are some ways that you can task your toddler and not lose your mind (*Note: these aren’t chores that you can leave your toddler unattended to do. Adult assistance is definitely needed, but it will help you accomplish what’s on your to-do list):
- carry in a light grocery bag or grocery item
- throw laundry into the dryer
- feed the dog (best if with a helping hand since hand-eye coordination isn’t quite there and some dogs – such as mine – seem to be above eating her food off the floor)
- make cookies (but really, lick the bowl)
- walk the mail up the driveway
- hold onto the leash during dog walks
- take items to the room they belong (bonus for learning room/name association!)
- put away toys, books, toothbrush, shoes, etc.
- wipe up messes
- taste-tester ?
Have you started tasking your toddler? If so, share your ideas on ways that they can help!