|Toby 'helping' build our new |
kitchen after our washing
|Before tidy away time|
Both boys enjoy helping out with all sorts of jobs, and apart from tidying up I leave it to them to decide if they want to help or not. They both like to help load and unload the washing machine, fold clothes (I secretly refold afterwards, but never when they can see me undoing their efforts), help with cooking. A couple of buckets accidentally tipped over by Ollie means floor washing is one I insist on doing by myself, as is anything dangerous such as ironing (or even better, ask Matt to do it). Pretty much anything else is fair game. The boys always want to help wash the car - Matt blames Ollie for the missed patches, but they are always strangely at Matt height, not Ollie height. They like to wash the patio door window, occasionally with actual water, mainly with pilfered greasy baby wipes. Both help to put their clean clothes away, although Toby detours sometimes from putting socks in his sock drawer to putting them down the toilet. When I hurt my back recently they were awesome in taking over weeding the patio and watering the flowers, working as a team to fill up the watering can at the tap and tip it up over the plant pots, and themselves, and each other. Today they enjoyed helping strip the leaves from corn on the cob for dinner, with some of the leaves and stringy bits even making it into the compost caddy and not just onto the floor. Preparing food is always popular with them as they get to stuff their faces. They are also a bit OCD when it comes to things that are in the wrong place in shops, regularly moving misplaced items and putting away things that have fallen on the floor. The helpfulness even extended to them insisting on helping our Viking friends to carry wooden poles for a sail tent at the show we did on Sunday - watching a baby dressed as a Viking nonchalantly carrying one end of a pole across a field made a few people smile.
One of the absolute favourites of both boys is the vacuum cleaner. It wasn't always like this - our old upright was so piercingly noisy it sounded like a jet taking off and blew hot air over the ankles of anyone using it. Ollie used to wrap the oven gloves over his ears and scream crying every time I got it out (a couple of times a day given our mixture of mucky pup kids and show-every-crumb laminate floors). The solution came in the form of an incredibly generous gift from my parents of a new cylinder vacuum - blissfully quiet, light enough for even the smallest hands to push around, and also according to Toby it makes a great horsey. The boys love playing house and cleaning with it so much I have to mediate so that we all get a turn (I try to whizz round quickly to get the worst of the dirt and then turn it down to the lowest setting to let them take their turns). The bags are however expensive to replace, so I think that should we ever need to replace it I would consider a Dyson such as the Multifloor Cylinder vacuum cleaner that we saw on the easy to use John Lewis website.
I know the concept of kids pulling their weight around the house is not a new one, but it still causes a surprising amount of debate on the parenting forums. Some folks find paying per job works for them, and argue that it instils a work ethos and the idea that if you work hard then you will be paid and can save up to buy things you want. I suspect this may be better left to big jobs for older kids, such as the teenager sent up a ladder to clean out the gutters. Other folk feel that paying for things that need to be done in order for the home to run smoothly is imprinting in children's minds that these things are menial and you should be paying a subordinate to do them. Gender equality is another issue that raises it's head. I can remember having boy jobs and girl jobs as a kid - my brother did lawn mowing and I did polishing for example (although since I had horrible hay fever this may have been more about my health than my gender). Having defined gender roles in household jobs is pretty much impractical in the modern world where relationship and work dynamics are usually light years away from the 1950s stereotypes. Having fun as a family cleaning together and showing your children that Mum can use power tools and Dad can do the laundry just as well as each other is something that will be as valuable a lesson to them as any amount of educational hothousing. So whether you have a nuclear family with 2.4 kids or any of the variety of households that are likely to outnumber the old family structure in the near future, your kids will grow up to be adults who don't feel helpless in the face of a pile of laundry, a room that needs painting or dinner guests to feed, unlike my unfortunate former housemate 'Toast Boy' who was unable to cook anything apart from beans on toast. By getting your children helping now, you are empowering them to be independent later on.
This blog post was sponsored, but the opinions, anecdotes and tool wielding offspring are all my own.