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When little ones ‘help’…

Toddler  

Here’s the thing about toddlers. You won’t find more enthusiastic helpers anywhere on the planet. They really get into the spirit of things. For instance, no one could have been more excited about helping me pack for our upcoming holiday than my daughter. She pulled out all her toys and books (and I do mean ALL of them) and dumped them into her suitcase. Then she went and pulled out all the clothes I’d decided not to take and had just painstakingly put back into the cupboard, and heaped them on top of the toys, ensuring everything was well and truly mixed up. Then she pulled down the cover of the suitcase, climbed onto it, and lay down flat on top, hands and legs stretched out, and announced with satisfaction: “I’m done!” (Adding a tad plaintively, “but it’s not closing!”)

She was so proud of herself, and had enjoyed herself so thoroughly, that I didn’t have the heart to say anything but, “Good job!” The whole morning, as far as she was concerned, had been wonderfully busy and productive. As far as I was concerned, of course, it had been pretty much a bust. I would have to re-sort her stuff and re-pack her bag from scratch once she’d gone to sleep. And then, somehow, do my bag too before she woke up. But that’s what you get when your toddler ‘helps’.

On the plus side, their enthusiasm is infectious. There are few household tasks more mundane than putting clothes to wash, but when my daughter gets involved, it somehow becomes a fun activity. She perches on her stool by the washing machine, and then drops the clothes in one by one as I hand them to her, all the while keeping up a running commentary on each item of clothing: what it was, who it belonged to, what colour it was, when it was worn last… And then, of course, there’s the joy of peering into the machine and watching the clothes swish round and round and round (it’s amazing how much sustained amusement they can derive from that motion. It’s like they’re hypnotised). True, what would have taken me three minutes to do takes us more than 10, but it’s something to do together, and – most importantly – I get a boring chore done without her clinging to my dress and whining. It’s win-win.

Of course, not all chores are so toddler-friendly. Putting away washed clothes, for instance. Little hands were not made for folding, and the temptation to jump/sit/roll around on piles of freshly washed laundry is just too strong – it’s more than a hot-blooded toddler can resist. Or cooking, for that matter. There are periods of calm – like when your toddler settles down on the kitchen floor to make ‘chapatis’ with balls of dough, plays the bongos on dabbas or takes potatoes or carrots off the cutting board and pretends to cook herself. But at other times, having a little person zooming around between your feet while you handle a heavy cooker or hot oil or a sharp knife can really tell on your stress levels…

The truth is, it almost always takes extra dollops of patience to allow little hands to chip in. But it’s also always rewarding in the end. A toddler who is included in grown-up activities is a happy toddler. Like when my daughter ‘helped’ me put together her playhouse and declared proudly to daddy in the evening that she was a ‘builder’. Or when she ‘helped’ me fill up her friends’ goodie bags the night before her birthday party. I was exhausted, and it was oh-so-tempting to say, “Here, let me do it!” But I didn’t, and the birthday girl couldn’t have felt better about her party-planning skills.

Of course, even as I type this, my daughter has somehow gotten her suitcase open and is filling it with every book from her shelf, balls of various sizes, and her hot-pink frisbee. “Amma!” she calls, “I’m packing!” And I think, “Why didn’t I put the suitcase away? Why? Why?” Because, happy toddler or not, one round of ‘helping’ with packing is quite enough for one trip.

Divya Kumar is a freelance journalist and stay-at-home mom. When she isn't hanging out with her three-year-old daughter, she can usually be found writing and posting about her online.


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 7:21:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/when-little-ones-help/article7073910.ece

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