My daughter just turned 2, and her blossoming independence seems to be showing itself more and more these days. I find myself constantly trying to come up with ways to allow her to help, as she is always asking to do so. Months ago she began to help me unload the dishwasher, and even though I have to reposition or hand her half the dishes since she can't reach them, it is makes my day to see how excited she is to do it.
It became a little problematic in that we could not load anything in front of her, because she would dash into the kitchen yelling, "I help! I help!" and start to unload the dirty dishes. To remedy this, I recently showed her how to put the dishes in too. It often means loading the dishwasher in a fashion that would usually make me cringe, but I think it's just as important for me to learn to let go and try to let her do as much as she is capable of handling. Whether it's watering plants, wiping her little table when she's done eating or drying pots and pans, I can always see how proud she is whenever she can do something herself.
A few months back I began a ritual when grocery shopping, in an attempt to further her involvement with daily tasks. As soon as the groceries start coming through the door, she immediately charges while saying, "I help! I help!" Sometimes navigating a toddler while unloading groceries can be quite challenging, especially if it's a trip she did not come along for and she hasn't seen me in a few hours. The "I Help" bag solves this problem.
What I started doing is finding all the boxes from the grocery trip that she cannot really do much damage to even if she gets into them. Items like cereal, crackers and tea are grouped into one bag. I have received a few looks at the checkout counter while scrambling to assemble this special bag, but then I explain what I'm doing and the cashiers always smile. Most baggers seem more than happy to assist me with this as well.
Once I return home and she comes running, all the bags I need to tend to go up on the counter, but the "I Help" bag goes right on the floor for her. She eagerly takes each box out one at a time and runs into the living room with it. There she will usually explore it for a moment and abandon it somewhere. By the time she is done unloading and investigating the items from her bag, I am typically done putting everything else away. I give her a big hearty, "Thank you!" and a high five. The smile on her face whenever she feels like she's genuinely helped me is priceless.
Amy Serotkin is dedicated to sustainable living and finding ways to eliminate toxins in her home. She is an avid organic gardener and cook, and is always looking for more ways to challenge herself to lessen her family's ecological imprint.
Her website, The Mindful Home, shares with consumers the information she's found on toxins and eco friendly products that help eliminate disposables or toxin exposure. She also hopes to highlight smaller retailers, crafters and manufacturers.
*This article was originally written for The Connected Mom