I am not talking about child labour or taking away from their childhood. I am talking about involving them in house hold jobs they have fun doing, and making them feel valued.
Toddlers have curious minds and tons of energy. Chasing them around all day can be exhausting for care givers. They also have the attention span of a gnat. So care givers have to come up with a myriad of entertaining activities to hop between.
I my personal experience toddlers also like to play with everything but their toys. They want to do what you are doing. It stems from their need to explore and learn through mimicking. So getting them involved in housework seems like a win win solution. My older one is 4 and my younger one is 2 and here are some examples of how I do it.
When my little ones make a mess by dropping liquids or sticky stuff, I give them a damp cloth to clean up with. They are eager to do it. They do it badly but they enjoy doing it. And they get better with practice. Not only does this teach them to clean up after themselves, a habit best inculcated as early as possible, but also keeps them entertained for a few minutes.
My little ones also help me sort the laundry. It is a game for them. We have two laundry baskets, one in which we put all the clothes we are going to send for ironing and the other for night wear, towels and underwear.
I call out to the little ones when I am opening the dryer and the older one comes with the white laundry basket and the younger one with the pink one. The older one I take out the clothes from the dryer calling out one of their names each time and the appropriate one collects the garment and puts it in her basket. It is fun for them and I get the work done. Then the older one brings the basket of dirty clothes and the two sisters together load up the washing machine. Then they each get to press one switch when I turn it on, and they feel very important doing that. Laundry time has become an activity for the kids.
Then we sort out the clean towels, night wear and underwear in to piles depending on who uses them. Each daughter is in charge of a few piles. They guard their piles as I go around folding the clothes in each pile. My older one now folds some of the small towels and her own night clothes. Then they hand me small stacks of folded clothes so I can put them in the cupboards. This game is such a relief, because before the older one would grab washed clothes and throw them around the house. Involving her in the process made her feel important and sorted out the problem. The younger one is eager to contribute too.
Today morning while I was cooking the older one was at school. So there was no didi to entertain the younger one and she was hovering in the kitchen. Then I had an awesome idea for occupying her. I was cutting beans and the we throw out a tiny bit on each end. So I was cutting those ends out first. I hate gathering up all the tiny ends after I am done, so gave the little one a plastic bag and asked her to collect as many bean ends as she could. She had a great time doing it, did not get in my way, and at the end there was no mess of bean ends to clean up. I was thrilled. She even collected the cucumber peels and tomato ends, when I cut up salad.
The older one makes her own tiffin, cutting up salad or fruit or mixing the batter for home made cake. This way she gets a healthy tiffin and eats all of it because she made it herself.
Sometimes we think toddlers are too young to do anything around the house. I am not suggesting we burden them with regular chores or stop them from making the most of their childhood by indulging in free play. But if you are creative, you can find ways in which toddlers can help with housework and have a blast doing it. It is more time you spend together and housework becomes less tedious for you. Also this way they get accustomed to doing housework and associate it with fun. Also you do not have to do it all in the precious time your toddler is asleep, freeing up some much needed me time.