Kate is getting to the age where she can follow directions and thrives on praise from Mommy and Daddy. That makes her an awesome little helper. Yes, there are many (many!) times where she does not do what we say, throws things, hits, makes messes, and has temper tantrums sure to gain her admittance to her pick of two-year-old classrooms in elite day cares around the country. (We like to joke that when she throws a fit, crying and going limp, she's practicing for the two-year-old room, where they don't let you in unless you can throw truly terrible tantrums.)
But she is also very helpful to us, and it's lots of fun to see her process and respond to a request. She is great with a variety of tasks:
1. throwing things away. She went through a phase where lots of toys and other things ended up in the garbage, and occasionally we still have a problem--the other morning, Matt asked me, "oh, you're throwing your water bottle out?" when of course, I had not--but she's doing better. We can hand her a piece of paper or other trash, say "take this to the garbage," and she will do it.
2. cleaning up toys. Like most kids (and many men) she just doesn't see messes. So what if there are toys and books and crayons and cheerios all over the floor? Still, if we start cleaning up, and urge her to do the same, she will pick some things up with us. She knows what container the crayons go in and which container the animals go in, etc. While we are still doing most of the work, of course, it is good for her to be doing it with us because (as I read somewhere) cleaning up after kids are in bed only reinforces the idea that a magical fairy will pick up after them. Singing "Clean up, clean up / everybody everywhere / clean up, clean up / everybody do your share" just makes it even more of a family affair. (Oh, and if I say, "Kate, take Daddy's shoes to him," she will remove the Birkenstocks from the middle of the living room floor for me Score! :0)
3. Putting away laundry. In the constant parental mind game of "what can I do while the kid is awake and what do I need to do while she's asleep?" sorting laundry falls into the "awake" category, even if it takes a little longer with the Little Helper. I sort, she unsorts. Naturally. But if I can get it sorted without too much interference, Kate is great at carrying piles of clothes for me. "Let's take these to your room, Kate!" I say, and she'll grab the pile of jammies while I carry the dresses, and we go in together to put them away. Now that we keep the bibs in a bag by the high chair (we finally wised up after running to her room before every meal) she knows that some things go there, and more than just bibs ended up in that bag, but at least she's putting things "away"!
4. Loading or emptying the dishwasher. Kate loves the dishwasher. If it is open, she is right there. When she gets the urge to climb into it, that's not so good, but oftentimes, she will help me by putting silverware into the basket or taking mugs and things out and handing them to me. She can't tell if things are dirty or clean, of course, so sometimes the taking out and putting in get mixed up, but she follows my lead enough to get it right most of the time.
5. Picking out shoes. This bit of "help" is more subjective, and sometimes Kate and I disagree about which of Mommy's shoes should go with a particular outfit, but I appreciate her fashion advice. Kids are always more in tune with trends :0) Seriously, Kate has been able to pick matching shoes out of a pile on the closet floor for several months now. She will pick out a pair and put them at my feet and urge me to put them on. Sometimes, I roll with it. Other times, not. One Sunday morning, I really didn't feel like wearing heels to church, even though my dress would have looked much better with them. Kate set my favorite peep-toe pumps at my feet, so I put them on. Just before we left, I said "Sorry Kate, I just can't do it," and put on some flats instead. She shook her head at me disapprovingly with a furrowed brow.
As with all Kate's other forms of help, I appreciate the effort!