A few years ago I made a friend in my neighborhood who taught me a lot about mothering. She had a philosophy that whatever you were doing, you should somehow incorporate your children into it, and have them close by you and be a part of it.
When she baked and cooked they were beside her adding ingredients and getting things out of the cupboard for her. When she gardened they were outside with her planting the seeds, weeding and watering with her. When she made grocery shopping lists, she would give them the old ads and have them cut out pictures and glue them on a paper to check off what they saw in the grocery store. And when she sewed they would sit beside her and play with the fabric and thread and help her.
I loved watching the way she interacted with her children, and could see how much she was passing on to them through this kind of interaction, and decided that this was the kind of Mom that I wanted to be, too.
I have loved cooking with my kids-- having them on the counter with me while I'm making the bread, having their little hands feel the wheat before we grind it into flour, having them count and measure ingredients, help form and taste the dough, and watching them look through the oven window.
I've also loved incorporating them into crafts and sewing projects I'm doing, gardening together, and even shopping together. I can see that they love doing it. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and they are learning in the process too.
It wasn't until recently though that It dawned on me that I should be incorporating them into the work I was doing around the house. They've always helped me with straightening and putting dishes away, and sometimes cleaning the sliding glass windows, but I had never had them clean a bathroom with me, or do any of the deep cleaning with me.
I decided it was time to start.
The first thing I did was make them a cleaning kit. Obviously, if you are going to have your kids cleaning with you, you need to be using homemade cleaners, which are non-toxic. There are plenty of good websites and books with recipes. Homemade cleaners are fantastic for so many reasons-- they aren't filled with toxic ingredients, they won't ruin your clothes if they get on them, they are a fraction of the cost of commercial cleaners-- oh! and they clean better too. Even though most recipes you find are non-toxic, you still need to be careful which ingredients you let your kids around (like Borax).
For our cleaning kit, I filled their spray bottles with half water, half vinegar. I put two scrubbing sponges, and a few rags in there, and showed the boys their new cleaning kit. They were both excited about having their own kit and wanted to help Mom.
When we clean we turn on some good music, and get to work. The first time, I showed them how we could make a paste with baking soda and water for the tubs, and let them help me pour baking soda and then vinegar in the toilets (they love the way it bubbles up). They helped me spray the sinks and toilet and mirrors with their spray bottles, and then we all scrubbed and cleaned. They have the attention span to help me clean their bathroom from start to finish, and then I let them play while I clean the other two bathrooms in our home.
Believe it or not, this is fun for my boys. They consider it play. Young children love to mimic what we as adults are doing, and I am a firm believer that this is exactly when we need to be teaching them life long skills. It builds confidence, independence, and promotes learning.
Plus, how great will it be when my boys will know how to clean their own bathroom in a few years?
I'm linking up to We Play, though I'm not quite sure if this is what you'd consider "play." :-)