The leaves in our front yard were piling up. Thinking my 10-month-old would enjoy getting some fresh air and watching neighbors pass by while I raked, I loaded him into the backpack and headed outside. Little did I know how much he would enjoy the leaf-raking itself. This chore that seemed so simple to me captivated my son. He listened carefully to the sound of the rake scraping the ground, watching as it moved back and forth through the leaves. After a few minutes, he was ready to hop down and join in. We picked up leaves to examine them, squished and smashed leaves together to find that they crinkle and crumble, tossed them in the air and watched them float to the ground, and, of course, tasted a few bits. What a great sensory experience!
Our afternoon of raking leaves opened my eyes to the opportunities everyday chores can offer for playing, exploring, and discovering. Here are some of the chores around our home that we have found to be exciting:
Weeding the garden: As warm spring weather comes early to our area, we have begun pulling weeds in the garden—which, we have discovered, creates lovely piles of loose, soft soil. While I weed, my son digs his fingers into the dirt, discovers sticks of all sizes, and pauses to observe and imitate the sounds of backyard birds, squirrels, and neighborhood dogs.
Sweeping the floor: Like any household with toddlers, we sweep the floor every day. My son has discovered that it feels great to brush his hands along the bristles of the broom, and that the bristles rustle softly when he moves them back and forth. (We make sure to wash our hands after playing with the broom.)
Folding laundry: Laundry is one of my least favorite chores. But it offers my son many ways to play. He adds socks to the sock pile, sees and feels a variety of colors and textures, tosses onesies into the air and watches how they fall, and plays peek-a-boo with clean T-shirts.
Watering houseplants: We have several floor plants around the house, and my son loves to examine them. While I water the plants, he watches and touches the stream of water pouring from the watering can. With a bit of help, he is able to do some of the pouring himself.
Washing dishes: I often put away the day’s clean dishes while my son plays independently in the kitchen. When he was smaller, he would watch me move through the kitchen and name the various dishes I was putting away. But now he can participate, too! He is in charge of the clean plastic storage containers—perfect for stacking, nesting, opening and closing, and putting away, one by one, into their drawer.
And, of course, we go out and rake leaves from time to time. Every time I pause in the midst of my chores and invite my son to join, I am reminded of the wealth of sensory, exploratory, and meaningful play experiences that surround us each day. I hope you and your children find some fascinating chores around your home, too.