This is a response that I wrote to a mom in my teleclass who was inspired to fold laundry with her four-year-old daughter, only to discover that her daughter wasn’t interested. I believe that allowing children to help with housework can be wonderful for both of you, if it helps you and your child feel connected, if it allows them to develop competence, and enables them to feel like they’re contributing. Most children love to help whenever they’re allowed to, but if your child is accustomed to you doing it on your own, they may not jump right in when giving the opportunity. If that happens, then it’s time to concentrate heavily on the connecting aspect, so they really enjoy doing it with you. Here was a suggestion I gave:
Don’t be discouraged that your daughter didn’t jump right in. If she’s used to not doing it with you, it may take awhile for her to warm up to it. And I bet that just having you doing it so calmly and lovingly is still nurturing to her, even if she doesn’t participate. One thing you could do if you WANT her to help is to “lure” her in by making it into a real connecting activity. Since she loves puppet shows, you might do this by telling a story while you fold laundry, something that she will really enjoy. At first she might just sit near you while you fold and tell the story, and eventually she might want to help as well. A slightly different take might be to make the act of folding really enjoyable, and incorporate it into a type of puppet show of its own. It might go something like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a little mouse.” (take one of the baby’s socks and make it into a little mouse scurrying along the ground. “That mouse lived in a house where there was LOTS of laundry to be done! He loved living in that house because there were always lots and lots of places for him to hide.” (Have your mouse scurry from unfolded thing to unfolded thing.) “In this same house there also lived a cat! He loved to chase the mouse, but he couldn’t find him
when he hid under laundry that wasn’t folded. (Make a cat with a slightly larger piece of laundry that you roll up into a log. Have the cat chase the mouse around, but the mouse always manages to hide.)
“One day, the cat had a great idea. What if he could fold the laundry, so that the mouse had nowhere to hide? He was very excited by this idea, but how could he do it? Cats can’t fold laundry! He tried, and he tried, but he couldn’t do it right.” (Have the cat try and fail.) “‘I know,’ said the cat. ‘I need someone with hands who will help me.’ He looked around for someone who could help. First he went to the baby to ask for help.” (He goes over to the baby.) “‘Will you help me fold the laundry so I can catch the mouse?’ He asks. But the baby is too little, and doesn’t know how to fold laundry. Then he went to the mother. ‘Will you help me fold the laundry so I can catch the mouse?’ ‘Yes,’ said the mother, and she folded a washcloth.” (fold a washcloth that the mouse is hiding under, and have the mouse run away to another piece of laundry that’s not folded. The cat runs after him, but he doesn’t get there in time.) “Oh no! The cat chased the mouse, but he wasn’t fast enough! He looked around to see if there was anyone else who might help him by folding a piece of laundry. There he saw a little girl.” (…)
You get the idea. You and your daughter can alternate folding the laundry while the cat and the mouse run back and forth, until all of the laundry is folded. You will have to decide if the cat gets to catch the mouse at the end, or if the mouse escapes, to be chased another day. As time goes on, your daughter might want to control the mouse as he runs, or the cat (although it might be too hard to resist catching the mouse before the laundry is done). At any rate, you don’t have to use that story, but the idea is to make your task SO fun, that it’s what she wants to be doing, and it’s all about the two
of you connecting and having a good time together. And, unlike a normal puppet show, the laundry gets folded at the end of this one!