Teach Your Child To…Wash the Dishes

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I love Parents magazine’s new feature with a “Teach your Child to…” each month. Last month, my big kid tackled tying his shoes. This month, it was Veronika’s turn, teaching my 2 year old (yes!) to wash the dishes, or at least the rudiments behind the task.

Don’t expect sparky plates to come out of this activity; the idea is simply to introduce your toddler to this daily chore, and have some family fun in the kitchen while you’re at it. To start, I cut a regular sponge into a smaller piece; this was much easier for her little toddler hands to hold! Veronika seemed mesmerized the moment she spotted a mini sponge waiting for her right next to mommy’s bigger sponge!

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I filled the sink with a few dishes (think rubber spatulas or small metal pans for this first foray into the task, not breakable items), and then stood Veronika up on a chair so she could reach. She felt like such a big girl!

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Together, we started washing the dishes. I showed her how to add soap to her sponge and scrubby-scrub-scrub on the dishes.

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After each one was sudsy, we gave it a good rinse, which she loved!

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She also loved squeezing the sponge to make more dish soap bubbles, and then rubbing those bubbles all over her hand. “I need a rinse!” she would tell me each time she got soapy.

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When the dishes were clean, I showed her how to set them aside in the drying rack, and her lesson was done. But Veronika wasn’t finished! She loved her little sponge so much that she wanted to scrub down the chair, too.

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Winter Water Table

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When it’s obviously too cold outside for water table play, here’s a fantastic hack to create a water table right in the warmth of your kitchen. Simply tilt open the door of an (empty) dishwasher, and you have a shelf at the perfect height for a toddler. All that’s left to do is to arrange a few items on the shelf like a bucket of warm water, cups for pouring, scoops, and other water toys.

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To heighten the summer feel of the activity, I dressed Veronika in her favorite bathing suit and laid a fluffy beach towel underneath the open dishwasher. This towel was perfect not just for catching any spills, but also keeping her bare feet warm! She immediately began playing, needing no instruction for this activity. There was lots of happy scooping, pouring, and dumping.

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She loves cups with holes that make water “rain” down a little at a time. Then she was busy for a while pouring water from one small cup to another.

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Such concentration!

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And of course sometimes she got impish, lifting the cups up high for a big waterfall that splashed down!

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After about 20 minutes she was ready for warm dry clothes, but this was a great way to fit in water play in the middle of winter.

Pipe Cleaner Shapes

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This easy project is a great way to help little ones develop the hand-eye coordination to color within the lines. In this case literally, thanks to bumpy raised lines made from pipe cleaners.

As Veronika played with a few extra pipe cleaners, I arranged others in simple shapes like triangles, squares, and circles on sheets of construction paper, and then taped them down.

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Then I simply showed her how to use crayon to color within the shapes. She loved choosing which color to use in which shape.

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It was neat to watch her reaction when her crayon came up against the pipe cleaner “bumper”, forcing her to stay within the lines. I could see her brain working as she realized she had to stop her crayon before it ran over he edges.

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In sum, this is a great early lesson on pen control, which is the first step towards drawing all those shapes…down the line.