The ultimate parenting hack: let’s play housework

I think I may be a little late to this party. But it’s transformed my life to the extent that I can’t NOT write about it, even at the risk of it being yawnably obvious to you all.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the ultimate, free activity for kids: doing the housework.

In fact, it’s better than free. For the hideously lucky among you who actually employ a cleaner it may be money saving.

I’m going to file this in my ‘so simple it’s genius’ folder, alongside my ‘how to go birdwatching’ post and ‘how to have a simple birthday party’ post. Because basically what you do is this:

1)   Assemble your kit: dustpan and brush, big brush, window cleaning spray, sponge (Mr Muscle and cloth if you’re confident your infant prodigy will not spray himself in the eyes, necessitating a trip to A&E that would be even more loathsome than the original chore)

2)   Tell your child they have an IMMENSELY GROWN UP responsibility, but they have only ONE CHANCE to get this right and show how mature they are otherwise they will lose this FANTASTIC PRIVELEGE altogether

3)   Let them clean the house while you sit. Somewhere. Anywhere.

I don’t know why I didn’t attempt this sooner. I’m constantly reading blog posts in which parents extol the virtues of their little darlings being involved in household chores, detailing just how much Petunia adores laying the table and little Cinderella loves darning the household’s socks etc etc.

It never occurred to me that it was doable in my house, where there is literally nothing, not a square centimetre, to which I could attach the phrase ‘sparkling clean’; the kids’ don’t own vintage pinnies in which they could look simultaneously cute and contributive; and mess seems to mount counterattacks if you are ever foolish enough to challenge it and therefore generally is in the ascendant.

Also, more generally: if I feel murderous when presented with a mop, why would the kids feel any differently? AND YET THEY DO!

Because a couple of weeks ago, J asked me  – ASKED ME – if he could sweep the baby’s sticky, smeared lunch from under the high chair. It was like being hit across the head with a meteor. I mutely handed over the dustpan and brush and watched him sweep, meticulously, before walking over to the bin, tipping the contents in, and hanging up the brush.

Since then, I have offered to let him:

Sweep the kitchen floor: tick.

Clean the windows: tick

Do a bit of dusting: tick

Lay the table: tick

Ok, he doesn’t always make a perfect job of it, but hell, neither do I. It keeps him happily and relatively quietly occupied. I’m certain a little dose of gender-equality-medicine is good for him, since up to now he’s stubbornly referred to Mummy’s kitchen while the lawnmower remains Daddy’s. He likes a real task, seeming to find genuine satisfaction in something that’s not a game manufactured for children and I haven’t had to give him any incentives other than my visible amazement, the odd digestive biscuit and a bit of positive reinforcement.

So until I get a Karcher Steam Cleaner, I am officially signing myself off from cleaning duties. (Does anyone have one of these contraptions? They look like so space age, like something from The Jetsons (tell me you remember The Jetsons?). I’m up for cleaning if all you have to do is wave a wand over the mess in a vague manner and -poof – it’s gone. Also, if I can look like a futuristic magician in the process.)

What other household jobs can four year olds be expected to do and enjoy, do you think?

[This is a collaborative post.]