Does your toddler do chores?

We like to involve our toddler in as many aspects of our lives as makes sense. As a 1 year old, he does things like:

  • help set the table by carrying utensils and plates from the kitchen to the table (in an adjoining room).
  • wipe up spills, especially if he caused them.
  • put things away after using them (toys into their basket, books onto the shelf, household items).
  • wash vegetables.
  • put groceries away after we buy them and bring them home.
  • help carry laundry to the washing machine and put clothes into the washing machine (or take them out and put them into the laundry basket after they’ve been washed).
  • sweep or vacuum.
  • take out a wash cloth from the cupboard so that we can wipe/wash his face in the morning, then close the cupboard.
  • throw garbage away (although he likes to take clean tissues out of the box and throw those away too).
  • help empty the dishwasher,
  • weed the garden and water the garden.

Someone asked me one day, “do you give your toddler chores?” I had to sit back and think about that, even ask for clarification, “can you explain what you mean?” because I had never really thought of these activities as chores. They’re just things that we do to help our household run smoothly and everyone does their part to help us achieve some end goal as a family (whether it be enjoying a meal together, maintaining a clean house, growing a garden).

Whether it be due to some combination of his personality and our mentality, he genuinely seems to enjoy helping us and shows pride in accomplishing things on his own. He observes us and likes to show us that he too can play his part. It is really amazing watching him pick up these skills…and I like to think of it as a little investment into our future. By having him participate early on, he’ll both know how to do things around the house (useful lifelong skill) and he’ll be accustomed to doing them as a member of our family. Maybe one day, he’ll ask if he can get paid for doing chores. A bridge we will cross if and when the time comes.

So to respond to that person who asked me if our toddler does chores, I said “our toddler loves to help us do things around the house”. After all, if you call it a chore, doesn’t it just become a chore?

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A toddler’s gift of cooking

Young children are sponges. Everyone says it. Infants and toddlers seem absolutely interested in observing those around them and imitating them. In our household, we’ve tried to involve our toddler in our everyday activities. This, of course, would involve cooking. We built a Montessori learning tower and stood him up on it at kitchen counter height before his first birthday, so that he could see what we were doing as we prepared, cooked and plated food. We let him feel, smell and play with vegetables that we grow or pick up from our CSA share. If we harvest some kale or chard from the garden, he’ll help us wash the leaves. He mixes, pours and stirs things.

I’m not much of a fan of focussing on material possessions for birthday gifts, particularly for kids. My personal preference is to gift the gift of an experience. That could be a gift certificate to a paint-your-own-ceramic studio, some books and a pair of PJs, a crafted toy for imagination galore.

So to bring these two things together, I sewed some toddler-sized aprons for the 1 year olds in my life. My hope is that they can be used for arts and crafts, water play or cooking (read: versatile) and they’ll entice kids into the kitchen (and encourage parents to have their kids join them – since I know some folks don’t want to deal with mess…enter the apron!).

They weren’t absolutely perfect but my technique improved with each apron (shows I can still learn!). There is a nice big pocket on the front with a loop where you can slip a wooden spoon through. The apron folds up nicely so that the pocket is on top and the apron ties can be used to present the apron as a neat square gift. I slotted a wooden spoon through and added two felt carrots that I made to finish off the presentation.

Apron The gift of food

My new take on vegan and gluten-free

Ever since finding out that our baby has food allergies, as a breastfeeding mom, I have been working to cut out his allergens from my diet as well as cooking allergen-free family meals. It’s quite the educational experience for me as I delve into the world of cooking without dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, and wheat.

A year ago, if you told me you followed a vegan or gluten-free diet, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to have you over for dinner. I just wouldn’t have known how to prepare a meal for you because those words were huge psychological barriers.

Whenever we prepare food for our friends, I ask if there are any dietary restrictions. This has been a habit for me for many years. Usually, the answer was no dietary restrictions (phew). Occasionally, there was an allergy to nuts, an aversion to beef, or a religious restriction on pork. One type of food restriction, I could handle.

Now that I have spent almost half a year working on cooking and baking without a number of categories of ingredients, I feel as though I can be a much more welcoming host. My pantry includes a host of gluten-free, top 8 allergen-free products: tapioca and potato starches, brown and white rice flours, oat flour (gluten-free of course), sorghum flour, xanthan gum and egg replacer. I’ve become more familiar with the brands that I can buy from: Only Oats for oat products, EnerG for xanthan gum and egg replacer, and Purest for baking ingredients. Unfortunately, brands like Bob’s Red Mill, which is a super popular and widely available gluten-free option, have precautionary labelling for cross contamination with some of our allergens, making those a non-option for us. It isn’t enough to be gluten-free because it needs to be allergen-free for us as well. And yes, I have been that person, sitting on the floor in the natural foods stores/aisles, phone in hand, researching the companies that produce the products in my hand to see if they are allergen-free. It’s a time-consuming process.

I should note that we aren’t avoiding gluten because of celiac disease in our household. We’ve noticed a few welts and itchiness/redness develop after our toddler consumed wheat products (all homemade so we suspect it’s wheat and not anything else), so we’re taking a wheat hiatus. You’d think that would mean just avoiding flour but it turns out that things like oats are usually contaminated with wheat and that wheat can be masked in many products under many names. It’s actually easier just to avoid gluten because if a product is gluten-free, then it is definitely wheat-free.

My recipe arsenal is also growing. When I’m searching for recipes on the internet or in cookbooks, I use certain key words now: vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free. For baking, I find it easiest to search for vegan recipes because I know they will not include butter, milk, or eggs. From there, I can try to substitute my own home-mixed gluten-free flour for the conventional flour the recipe calls for. The only issue with vegan recipes is that they call for nuts. With savoury cooking, I start my search specifically looking for allergen-free recipes and I am so appreciative of the many blogs that I’ve come across, as well as allergicliving.com. I want meal recipes that I can just follow without having to experiment too much with ingredient substitutions. Sometimes I search for vegan recipes to find bean, vegetable or quinoa-based recipes that don’t call for dairy or eggs. I try to make a new dish at least once a week so that we continue to increase the variety of dishes we can eat.

A year ago, if you told me you followed a vegan or gluten-free diet, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to have you over for dinner. A lot can change in one year.