Yesterday Charlie saw me unloading the dishwasher and sorting the cutlery, pulled up a chair and asked to help. He finished the job, closed the drawer and wandered off to another activity. I went to sort the drawer expecting it to be a bit jumbled and was surprised to find everything perfectly in its place!! Even Oliver can't manage this feat....but then we do have an ongoing battle about which way round knives and forks should be organised! Charlie asked to do the same job again this morning, and this time I watched him carefully sorting knives, forks, teaspoons and dessert spoons, remembering that the plastic knives forks and spoons live separately to the others.
If he were at nursery Charlie could play games where he sorted objects by category, colour or shape. I remember taking Joseph into nursery one day and the children were sorting coloured beads into pots of individual colours using tweezers. He seemed to enjoy it! The only difference I can see with Charlie's game of 'sort the cutlery' is that Charlie's game was performed in an everyday context and has real value within it. Sorting beads is done to practise skills; when Charlie sorted the cutlery he was using skills for a practical purpose. It was a truly meaningful activity. The coloured beads would have been jumbled up again ready for the next game and Charlie's cutlery will end up jumbled and dirty in the dishwasher again...but I'll give his helpful task a happy thought every time I reach for a spoon between now and when the drawer is empty again!
In one of Tom Hodgkinson's hugely entertaining books (it would have been either How to be Idle or The Idle Parent but I don't recall which) he suggests that if you go about everyday tasks joyfully then there's little reason for children to grow adverse to doing them. It's an interesting thought that has been backed up in discussions on Sandra Dodd's brilliant Unschooling discussion group, Always Learning.
If you have to do the housework then why not do it joyfully! I suppose if I'd have been making the unloading of the dishwasher look like a boring/frustrating/unpleasant task then Charlie wouldn't have wanted to join in. We can learn a lot from children about turning the mundane into fun!