With five kids, four and under there is one question I get asked over and over again: How do you work around the house with little ones underfoot?
I am very familiar with this struggle! With so many littles, my house is in constant chaos. I love it most of the time, but it is a struggle sometimes to get things done like cooking, cleaning, and mopping!
Listen to the Podcast:
We also recorded this blog post as an audio podcast. If you want to listen in instead of reading, click play below or do a combination of both
And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Since my oldest are only 4, I have a few things I can share that we’ve done. But I wanted to reach out to some of my friends and get their advice on what they do. So I’ve got advice from several ladies for you today!
Before we get to the practical advice:
Before I jump into my practical advice, I do want to share one thing to keep in mind: When thinking through our kids involvement in our home we need to remember our #1: to teach them about and share the Gospel with them.
My #1 goal within my home is to point them back to Christ. To mold them and shape them and at the end of the day, direct them back to CHRIST. And so that needs to shape how and what we do within our home, especially when it comes to how we interact with these little ones that God has given into our care.
It’s really really easy to view my kids as distractions. They are distracting me from getting things done around the house, distracting me from getting dinner on the table, etc. It’s easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with them when I’m trying to get MY to-do list done!
And yet, these little people within my home are not distractions. They are in fact, my biggest mission field, the priority which God has given me for this season. They should be the largest focus of my time and energy.
Yes, the cooking and the cleaning NEED to get done. But if we can remember the all important task of raising our children in the Lord, the blessing that God has given us in raising this next generation, then it’s far easier to stop viewing our children as distractions to our housework, but rather the purpose for our housework.
If you struggle with this like I do, I recommend you go back and listen to episode #69 of the podcast: Eliminating Distractions in Your Homemaking.
What I currently do with my littles:
As many of these ladies are going to share below, one great thing is to involve your kids in the housework. I love to try to involve my kids, have them help in the kitchen, and to help do simple things alongside me. Their favorite tasks involve trying to help sweep and unload the dishwasher. I also love giving them outdoor brooms and letting them sweep the sidewalk out front and our back deck. (This keeps the 2 year olds entertained for a while!)
So I’m going to leave the involving kids suggestions to the other ladies because they all have some GREAT advice. Because one thing I want to address: Sometimes I have to train my kids to just stay out of the way. I don’t mean that to come across harsh. But with the concentration of littles I have, if I involved them in every single chore, I would never ever get anything done.
So there are times when they know it’s play time and mom is working in the kitchen or cleaning. Often before dinner, it’s play time outside or in their room. They can come and talk to me and hang around the kitchen if they want or get involved if they ask, but it’s not time to tear through the kitchen, run around in the living room, etc. And with four littles boys all so young, that’s often all they want to do at that time of day 😉
So while I encourage them to help me, I also don’t tolerate rough housing in my kitchen. I love them getting involved and helping me (which has actually been happening more and more as they are getting older), but sometimes they are squirmy little boys who need to get out of my kitchen and go run around 😉
One such area is when I’m mopping. They have learned that when I’m mopping, they stay off the tile or there will be consequences. I do my chores mainly in the morning, because I don’t want to waste nap time by cleaning which means all 5 of them are awake when I usually mop. Which means I’ve had to train them to stay off the tile.
So my advice to add is to take that extra time to work with them on obeying mommy to stay off the tile, don’t run through the kitchen when dinner is making, etc. I am a huge advocate for having littles work along side you, but I think there are also times to say, “No honey, not right now. Go run and play before dinner!”
Okay here’s the more amazing advice from my friends:
Katie Bennett of Embracing a Simpler Life, 3 kids.
“Mine love to feel like they’re helping! Give them a dust rag or a little job and it becomes a fun time for everyone.”
Caroline Allen of The Modest Mom Blog – 6 kids, ages 2-13.
“I’ve had to keep my little ones out of the kitchen at this rental house, because there was literally no room for them to play in there. At our other house I would let them stand on a stool and “do dishes” while I cooked, with heavy aprons on so they didn’t totally soak their clothes! Anywhere from 2 on up to 8 they normally think this is fun, before they start doing dishes for real. 😉“
Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows – 10 kids, ages 19-9mos.
“Many times I have stuck little ones in a homemade mei tai on my back while I cook. I have aprons for all of my little ones who are old enough to walk, and I try to include them as much as possible. I bought children’s knives from Pampered Chef (they have something similar on Amazon as I think PC discontinued theirs) and I let them chop on stuff. We talk a lot about staying back when I open the oven, not pulling their stools up to the stove, and never using a real knife until mommy says they can. I have very fond memories of sitting on the counter next to my mom as she cooked. I try not to shoo the kids out of the kitchen because of this. However…you run in my kitchen, you are banished! ;)”
Hilary Bernstein of No Place Like Home – 2 kids, ages 9 & 7.
“I kept a few kitchen-only activities in a cupboard, so when I was cooking I could pull them out and let the kids entertain themselves in the kitchen with me. They were toddlers at the time, but I had play tweezers from a doctor kit and had them pick up as many pompoms as they could. I also let them try to stick uncooked spaghetti noodles in an empty cheese shaker (the kind with a holey lid). When it was time for dinner, I put all of the supplies away and reused them every week or so. It kept them busy and helped their fine motor skills.”
Jennifer Ross of Confidently Called – 11 kids, ages 4-26.
“So for kids under… say 5 or so when I’m cooking I let them help (when applicable) or the little girls I give them empty bowls and plastic spoons to pretend cook if I”m making something they can’t help with (frying, etc) or let them set the table, rinse the dishes, that sort of thing.
With cleaning I always just give the youngest kids a damp washcloth to clean the baseboards, wipe the table, stair railings etc. Or they love using the feather duster! A 4 or 5 year old can unload the dishwasher… some things anyway.
If your oldest is just 2 or 3 though, the bowl and spoon still work and the duster. They really love that feather duster! They can fold hand towels and washcloths, put away clean socks or jammies.”
Meal Planning Help:
I am really excited to share with you the sponsor of today’s podcast episode: PrepDish! If you ever feel like you wish you had a little help in your meal planning, then I highly encourage you to check out PrepDish. They offer gluten free meal plans and paleo meal plans.
But you don’t have to eat a gluten-free or paleo diet in order to take advantage of all that PrepDish has to offer! In fact, almost half of their customers don’t eat those diets. The meals are healthy and non-processed and work well for anyone who is trying to eat a healthy diet. And PrepDish is offering a super special TWO week free trail when you sign up through this link (how awesome!!)
When you sign up, you’ll receive an email every week with a grocery list and instructions for prepping your meals ahead of time. After only 1-3 hours of prepping on the weekend, you’ll have all of your meals ready for the entire week. I absolutely love how easy they make it.