Play can be a valuable tool to make everyday tasks more fun.
When you have tasks to attend to, you can’t continue paying as much attention to your child as they want. Instead of asking them to wait, make room for play to turn your task into a fun activity.
Benefits of integrating play into daily tasks
Once you have finished the task, remember to kindly thank your toddler for their help. Showing appreciation for their effort and explaining how valuable it is helps them understand that their support is welcome. They will feel happy and proud, which gives them the motivation to do it again.
How can your child help you while having fun?
To take advantage of play, simply present one of your tasks as a game, a fun challenge to take on, or make it a role-playing game. Make sure there is a fun aspect to the game. The idea is to avoid making the task an educational activity, and to rather have a good time with your toddler. For example, put on music, sing, dance, and make jokes while completing your task.
Here are some ideas for turning tasks into fun activities.
- Invite your child to be your sous-chef when cooking. For example, ask them to give you the ingredients you need for the recipe. They can also mix the dry ingredients for a recipe, wash the vegetables with a small brush, and tear the leaves of lettuce. For more ideas, check out our fact sheet Including children in the kitchen (in French).
- Play restaurant and help set the table. Your toddler can start by setting the placemats and napkins. When you think your child is ready for more responsibilities, you can let them put out the plates and utensils, which is a big step up in trust for them. At the end of the meal, they can also help you collect and wash the dishes.
Although these suggestions may not work every time, they could make your tasks more fun, especially if you adapt them to your child. Take note of what works well to further adapt each occasion for your child.
- Play clothes fishing when taking the laundry out of the dryer. Ask your child to go fishing for socks that are the same colour or towels that are the same size. Children can also group clothing that belongs to mom, dad, their brothers and sisters, or themselves. Ask them, “Are these little pyjamas dad’s?” “Is this big shirt his?” This activity then becomes an opportunity to have a big laugh together in addition to allowing your toddler to integrate the concept of ownership.
- Tell them to imagine being a gardener or a zoo worker. Under your supervision, your child can have fun watering houseplants, picking vegetables from the vegetable garden, and feeding the family pet.
- Turn grocery shopping into a treasure hunt. At each row, tell your toddler what you need and ask them to find a specific item. If your child is young and sits in the shopping trolley, tell them to point to the item as soon as they see it on the shelf.
Responsibilities for your child’s growth
Around age 4 of 5, your child may no longer want to play the assistant, the sous-chef, or the gardener. They will want you to have more trust in them. To make them happy, give them the opportunity to be grownup by giving them small responsibilities, e.g. taking the clothes out of the dryer, folding washcloths in four, or arranging shoes in the entrance by size. If your child is younger than age 5, check out our fact sheet Including children in household tasks
How to involve your baby in tasks
If your toddler is too young to participate in household tasks, they can passively share the experience and be a spectator with a front seat. Have them close to you and give them attention while performing your tasks.
For example, stimulate their senses when cooking by talking about what you are doing and inviting them to look, touch, or feel. “Look at the potato; it’s brown. I’m going to peel it. Look, it’s white now and it’s wet. Touch it.” By talking to them like this, you are capturing their attention, promoting their understanding, and teaching them a few words.
You can also sing, put on music, or dance while you are cooking, washing the dishes, or folding clothes. Maintain contact with your baby by looking at them often, talking to them, and smiling to show them that you enjoy spending time with them.
Things to keep in mind
Turning certain tasks into a game allows you to give your child the attention they need and have a good time with them.
For your toddler to enjoy themselves, fun must be part of the game: Make the task fun with a role-playing game, challenge or race, making jokes, singing, or playing music.
Even when your child is still a baby, you can maintain contact while doing your tasks by sitting them near you, making eye contact, and talking to them.
Scientific review: Suzanne Major, PhD early childhood education consultant, anthropologist, and author
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: February 2021
Useful links and resources
Note: Hyperlinks to other sites are not updated on a continuous basis. Thus, some links may not work. In such case, use the search tools to find specific information.
BOUCHARD, Caroline. Le développement global de l’enfant de 0 à 6 ans en contextes éducatifs. 2nd ed., Quebec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2019, 472 pp.
DE HEMPTINNE, Delphine. Jouons malin! Du petit déjeuner au coucher. Bruxelles, De Boeck, 2019, 256 pp.
DUCLOS, Germain and Martin DUCLOS. Responsabiliser son enfant. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2005, 198 pp.
ENCYCLOPEDIA ON EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT. “Why should play be part of all children’s life?” 2013. www.enfant-encyclopedie.com
FERLAND, Francine. Et si on jouait? Le jeu au cœur du développement de l’enfant. 3rd ed. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 240 pp.
FERLAND, Francine. Fais-moi rire! L’humour chez l’enfant. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2020, 162 pp.
MINISTÈRE DE LA FAMILLE DU QUÉBEC. “Young children and play.” www.mfa.gouv.qc.ca