Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Whistle while you work

It's quite amusing to look back to the beginning of the Easter holidays and remember our plans to spring-clean the entire house. I'd made room-by-room lists of things that needed doing, and stuff that needed purchasing. All so organised but, my goodness, all so ambitious.

The children had swimming lessons every morning and, in the second week, they took part in a drama club. Then there were trips to local museums, the park, visiting friends and so forth which, while essential to making holidays-at-home fun, go some way to explaining how the time for spring-cleaning simply disappeared.

But the wonderful, and surprising, thing about the holidays was that I did do some spring-cleaning in the end. Not my spring-cleaning, sadly, but spring-cleaning nonetheless. I led some museum sessions for tots and their carers at the Geffrye Museum and one of them, called Whistle While You Work, was all about housework. It was such fun devising the spring-cleaning activities and, with a merry band of nearly twenty littlies in each session, I found a very jolly team of housework fans through play, stories, songs, making and movement; they were so enthusiastic.

With a list of four housework chores written in large print on a clipboard, I easily enlisted everyone's help to sweep the floor, wash-up, finish the laundry and dust away the cobwebs.

First we examined a selection of historic household equipment and those that wanted to had a turn with the washing dolly, the broom and the carpet beater. Then we took a close look at a 1930's vacuum cleaner. It was great for them to get their hands on these artefacts and, by trying them out, imagine what hard work it must have been to do household chores in the olden days.

Then we swept the floor using a new broom, and a dust-pan and brush, and I taught them a song to help them remember the best order to tackle the task. Then with several bowls of warm soapy water, plastic crockery, sponges and water sprays for rinsing, they began the next job; washing up. After that they pegged out all the clean laundry - damp dolls' clothes and soggy socks - along a washing line set up at just the right height for them. Everyone helped, and everyone loved taking part.

Finally it was time to do some dusting. They all took a turn at touching the museum's old-fashioned feather duster and I taught them the song Tickle-bird - great for practising the action of dusting, or tickling, away cobwebs. Then everyone made their own tickle-bird. This was quite an ambitious craft for this age group, but by laying out lengths of brightly coloured tape - about 75 cm long and sticky side up, secured underneath with a little blob of blu-tac at each end - we made it an achievable, fun and creative activity for them. The children chose lots of colourful feathers and soft cloth strips and pressed the ends of each onto their sticky tape in any order they liked. The babies simply enjoyed the sensory experience of touching the feathers, of course. Parents and carers helped with the next bit; rolling and pressing the stick all the way along the feathery and cloth-covered tape to create a wonderful flourish of feathers and cloth strips at one end - so soft, and so tickly.

We finished the session with more songs - including Tickle-bird again of course, and then a story - Mrs Mopple's Washing Line by Anita Hewett.

As the children left the session I could see some of them cleaning the air with their feather-duster, and singing Tickle-bird as they went. It was a great reminder of the enthusiasm the under-fives have for housework; how they love to be busy, and how they definitely have the enviable innate ability to whistle while they work.


  1. Sounds wonderful, you've given me some ideas for interesting my children in housework!

  2. Hi
    How wonderful to combine fun, learning and housework.
    By the way, if you would be interested in blogging about a forthcoming Save the Children report or in finding out more, please drop me an email on kateonthinice@gmail.com


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