Isobel’s most fondest wish in life (aside from turning into Kiki or a unicorn (or some kind of freakish Kiki-unicorn-Care-Bear-hybrid) is to be able to do whatever it is we do. She’d be most happy if we let her have the run of the house: turning the oven, starting the laundry, or driving to the store whenever she felt like it. Of course she’s going to have to settle for just being able to wash the dishes, a skill I hope to teach her is both rewarding and exciting. I loathe washing dishes by hand so I view this game as a form of investment in my future.
Isobel has actually been playing a variant of this game for a year, and originally she called it “washing the pachas“, a Spanish term for bottle. She witnessed Anthony and I washing her own bottles on a daily basis and begin asking for a ladder so that she could wash them herself. Eventually I found these rainbow-hued cups at the dollar store and since then she’s been washing them several times a week. After she’s sure they are sufficiently clean she likes to fill them part way with water and call out, “KITTIES! DINNER! DINNER TIME! COME AND GET IT!” and I’ve caught her coercing Poppy to drink from them on more than one occasion.
This is one of my favorite games for her, too, because I can get thirty minutes to an hour and a half of uninterrupted time in which to send a few emails or get caught up on the housework. More importantly, though, this is an activity in which she’s busy, content, and creating her own imaginary play fun, which is the best kind of fun there is.
Preparing for this game involves clearing the counter of anything I don’t want soaked with water, spreading rags on the floor to catch the excess (and there will be excesses of excess) water, gathering her rainbow cups and setting up the step stool. I’ll turn the water on just the merest dribble and let her play in that until it’s filled up the plastic storage bin I use to hold the cups. After that’s full I turn the water off and let her splash and play, and when she’s all done I take it outside and water my patio plants.
In addition to the little cups she always asks for a couple of pachas, her plastic tea set, a sponge or a rag (for “cleaning”), a little funnel and bottle brushes. If this particular setup wouldn’t work for your house you could always let your child play over the tub (during bath time or not), in a bathroom sink, or even outside as a thrifty DIY water table.