Why is the willingness of children to "help" directly and inversely related to their ability to be of any use?
My three-year-old regularly grabs an apron and insists on "helping" me cook – an activity in which he puts his fingers in the butter, whirls flour and sneezes into the bowl (if I've ever offered you a piece) Victoria sponge, please try to hide the last sentence from your memory.
Unfortunately, children appear to be useful at the very moment that they learn of the existence of a minimum wage and only after they have completed all the useful sections of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child.
This weekend, however, I managed to get the kids into the garden in an almost useful capacity. Yes, if you want to take the kids outside of the magic ingredient, there is a large bowl of soapy water. It helped that it was sunny, but we did almost an hour of vaguely helpful washing of the plastic plant pot, ready for the preschool garden club, washing the playhouse not absolutely necessary, and most importantly cleaning the greenhouse.
This latter job involves children and glass, so the flour-loving three-year-old was distracted from rinsing his tea service while his older siblings helped me. I'm not sure our methods are thorough enough to meet most people's hygiene standards in the greenhouse, but at least a lot more light comes in and it looks a lot better than many rooms in the house. The kids also enjoyed it because it included water, bubbles, and the occasional expression of fear on my face.
Best of all, this child labor involved no more bribery than an extra piece of Victoria sponge cake … Fine.