Child Labor Can Be Good: How I Redirected My Toddler’s Trash Can Habit Into Her First Chore

It was so simple. I managed to redirect my child’s negative behavior into actually helping mommy. One little baby raising victory, and I’m suddenly giddy! Here’s what happened.

Once Ivy learned how to walk, I started having a problem with her throwing things in the trash can…like my clean laundry, for example. Ew. Thank you, child. In fact, it has kind of become our go-to spot to look when random things are missing. “Did you look in the trash?” “What if Ivy tossed it in with the garbage that we just took out?” Etc.

At first I just tried to give a very firm “no” whenever she made for the garbage and she either tried to throw something in or tried to dig around to pull something out. I’d quickly pull her away for a serious talk. “No, Ivy! Do not do that. You don’t throw those in the trash.” I always put out good solid statements like that because, you know, all babies listen. Right. You know what she’d do? She’d laugh. She’d look up at me with a humongous smile and laugh. She’s reeeeeaal scared of mommy. Sigh.


photo 3

Of course, the thing about babies is that they emulate everything that big people do. So I understand why she is going for the trash–she sees me do it all day long. One day, I had an idea that was perhaps a bit obvious for some people, but I am still rather proud of the results. Why not use that desire to imitate and show her how to throw things in the trash appropriately, giving her her own personal job to boot?

Here’s what I did. After every diaper change, she’d watch mommy throw her wet and tightly folded diapers into the trash. Since throwing things away is one of her favorite things, I started handing them to her and taking her to the trash can so she could drop them in. Now, she does it automatically after every change. Sometimes, I don’t even have to hand it to her; she just picks the diaper bundle up and walks over to the trash can. I love it!

This chore has parameters and some drawbacks obviously. For those of you who use a special diaper pail, for example, this may not be as simple or as desirable. Also, don’t panic, Ivy never touches the poop diapers–just the already wrapped up pee diapers. Basically, all she is touching is the outside of the bundled diaper, and I make sure her hands are clean.

The point is that I took a behavior that she was already doing–and was going to continue to do anyway–and photo 5redirected it into something positive. Ivy loves her job, and I clap and say “Good job!” every time she does it, which makes her super happy. Sometimes she even does a little dance afterwards. Who knew garbage could be so fulfilling? And you want to know something interesting? She doesn’t throw away things she isn’t supposed to nearly as much now OR dig in the trash. It’s like it has sort of helped her crack the mystery of the trash can.

You don’t have to do the diaper thing–or the trash thing. However, the next time your little one does something naughty and you realize it is really just an imperfect imitation of what they see you do, get creative and try to harness it into something helpful and engaging. It works for you and is good for baby.


2 thoughts on “Child Labor Can Be Good: How I Redirected My Toddler’s Trash Can Habit Into Her First Chore

  1. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful blog you’ve developed, Jyoti! You have a new fan and I can’t wait to share this with my Early Childhood network. Give the star of Growing Ivy a hug from Nana Karen. Love you girls!!!!

    1. Oh that makes me so, so happy! Thank you!!!! I’m glad you like it. I think it will be a nice, fun thing and an opportunity to learn and share a lot. All that good stuff. 🙂 We miss you and think of you often!!! Sending love and hugs.

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