My husband started it really. Even when my daughter was only a handful of months old she loved watching him working on his various projects. He’s an engineer so there are always projects sitting around our house, waiting for his time. As soon as she became big enough to crawl over to him, he would give her pieces or tools to hold and investigate. She would look up at him with her toothy grin full of admiration and wonder.
Now she is still small in stature but she is at the stage where she walks, runs, and climbs everything. Her desire to be involved and to have a task to do has only grown. This has provided a multitude of moments for learning and bonding. This afternoon as I kneaded dough for some hamburger buns she stood in the chair next to me with her own small bowl, whisk, and measuring spoon, mixing away with great delight. These days any time I enter the kitchen and do not pull “her” chair over to the counter she is quick to draw my attention to the necessity of it.
Involving children in our daily tasks, rituals, and chores is something that both my mother and my husband’s mother were adamant about during our childhoods. I cannot recall a time when I was not part of making a meal, folding the laundry, or keeping our home clean and tidy. My mother-in-law, as a mother of nine, is a strong advocate of teaching children at a young age to participate in the running of a home. She regularly encourages young mothers to give their child some small task to do alongside them, even if it is not done up to one’s standards, simply so that they learn by doing.
There are many ways you can involve your children in your daily to do list or activities. Here are a few ideas for inspiration:
- If you have some computer or office work to do give the child a pad of paper and a pen (or similar writing tool) to have them draw or write on it while sitting next to you.
- When you do the dishes, pull up a stool or chair so that they too can observe and be a part of doing this chore. You can also fill the sink with soapy water and allow them to “clean” cups and bowls for a bit of entertainment in the long afternoon hours.
- In the preparation of a meal, bring the child alongside. Perhaps they can chop vegetables with an age-appropriate knife or aid in mixing various ingredients together. My daughter is only fourteen months old but she loves having her empty bowl and spoon to mix alongside of me.
- When you have some cleaning to do, encourage your toddler to run her Fisher-Price Popper or a similar vacuum-like toy alongside as you clean, or perhaps obtain child-sized cleaning tools such as a broom or duster. Another great task is to give your younger children a rag to wipe down the floor boards or to clean the windows at their level. With older children, you can slowly pass off various chores to do on their own, allowing them the responsibility and freedom to gain independence in cleaning assigned spaces.
- As your children reach elementary age, you can show them how to do their own laundry—collecting their clothing, putting in the appropriate amount of soap, starting the washer/dryer, folding their clean items, and putting it away in their rooms.
Children enjoy having tasks to do and being given responsibility. This fosters confidence and independence as they grow. In addition to this, as a young mom I have found the times with my daughter in the kitchen to be moments of bonding and the gaining of a new perspective on our relationship and our meals.
Teaching children to have a pair of helping hands prepares them for the future in many ways and fosters a sense of productivity, charity, efficiency, organization, usefulness and just plain fun.