As a parent, you may have uttered the words: “Be careful, you’re going to cut yourself!” or “Here, let me do that”. Sometimes it’s easier to do the job yourself. With not enough hours in the day, we tend to rush through our tasks and brush our children off whenever they offer their help. We also have the foresight to know what will likely happen if we let the kids play with dad’s toolbox or ask them to fill a pot with soil for planting – a mess that will undoubtedly be left for us to clean up.
Letting our kids help with everyday tasks is a good way to create bonding opportunities throughout the day. Remembering that short tasks are good for short attention spans is key. Kids want to be productive members of the family and feel like they’re helping out around the house no matter how small the chore. Assigning a task and having them complete it to the best of their ability does wonders for their confidence and can lay the ground work for future accomplishments.
Children learn by doing and when there is little or no opportunity for them to test their skills, they can become complacent and their self confidence compromised. Try some of the following examples and watch your child’s pride in him or herself grow:
- Picking up toys and putting them in a toy box is a simple task for toddlers. They love repetition. Watch their faces light up when they’re rewarded with a “good boy” or “good girl” every time another toy has made it into the box.
- Food preparation provides many opportunities for children to help out at mealtime. Tearing lettuce into bite-sized pieces or squirting ketchup onto dinner plates are simple tasks that are safe and require little supervision. As your child grows, ask him to help you with things that are a little above his skill level. This provides him with a challenge and a great feeling of accomplishment once he masters it. It also teaches him that it’s okay if he can’t quite get it, at least he tried.
- A trip to the grocery store is a great opportunity for learning letters and numbers. Ask your kids the price of their favorite cookies . Stop at the dairy section and see if they can identify items starting with the letter “M”. For younger children, ask them to guess what animal lays eggs or if chocolate milk comes from a brown cow.
- Expect your child to complete a small chore each day, like making his or her bed (it doesn’t have to be perfect) or putting away laundry. It’s common for children to forget their chores in the chaos of the morning rush or during their busy day. All they need is a gentle reminder, “How about you run upstairs and make your bed, then we’ll leave for the park” is more effective than “We’re not going to the park until you make your bed!” Sometimes the bed will be made minutes before bedtime but the message that it still needs to be done every day will soon sink in and before long, a reminder will no longer be necessary.
- Involve children in family decision-making through monthly meetings. Ask their opinions and seriously consider them. Acknowledge their suggestions and implement them if everyone agrees. Topics such as this year’s upcoming vacation destination or who is responsible for feeding the dog are better resolved if everyone can have their say.
Encourage your children to be active participants in daily tasks. Promote a feeling of unity in your family by letting them assist in everyday chores no matter how small. Helping them to feel accepted and respected will give your children a wonderful sense of belonging to a strong family unit.