Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.
If you've ever been around small children, then you know that from the earliest age, even before they turn 1, they want to help, want be involved, and want you to show them everything. Children are born with the desire to learn, explore, and consume the world around them. This is why they look around and reach for objects right away after birth. They also work really hard to turn over, scoot, roll and crawl by 4 months or so, and even stand up, walk, and run by about a year.
They want so badly to learn about the world around them. Your children, from the most vulnerable stages, want to touch everything and put it in their mouths to learn more about it and see how it works. They even start making sounds at only a few months in an attempt to copy your speech and communicate with you.
Unfortunately, many parents prohibit their children from doing some of these basic things that their kids need so badly. They lock cabinets instead of filling them with safe things, put mittens on their hands to prevent them from putting them in their mouths, and many even confine their children in bouncers or playpens to keep them from exploring.
When your kids are small is a critical time in their development to figure out their environments, what they can and can't do, and even what they are capable of. They are developing their minds, their muscles and their confidence. As they move into their toddler years, this independence is going to become that much more important.
Allowing Your Kids to Explore and Experiment
So many wonderful areas are developing when your children discover their bodies, toys you provide them, and most especially, their environments. Children have a natural curiosity to learn. They are growing the size and capacity of their brains with each new object or experience they are exposed to. They are learning what their bodies can do and how to challenge themselves to meet the next goal, and they are learning your boundaries.
But even better, they are learning good old-fashioned knowledge about their worlds, like pots and pans are hard, cold, and make great sounds when you bang on them. They learn how to climb on and in different objects, and build muscle tone and ability for later skills like standing, walking and running. They even learn that some things are sharp, hot, and/or out of their reach. Learning your boundaries are just as important as some life skills they learn.
These valuable skills set them up for future learning and exploration, however frustrating it might be to clean up the same mess over and over. Maybe these experiences are setting you up for your future as well. They say having kids actually refines us and polishes us, wearing off the bad stuff and making us better people. Maybe this is how.
Allowing Kids to Help With Chores
Even at the tender age of 1, these precious little ones are going to want to start copying you and helping you out. My 1 year old wants to help put clothes in the washer and dryer with me, and will climb on anything he can to get to a spot where he can help. He also loves putting the clothes away, though most of them end up in the bathtub rather than the drawers.
This has got to be the most trying time for any parent. Sometimes you just want to get through the chore you're working on and get you have little hands that want to help. My 4 year old had been an "expert" at helping for a few years now and prides himself in showing his little brother how to do things around the house, like washing dishes, cleaning the shower, and putting away the towels. He takes great pride in the work that he does (even if more water ends up on the floor than in the sink), is developing independence and a confidence in his abilities, and loves teaching others.
If this desire is stifled though, or your kids are told to go away, and aren't allowed to help when they are small, they will ultimately stop helping and learn some lessons in helping around the house, their value to you and their confidence in themselves that you don't intend. More about the importance of letting them help a little later.
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Including Your Kids in Making Meals
Around 2 or so, your kids will likely want to start actually being active in the kitchen, if they've been allowed to watch up to this point. Remember that this has more to do with their desire to be like you, show you that they are capable, and learn something new than it is about cooking. This is the perfect opportunity to teach them what you do and why you do it.
Maybe start by letting them cut something up with a plastic knife. In our kitchen we talk about starting small, like using the plastic knife, before moving to something big, like using our sharp knives. You could talk to them about following recipes, the different measurements in the measuring cups and spoons, and the proper way to measure different ingredients. Then, I would measure out the ingredient, but let my toddler pour it in the bowl. Over the last couple of years, the things he's been allowed to do have gotten progressively harder.
At this point, he could likely make breakfast and a batch of cookies all by himself. He's been "writing" his own recipes and putting things on the grocery list this last year. Haha Once again, you are setting the stage for your kids to be independent in the future, to be able to help out in your household, and to make good choices in their diets, if you have been modeling this of course. So many kids are growing up nowadays without basic skills to care for themselves, when we could have been taking advantage of this natural born desire for years.
Asking Your Kids for Help With Projects
Children definitely don't start with the life skills we have, they take a long time to do things at times, and they may not do things the way you would. This can be especially frustrating when kids want to get involved and seem to just make your job harder. However, if you take the time to teach them, not only are you giving them valuable skills, but your job will eventually be much easier as they get more proficient.
One day you'll find yourself asking them to clean up their toys after a day of fun, and you'll be able to trust them to do it. I can ask my four year old to get himself some lunch while I give my 1 year old a nap, and he'll get himself a sandwich and a piece of fruit most likely. You'll be able to build a model plane or Lego building and know you've got a capable partner because you've taught him or her.
We do crafts together, hang Christmas lights, paint the house, organize the garage, make meals, and grow vegetables in the garden together and my four year old can actually help me. Being able to help me is not only beneficial for his future success as he already has a wide variety of handy skills, but it's a huge confidence booster for him. Confidence was always the biggest struggle all of my 1st graders had when I was a teacher. They had all been taught that they were incapable of helping because they were just kids, and it took a while to teach them otherwise.
Including your children in the wide variety of things you do on an everyday basis, like chores, cooking, paying bills, and even grocery shopping can be a huge benefit to you when they are older. Imagine being able to ask your child to make dinner and knowing they can do it and want to. Wouldn't that help out a great deal?
What if you could assign your children the laundry and dishes, and not only know that they would be done well, but that your children were eager to help? Starting to see the benefits? And all it takes it a little patience and extra time to teach them these skills when they are small and want to help you so bad. Many parents wait until their kids are older and then start requiring these things of them to sighs, groans, and arguments.
I bet even older children, given the opportunity and proper motivation, would be delighted by a little extra attention from mom and dad. Make it fun and they'll likely jump to do anything with you. Consider giving yourself the gift of hard working, capable kids by investing a little extra time in them. You just might be giving yourself the break you've been asking for all along.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness