Friday, 13 March 2009
by Mama Fox
My son finishes his dinner then takes his plate to the counter, standing on his tip toes to push it awkwardly onto the counter. I follow to help him, making a comment that he's not quite tall enough yet.
As he walks out of the kitchen he spies a small piece of plastic wrapper. He picks it up and takes it to the trash can, hiding behind the cabinet doors under the sink. I tell him thank you. He looks up at me and smiles before wandering off to play with toys. My small helper is 16 months old.
I still remember the day that my oldest, at barely a year old, grabbed a small basket and cleaned up the few toys scattered around the room when I told him it was almost bedtime. He watched me every day clean up toys before bed time. That night he decided it was his turn. I sat there amazed at what he was doing, determination on his face as he looked around for any rogue toys that may have been hiding.
My latest small helper has watched every night that either one of my older boys, my husband or myself collect the dinner plates and stack them on the counter next to the sink. At 15 months, he thought he was old enough to help out by carrying his dishes to the kitchen. I didn't ask or tell him to. Just one day, he did it.
Children learn by observing the world around them. If the people around the baby are speaking a certain language, the baby will learn to imitate then later understand the sounds to make words. They watch their parents, older siblings, grandparents and strangers walk so when they are strong enough they imitate the movements, taking their first steps.
As parents we are the most prevalent role models in our children's life. They watch us then mimic our actions, be it talking on the phone, yelling when angry or sweeping the kitchen floor.
While we should not expect much from our smallest helpers, with help and guidance toddlers can:
• gather toys and put them away
• take plastic dishes to and from the table
• use a feather duster or a miniature broom to practice
• "fold" dish towels (while you are folding the rest)
• water plants
• feed pets
Then as our toddlers morph into preschoolers they are already set in their good habits and you can add in other tasks as you feel they are ready. Toddlers may not be able to do much by themselves and even if you have to clean behind their cleaning (when they aren't looking) you are giving them a great opportunity to learn that everyone does their part to help as well as boosting their confidence that even being small they are important little helpers.
When you were little, did you help with chores around the house? Do you have any little helpers?