Learning Beside Mama

Toy Train Set 084Despite popular belief that children should spent as much time as possible socialising with their peer group, there are always easy and fun ways to include them into what we, the big people, are doing. It is at these times, when children work side by side with adults, that they learn more than when left alone with a room full of toys. Yes, a pretend tea set or train set allows them to spend time imagining all sorts of games. Through pretend play children develop their concept of who they are and how society and relationships as a whole fits together. Make believe is a fundamental part of childhood. However, toys don’t specifically allow a child to learn life skills that they will need in daily life. A child may be able to cut up play dough to make a dolls dinner, however, cutting a cucumber and adding it to the salad for dinner gives the activity meaning and purpose. Instead of just pretending to be useful and playing a role they are engaging in real life activities that make them feel useful and a part of the family. This gives them a sense of belonging and importance.

From the age of two or three years – under adult supervision – a child can be given a cutting board and a blunt knife, to cut up fruit and vegetables. Start off with soft fruit such as a banana, or paw-paw so that they don’t need much effort or co-ordination. From about three years children have enough co-ordination to start peeling carrots. Children as young as two years can learn to break an egg. Simply place a bowl under a mug and break the egg into the mug and if it misses the egg lands in the bowl. You may need to stick your fingers into the shell with them a few times and scoop out the shell bits. However, by being a part of the family unit in such a meaningful way from the beginning develops children to want to help as they get older. Incorporate your child in all your household chores such as hanging up and folding washing, washing dishes – you do the glass ones and they do the plastic ones. From the time they can walk children can help put dishes away and pick up toys. All these are not only training your child in vital life skills but also building an attitude of service and responsibility. Children love feeling that they are trusted and needed, therefore by giving them the responsibility of feeding a pet or wiping a table builds their self-esteem too. As children are included in the household activity they feel needed and loved.

Sjouwen van melkbusen / Children helping out a...

These times of working together as a team deepen family relationships, build friendships and encourage siblings to make a plan and work together for the good of the family. Children don’t need to be bribed and rewarded for helping keep the home running smoothly instead you may have natural consequences such as if they haven’t fed the dog they may not have their supper. Or the family can’t go out to the park until all the responsibilities are completed.

December is such a wonderful time as Christmas creates so many of these co-working opportunities. It is however also a stressful, busy time. One therefore has to determine before each morning if little people will be playing a big part in our day and if so we need to dress with an extra layer of patience each morning.

Family is such a special and wonderful concept. It is designed to train and teach a child in so many ways and yet we get caught up in babying children, pampering them and rushing to meet their needs. Instead we should see children as a part of the family. By drawing our children into the centre of the home action, we are not only preparing them for life and teaching them many important skills but they grow up secure feeling needed, valued and loved too.

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To Chore or Not to Chore

In our home we choose to chore 🙂

From the day a child can walk – without falling over – they start to help pick things up, put away dishes and do anything a little person is able to do. From about aged 2 or 3 (depending on the child) they are given specific “responsibilities.”

Changing the term form “Chores” to “Responsibilities” changed the whole attitude and feel in our home. The little ones may need to feed an animal whilst the older ones have either more responsiblities or more demanding ones. The children love having responsibilities and will become quite upset if someone does one of theirs. It makes them feel needed, rooted and that they have a place within the home.

When our children turn 13 we have a evening to celebrate their “pre-adulthood” and with this comes greater responsibility. So at present our 14 year old is responsible for the washing. Well, I ensure it is washed and hung up and then it’s up to her. She need to bring it in, fold it and put it away. I love how she’s begun putting on CDs so the little ones all want to listen and then she gets them to all fold the washing with her. This is great as it teaches her to not let the washing (or anything in life for that matter) pile up and how much hard work it takes to truly be responsible for something as well as many other life lessons. She also has a number of other responsibilities such as washing the breakfast dishes and clearing the kitchen after supper.

The other children have responsibilities such feeding animals, making beds, putting clothes away, putting dishes away. Sometimes children require some direction and help such as I may need to place their duvet at the bottom of their bed neatly so they can pull it up to make their bed. Other times they may need to be given a more specific task such as – pick up all the red blocks. Often children become overwhelmed when given a task too big and therefore their reluctance to help is actually that they don’t really know where to start.

For these responsibilities our children are not remunerated. We all have a part to play and a role to fill to be apart of the family. This is also a chance to train them in loving others. If someone is sick or away we step in and help each other out. If however they are asked to do something that I would usually employ someone else to do such as mow the lawn we will show our appreciation by giving them some money towards something they are saving up for.

We do also try to make it fun. So we’ll often play Amazing Race where I give them tasks to complete in a set time (these can range from washing dishes, to scrubbing a wall, to peeling and freezing bananas.) If the task is completed they get a small prize – raisins, a snack, or such and the next clue. If it isn’t completed in time once it is completed they need to run around the house, miss the treat and then get the next clue. I find they don’t cope with more than 5 activities in a game so after the 4th or 5th task they get a grand prize – an ice-cream (or my favourite: to watch a DVD – in the middle of the day – and I get to have a quiet cup of coffee:)

Another game we play is the “Post Box Game.” I put some tasks into a box. The children then need to sneak up and get a clue and do the task without me seeing them. I obviously know where they are but pretend to not hear them and then I suddenly turn around or jump out at them. We all have great fun with this and yes the chores get done too. Otherwise music is good on a whole. Listening to worship songs or stories helps them to not dwell on the fact that they are doing chores. Oh yes and we also sometimes have everyone folding washing while I read to them.

This may not work for every family but for us it’s been a great balance and an opportunity to teach our children about responsibility, love, running a home and what being a family is all about.

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