I'm sitting at the table watching Abbey (4) try to eat a grapefruit. I offered to help her, but she wants to do it herself. Grapefruit juice and pulp is flying all over the table and the floor as she stubbornly tugs at her spoon.
One of the things I try to build in my children is independence. Before Abbey was born, I used to teach in a Christian school. Those children who were independent enough to do things on their own were always better prepared to start school. I don't mean a rebellious independence that says, "I am not going to do this the way you said, Mommy." I mean an independence that I can give them a job and they will get it done on their own. I say that as a goal, because we haven't arrived there yet.
My children are preschool age. There's a lot that they can't do, but yet there's a lot that they can. By now, Abbey has finished her grapefruit. She is holding up picture cards and asking Lizzie (2) to name the picture. She is independently teaching Lizzie and increasing her vocabulary, and they are both having fun.
Let your children learn to do things for themselves.
- Have a small water jug in the refrigerator and let them pour their own drinks. If it spills, have a small mop or a basket of cleaning rags that they can reach and clean the mess themselves.
- Let them count out their own snacks. Show them how many crackers are in a serving size, and let them count their own snack. (Did you know that 42 mini pretzel sticks are in one serving?) This is a good way to reinforce math and nutrition.
- As soon as they can walk, you can teach them to bring a diaper to you at changing time.
- When they are a little older, they can carry Daddy's coffee to him (don't fill the cup all the way).
- If you keep the cereal and bowls in a lower cabinet, you can teach them to get their own breakfast.
- You can let each child keep a lunch box in the refrigerator with his own snacks for the week. This also teaches honesty (don't take food from someone else's box) and frugality (if you eat two snacks today you won't have any tomorrow).
- Teach your children how to use a cell phone--they might already know :) If you get hurt, they should know whom to call for help. They should know your address, too.
- Let them wash fruits and vegetables.
- Let them shuck corn and snap green beans.
- Let them tear up the lettuce for salad.
- Let them open tea bags when you make iced tea.
- Let them add ingredients and help stir when you bake.
- Let them put the dishes into the sink (teach them how to be careful).
- Let them set the table.
- Let them wipe the table after a meal.
- Give them a spray bottle with water and a little vinegar. Give them an old rag and let them wash walls, windows, cabinets, etc.
- Let them sort socks.
- You can get a small lightweight vacuum for under $20 (one without a bag). You can let them be responsible for vacuuming their room or cleaning up the baby's Cheerio mess.
- Teach them to pull weeds and pick the vegetables in your garden.
- Let them choose the produce at the grocery store. Count as you go, and show them how to weigh it (more math).
- Have low hooks near the outside door. Teach them to hang their own coats up. You can do the same thing in their room for hanging pajamas.
- Let them be responsible for emptying the bathroom trash.
- Make sure even the little ones put their dirty clothes in the hamper.
- Teach them to sort the laundry.
- Teach them what to do if they get lost.
- Teach them what to do if somebody tries to take them.
These are only a few of the things that toddlers and preschoolers can do. They naturally want to help. We mothers need to encourage them and guide them. Don't expect perfection, but praise their efforts. Do you have more ideas? Please comment below and share them!