THIS POST IS A PART OF A 31 DAY SERIES TO INVITE OUR KIDS INTO THE KITCHEN. FIND THE REST OF THE SERIES HERE.
Each night before my children go to bed, I ask them to straighten up their rooms. The request is motivated in part by a desire to instill good habits, but also because I have no desire to tread on LEGOS or trip headlong over a strategically positioned rocking chair in the middle of the night.
Despite its being a daily habit, the request to clean their rooms is not always well received (i.e., grumbling and foot dragging ensue). However, last night my sons took me by surprise when I asked them to clean up their sister’s room after attending to their own. They had the idea to clean it themselves, sans help or supervision, and instructed us to stay out of the way while they worked.
Their faces were beaming when we were finally allowed admittance to the room. My eldest son proudly showed me how he had neatly arranged her bookshelf. We oohed and ahhed over the crib being “made up” with the quilt stretched across the mattress. Even my daughter’s doll was neatly placed in the cradle and tucked in with a soft toddler scarf.
This was not the typical behavior of my five-year-old and three-year-old sons. But, atypical though it may be, it still serves as evidence of their potential and the fruit of character-building work day in and day out.
The icing on the cake was when my three year old informed me he planned to continue cleaning the house so that we could invite a dear family over to play one day soon. YES, YES, YES! Now it was me who was beaming, thrilled to see the connections he was making between our work and our service and friendship to others.
Our children have the ability to do much more than we realize, and by giving them tasks and daily chores, we provide them with the opportunity to learn many valuable lessons. Often, it is not a matter of my children’s unwillingness to help, but my hesitance to accept their help.
I am still learning to slow down and let them help. Maybe you are too. Below are some motivations for us to take the longer route and then ten ideas for tasks even our young children can take on.
Five Lessons Kids Learn By Participating in Food Related Chores:
1. The value of helping others.
“It is more blessed to give than receive.” Helping others is a blessing for both the helper and the recipient, and even the youngest of learners can appreciate the satisfaction that comes after being helpful and kind.
2. The “behind-the-scenes” work a meal requires.
Getting food on the table three times a day takes considerable work. If our kids are always called to the table after the preparations are complete and always shooed out of the kitchen while we work, they cannot appreciate the hard work which goes unseen.
Allowing them to occasionally take part in the preparing of food helps them to understand and develop a sense of gratitude for the food they receive everyday.
3. Responsibility and routine.
Life is mostly routine and mundanity. There is beauty in the mundane, yes, but sheltering our kids from all responsibilities until they reach the age when the full weight of adulthood is thrust upon them is not doing them any favors. (Ask me how I know…)
Starting kids with daily responsibilities while they are young is like dipping your toes into the shallow end of a chilly pool. Little by little, they learn to expect both a time to work and a time to play in life.
4. How to work together to complete a task.
Let’s face it, working together with other people is not always easy. Setting the table together, cleaning up the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher- all of these tasks are opportunities to practice taking turns and respectfully dividing the labor.
5. Every family member ought to contribute to the work in the home.
This is something that my children hear me say with great frequency. Mama is not the only one who contributes to keeping the house tidy and the people in it well fed. It is easy to take people for granted, but less so when everyone is contributing to the work.
The tasks below are chores which I am gradually teaching my children to take on (in addition to actually helping cook the food). They are simple and easy to accomplish, but still offer meaningful help. If you have more ideas for kitchen-related daily chores for young children, please share them in the comments so we can all get a few more ideas!
10 Chores Young Children Can Do Themselves:
1. Carry plates and silverware to the table before a meal.
2. Set the table.
3. Pass out napkins.
4. Fill drink glasses with water for a meal.
5. Rinse off plate and place in dishwasher after a meal.
6. (Help) Unload the dishwasher.
7. Clear the table.
8. Wipe off the table.
9. Help carry lightweight bags to the car at the grocery store.
10. Help to unload groceries after a trip to the store.
Do your children have daily chores for which they are responsible?
What is it that often keeps you from accepting their help?
Find the rest of the Kids in the Kitchen posts on the series page.
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