Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nurturing a Love for Work

One of the things the Montessori approach to education rightly points out is that children naturally like to work.  Not fake work, but real work.  I remember as a child having toy kitchen sets and such, but these were not nearly so exciting to me as the thought of working in the real kitchen.  Of course, things can go a lot slower for a mom with an 18 month old "helping" in the real kitchen, but I know that if I wait until she is 6 or 7 to start asking her to help, she will have to form the habits and skills of real work without the magical attraction she is naturally experiencing right now.  So these are some of the activities we do together around the house to satisfy and nurture her love for work.  

1.  Laundry.  She LOVES putting things into baskets, and so she helps me put the clothes from the closet into the laundry basket.  Then we drag the basket together to the laundry room (this requires some maneuvering, because stairs are involved, but we make it work).  She hands me the clothes piece by piece and I put them into the washer.  (This typically only lasts through about 5 pieces of clothing before she begins to explore other parts of the laundry room, and because the point is for her to LIKE it, I don't push her too much).  She also helps me take the clothes out of the dryer and put them into the basket again.  We drag the basket to the living room, where I fold the clothes, and then she carries them to put them into the proper closet or chest of drawers (with me right beside her, otherwise the clothes have been known to end up in places like the cabinet below the sink in the bathroom).

2.  Kitchen.  Before dinner, she helps set the table by putting one napkin at each spot.  After dinner, if her dad or someone is with me, he will give her one item off the table at a time to bring to me, and I receive it and put it away.  She gets such a kick out of this, which makes it more fun for me, as well.  I also give her a wipe rag and she helps wipe a little section of the table for me.  (Then she'll, like, take the rag and wipe the carpet with it or something).  When making dinner, she gets little jobs.  Like, when we make something with pasta, she gets to pour the pasta into the water (I hold and guide her hand carefully).  When making pizza crust or bread, she gets to help pat and squeeze the dough (and give it kisses for added sweetness).  

3.  Vacuuming.  She LOVES vacuum time.  I've never vacuumed so much in my life as I do with my toddler around, because she likes it so much and it is such an easy way of keeping the living area from getting too messy.  I just say, "Let's vacuum!  Pick everything up off the floor!  Up!  Up!  Let's clean up!"  I mostly pick the stuff up, but I will also point to a specific toy, tell her where it goes, walk with her to the location, point to the location, and watch her put it there.  She helps me pull the chairs away from the dining room table, one by one, so I can clean under there.  Then she plays on the chairs or with some toy she found while we were picking things up while I vacuum, and when I'm done she helps pull the chairs back where they go.  

I would love to learn how other people have their toddlers help around the house!   


Queen of Carrots said...

My kids love to play a game which has no adequate name, but essentially they get a stool and sit in the middle of the living room, then I give them different random instructions: Go touch the front door; find three books and put them back on the shelf; turn around and put your hands on your head; find something green (and then put it away).

I've had my kids putting their own clothes in the hamper since they could walk, but I just recently got low hooks installed in their bedroom so that they could hang up their clothes. My 2 1/2 year old still has a little trouble with this, but I would have started him at least "helping" hang up the clothes much younger if I'd had the hooks.

My kids *love* helping clean the bathroom. Well, they get a spray bottle with just water (or maybe a water/vinegar/essential oil solution) and spray it around at random. This can easily get out of hand. But I hope they retain at least a little of their current enthusiasm when they're big enough to really clean the bathroom.

klh said...

That's great! I've had a hard time figuring out the bathroom cleaning. The spray bottle idea is fabulous.

Donielle said...

Hey - just found your blog!

With my little guy (22mo.) he helps get the dishwasher sop out of the cupboard, load the washing machine with his clothes (we have a front load so it's the perfect height) feed the dog, wipe up any spill off the kitchen floor, and general cleaning. Now that he can say "mess" he loves to clean up anything I call a mess. Gotta love it!