Our four children are eager helpers. They love to wield dust cloths and mop the floor. Their zeal, in fact, sometimes leads to squabbling over who gets to stir the pancake batter or put the napkins on the table.
In truth, I’d prefer to spare myself a counter smeared with pancake batter, or rumpled napkins sitting willy-nilly on the table. Household tasks get accomplished faster and more efficiently when I do them myself.
And yet, I’ve realized that my children’s willing hands are a gift. I’ve come to understand the importance of capturing their enthusiasm when they’re young. And I know that, as a parent, I’m wise to accept their enthusiasm, in all its imperfection. By accepting and encouraging their help, my husband and I are teaching our children that they play an essential role in our household. We’re helping them build confidence in their abilities so that, as they mature, they’ll be ready to take on more responsibilities.
When they work alongside us to clear the table or take out the garbage, they’re learning for themselves about the effort it takes to maintain our home. When they help prepare the food we eat, they’re more apt to appreciate what we serve them. And when they help us find items on our list at the grocery store or learn how to shop wisely, they’re gaining practical skills that we hope will stick with them into adulthood.
To make the most of their willingness to help, we’ve invested in a few tools made specifically for children. For example, when we recently painted their playhouse, we bought small, inexpensive brushes that were easy for our children to use so they could work alongside us to complete the project. We’ve also purchased a child-sized broom and dust pan so that they can handle after-meal clean-up on their own.
The new broom and dust pan, in particular, have been a worthwhile investment. These items hang on a hook near the back door, in a place that our children can reach themselves. Amazingly, our kids are anxious for their opportunity to sweep, and even our 2-year-old is able to use the tools with relative ease.
The positive results we’re seeing are definitely worth the extra time and effort it takes to include our young children in everyday household tasks. Happy, capable children – and a cleaner floor – are some of the rewards we’ve enjoyed already.