Grateful For Young Helping Hands

Beth Pinyerd
Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

As we enter this season of November, in which we can celebrate the whole season in gratitude, I drive down the streets of Opelika and out in the county and am awed by the beautiful autumn colors this year. It will take your breath away. You do not have to go to other states or other places to enjoy fall beauty — God has provided us a truly beautiful fall right here. We just have to slow down, be still and look at the beautiful trees which line our roads and dot our landscapes everywhere. This kind of fall driving adventure is so good for young children to see and experience. The evening sun shining through the beautiful fall leaves is a beautiful masterpiece.

I also know from our church nursery, when we have services, that our young children love to be picked up and look through our windows as the fall sky breaks out in pink and blue as the sun goes down. They absolutely love seeing the different colors spread across the sky.

As we enter this season of gratitude and harvest in all that God has done, many of our activities turn toward our homes in family celebrations. This is such a special season to include your children as helping hands. Children love to help. I know as a teacher and parent that it takes time to guide little hands in learning to pick up and clean up. Sometimes, as adults, we want to go ahead and do it ourselves, but we must remember this is how young children learn. Assigning age-developmental tasks that young children can do truly gives our children a gift of feeling responsible and trusted when we allow them to help us at home and in the classroom. It may take a little longer to do a chore, but it is well worth it. It is a life lesson.

There are so many readiness and academic lessons to be learned through household chores that truthfully aid your child’s developmental learning. Sorting laundry into piles, like the family’s dirty or clean clothes, allows them to sort what belongs to mom, dad, brother, sister, etc. They can sort and pair up socks that are alike and different. They can sort silverware by putting forks in one slot and spoons in another slot. They can also help sort coins into proper stacks of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters as you straighten up around the house.

Taking time to teach your child to set the table — like counting how many family members you have and how many plates, cups, forks and knives will be needed for each family member — teaches your child about patterning and one-to-one correspondence.

When children help their parents to safely cook in the kitchen, they learn order and sequence by following the steps of a recipe. To let a parent know when the timer goes off teaches a child the concept of the length of time and using the clock to tell time. In the kitchen, the quantities of measurement can also be taught.

Fractions can be taught as you cut up fruits and vegetables. Comparing sizes and amounts is another math lesson learned. 

Children, when they are taught and they observe their parents or teachers, love to clean. One of my rewards to my students if we have had a good week is for us to clean the classroom on a Friday afternoon before going home for the weekend. The magic of SAFELY spraying a cleanser just fascinates young children. Their little hands will scrub and scrub as they feel like they are important in helping their family. I love to spray shaving cream on my classroom tables for the children to draw pictures in, as well as clean the table. Instruct them not to rub the cream in their eyes. This idea can be adapted in cleaning bathroom counters or other hard surfaces in the home.

Children love to sweep and mop with small toy brooms and mops in small areas where they can see results. This suggestion requires parent assessment and guidance, but let your child (if not allergic to dust) draw with their fingers in dust before safely dusting the furniture in different shape motions, like a circular or rectangular motion. Under parents’ guidance, furniture polish can be used.  Children love to shine a table and see their reflection. 

In their rooms, spending time to show them how to pick up their toys and putting them in the same spot requires time, patience and clear directions. Again, children need routine and repetition so they can gain a sense of confidence when they put their toys back in the right spot. Also, taking the time to show your little ones how to make their bed, sort their books from smallest to largest and just straighten up their rooms teaches a child how to be proud of their own space. As an early childhood teacher, I have seen this happen over and over in the classroom when children are taught how to help and clean up. We all like to be rewarded for the work we have done. With children, simply keeping a paper chart where they can see when you reward them with a happy face or sticker is all they need. This kind of simple reinforcement will encourage them to help you when they see a need! 


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