Are you always behind on everything on your to-do list, but you’re busy all the time? Ever wonder where your peace went? Did you leave your old hobbies and interests back in another year? Let me tell you something right now. Your child wants you to be happy, and they want to contribute to the care they receive. Believe it or not, they even want you to be cared for as well. They certainly don’t want to be a burden, and they actually don’t need to be entertained (though they will want to if that’s what they’re used to!)
The key is to plan ahead, and more specifically to design a sequence of events that occur throughout the day, every day to help the day unfold smoothly and peacefully for the whole family. It seems like a daunting task with huge stumbling blocks (and perhaps even some exasperated excuses) at first, but with forethought this simple step can create an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration for both you and your children.
First, let me talk about the elephant in the room. The Big Letters T and V. Ours is certainly big enough and uncomfortably (for me at least) prominent in our living room to discuss. The problem with TV is that it is a drug. It just is. For more information about it, please read The Plug-In Drug. It affects the brain in the same way sugar or any other pleasurable substance does, and they more it is consumed the more strong the urge to keep consuming it becomes. The best thing of course would be getting rid of it all together. I’m such a big fan of that. But it’s so strong in our culture that I feel the unfortunate need to say, the second best thing would be to severely limit screen time (i.e. once a week for a very short time). Believe it or not, kids need time to be bored. Boredom is the precursor to creativity (by creativity I really mean child-lead imaginative play.) Just think about how every moment your child is a pacified zombie in front of a screen, is a moment your child could be spending fully engaged in REAL life with their mind, body and soul.
When you take care of the things in your life that need tending to, you’re actually showing your child what it means to be human. Everything you do is a functional model for them to follow as they grow. It’s so important that you do the things that are not only necessary, but the things that are good for you. The things that are good for the world. The things that make you happy and healthy.
At about the age of 2, children become not only able but eager to help you in your endeavors. It may take a bit of practice, but if you let them they can help you fold clothes (or maybe just throw the wet laundry into the drier). They can help you put dishes away (try wooden bowls!) and they can certainly pick up their toys (As long as they don’t have too many!). Involve your child in not only their own care routines, but the care routines of the house and yard. Let them put some of the groceries on the conveyor belt. Let them carry a few items into the house when you’re unloading the car.
The benefit to this is threefold. A child’s feelings of self-confidence is definitely boosted when they are helping to care for themselves, but it is boosted even more when they are helping to care for others. You are going through your day with your child, getting chores done alongside them as they need to be accomplished, instead of waiting for naptime or the end of the night. In this way you’re keeping your house peaceful and free of clutter and uncompleted tasks. You’re also allowing yourself to have the time during nap or night time to do the things you love to do, or simply to relax.
The learning and sensory experiences involved with chores are beautiful. The soil in the garden replaces play dough. Using a safe knife to cut pears replaces the toy knife. The bubbly water in the sink replaces the water table. The fine motor skills practiced to pull weeds, or the large motor skills needed to sweep up. Talking about colors while folding laundry, or letters while writing the shopping list. Another term for this is “Life as the Curriculum” and is also the Lifeways model of child care. Instead of creating a contrived life for your child full of classes and preconceived play scenarios, just allow them to be a part of your life. Give them time to play independently (in this way they will experiment and replay the real life scenarios to further assimilate the learning in their brain!)
It’s most certainly an old way of thinking and doing things, a life wrought of necessity. It’s certainly contradictory to everything we are told we need to provide our children (505 Summer Play Themes to Keep Your Toddler Busy… Pinterest, I’m looking at you…) But what a beautiful, peaceful way of life for you, your child and your family!