Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Teaching Children to Enjoy Helping

1/9/2009 1:29:53 PM

Tags: teaching children

Children are such willing learners. If we are doing something, they want to be right in there “helping.”  A friend recently told me about her son’s enthusiasm for making coffee. He had been watching his dad fill the coffee maker with water and add the aromatic coffee to the little paper cone – and he wanted to help. So after a few “lessons,” Dad let him try it on his own. Within a week, the little boy was making the coffee each evening for his dad – with supervision, of course. Oh – did I mention that the little boy was just two years old?

During my preschool years my parents built a lovely two-story Cape Cod-style house. This was in the 1940s and Dad didn’t have any power tools to assist his efforts, so the house was built the old-fashioned way – using only hand tools. We lived in what would become the garage while the house was being built, and I was always under foot and wanting to “help.” What I remember most fondly about that time period was being Dad’s go-fer - finding the hammer, crescent wrench, nail set or flat-head screw driver, wherever it had been used last and left. At four years old, I could identify the different kinds of screw drivers and wrenches, and enjoyed the job of being Dad’s special helper.

I am wondering if we take the opportunity often enough to teach our children to enjoy helping and thus learning the skills that keep a home (and community) running and thriving. Sure, if you live on a farm there are eggs to collect and other useful chores. But what meaningful jobs can suburban kids do on a regular basis? Making a bed, filling the dishwasher and taking out the trash are good skills to know, but don’t always give children the feeling that they are contributing to the necessities of life. On the other hand, gardening, cooking and sorting the recyclables are tasks that just about any child can participate in. (It has been said that kids are more apt to eat the vegetables that they help to grow and pick.) And kids can learn about tools and how to be part of a team, just like I did, by helping to put up a garden fence, change the oil in the car or build a backyard tool shed.

The bottom line is that our children are our future. The skills they learn and learn to enjoy when they are young will stay with them their whole lives. What we all want is a world of folks for whom sustainability is a goal – living a life that is kind to the Earth and fosters wise use of its resources – including its people.

 



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Sam_27
3/25/2009 10:04:53 PM
As a girlguide leader, I've seen first hand how willing kids can be to help, and how sad it is that they grow out of that through being discouraged. My brownies (7-8) race to be finished eating and doing their dishes first at camp mealtimes, so that they can fight for the opportunity to wash my dishes as well! They get frustrated when parents won't let them pack their own bags. on the other hand, the pathfinders (12-15) stare at you with dull eyes and then go off to their own devices. Make use of the eagerness of the little ones while you can!!

dogear6
1/11/2009 7:30:51 PM
My daughter was only six when I taught her how to help me cook. I put a stool up by the sink, showed her how to use a scrub brush and turned her loose on the carrots. Within a few years she was accomplished at many things in the kitchen, including using sharp knives. It helped me out a lot, was fun for her and gave us time together.

MC_2
1/11/2009 11:33:23 AM
One of the main things, I think, in getting kids to help is letting them do it well before conventional reasoning tells you they are old enough to be "useful." Remember that nobody is born knowing what to do-- even if we are born with talents and proclivities. I think letting kids learn the things they want to learn, whether it's what you want them to learn or not (within reason anyway) also helps. At least at first. No one can get through life learning only what they really want to know, but it's a good place to start building knowledge and confidence to acquire less-desired skills later on. I know my folks never wanted me underfoot; if I wanted to help with something, I had to wait until I was old enough to have learned to do it on my own. As a result of that, I struggled to learn even basic things. If I hadn't had friends who had more responsibilities than they really should have-- and therefore needed my help whether I was any good at it or not-- I'd probably be totally useless. By turns, my 7-year-old can weed and water the garden, cook (or anyway heat) simple meals, clean her own room (though that's definitely one of those less-desired skills), identify and use basic hand tools, sew well enough to hold two things together (if not necessarily straight). A whole bunch of stuff. I feel better knowing that, if I were to drop dead with no one else around, she could keep herself and her little brother alive for a couple days until someone wondered what was up and came to check.







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