Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Little Hands Can Help

Back in August, as a break from writing about baby sign language, I wrote about the idea of “chores” for young children. The point I made there was that it’s the smart parent who takes advantage of the toddler’s natural desire to “help” by letting him or her do so and then consciously rewarding even feeble efforts in that direction. The goal is to get young children in the habit of cooperating.

There are lots of advantages to having young children help out besides the (sometimes marginal) benefit of not having to do all the work yourself. Having children contribute to the work of a household teaches them a wide variety of valuable lessons:

• Keeps them from feeling entitled to be waited on.
• Makes them aware of how much work it is to keep a household functioning, thereby making them more appreciative of the contributions of others.
• Makes them feel part of the family “team.”
• Teaches specific skills (e.g., carrying dishes carefully, sorting clothes, etc.)
• Strengthens self-esteem by eliciting praise from parents.

But, you may be thinking, can really little ones actually do? Here are some ideas:
• Use a hand vacuum or small broom to clean up crumbs (see photo!)
• Add water and food to pet bowls
• Water plants outside (with a watering can or spray bottle)
• Help you move wet clothes from the washer to the dryer
• Put newspapers in the recycle container
• Transfer groceries from bags to a shelf or table.
• Put placemats on the table and napkins at each place (and maybe silverward)
• Carry dishes (a few at a time) to the kitchen
• Pull blankets up neatly on their beds and tuck pajamas away
• Exercise the dog by playing fetch with ball, stick, or frisbee

And of course, the old favorite, put their toys away at bedtime!

Happy Signing
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Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
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