Now that he’s playing in the sink and I have a few minutes…
It seems like we’ve entered the season of Monkey See, Monkey Do. That is, Kiddo is all about doing what Mama’s doing these days. He saw me doing dishes and said “Want to play water”. This is nice, as it does keep him busy and it hasn’t yet appeared to impact the water bill. Finally, one good thing about the low-flow faucet! Some of the things we’re doing together:
Cooking: Kiddo likes to “poke the yolks” and “stir batter” for scrambled eggs and French toast. We’ve come into an abundance of zucchini, which is perfect for slicing into long strips and letting him cut with a butter knife on a cutting board at the table. (I work with the sharp knife at the counter and this space keeps him out of my work and far safer than being next to me.) Mushrooms are good for cutting practice too—just wipe clean, trim the stem and cut in half so it will lie flat on the cutting board. Apples also work if you are willing to precut, and bananas with their peels removed are easy cutting.
Laundry: He’s so excited now about the washer and dryer, it would be just criminal (and foolish) not to use this as a time to teach the basics, namely transferring the clothes from the pile on the floor into the washer, then from the washer to the dryer (I pull them out, shake them out and hand them to him), and finally from the dryer into the laundry basket. At that point, I need very little help, but he gets to learn about the process and loves to watch the water cascading into the washing machine basin.
Putting toys away: While Kiddo has been quite a pro at putting away toys for a while, I come across myself finding a lot of moments when he needs to have some adult involvement in the task. I’m noticing that it works better to clean up a toy right as we finish with it, and I can always make the transition more appealing by positing it in a friendly light ‘Let’s hop the blocks into the basket so we have room to play such-and-such”. Coming back to a mess seems to invite more play with the toys he was previously done with, so another reason for prompt cleanup. I also have found that talking to the toys and using dramatic play helps. The toys can be invited to “hop into” the basket, or sometimes we are a pusher and a crane, one of us pushing the toys toward the basket and the other picking them up and dropping them in. Sorting games also come in handy, as in “should we put in the blue blocks or the red blocks?” and also gives Kiddo a choice as to how we will clean up. Some toys we say “night night” to when we are finished with them and we cover them with a baby blanket to put them to bed. It’s amazing how well “out of sight, out of mind” works in this regard.
Yardwork: this is by far the trickiest of the lot. Kiddo wants to help, but when he sees Mama weeding, it’s just as likely that a ‘good’ plant will be plucked from the dirt as a weed. Likewise with the fruit; we are in a phase where the green fruit is getting pulled from the tomato and berry vines. Don’t get me started about the grapes! How can he resist? A lot of what I end up doing is redirecting him toward water play with the hose or over to the blueberry bushes to eat ripe fruit. He also has a few dirt patches to dig in. When he wants to pick, he is reminded that he may pick the rosemary, lavender, sage and lemon balm—all are safe—this gives him some choices so that he can pick and trim like me. This is an age, too, where kids notice us ‘eating leaves’ in our meals ( a la salads and chopped herbs) so keeping a close eye out for toxic plants and weeds is still important.
Cribbage: Joe has noted Kiddo’s interest in Daddy’s cribbage boards and has given him a board to play with. When I balked at letting our son play with the choking-hazard-little pegs, he reassured me that he would supervise and was using them to help our son count. I had to admit that I was skeptical at first, but Joe’s capitalized on a window of interest, and I have had more participation when reading counting books than I had before.
Sharing our world with Kiddo means more effort on our part to include him. But it also means that, side by side, there’s a lot of fun. Children who work with their families don’t just learn new skills; when we have a positive attitude about what we do, our children learn the value and importance of these activities in our daily lives. When we give them opportunities to contribute in real ways, our kids feel included in the family.
“You’re a big helper.” We tell our little guy. He smiles and repeats it. “Big helper.”
And you know what? He is.