Any parent will be able to tell you that toddlers love to work alongside them, helping with whatever task is at hand. Their imitation is such a strong force within and they love to be by our side participating in daily tasks, however they can. Often a small play kitchen of their own somewhere close by the home’s own kitchen is a wonderful way for them to imitate the work that is done in the home. Early start kitchen tools such as the KiddiKutter range are also fantastic for opening the opportunity for children, from a young age, to participate in appropriate, simple, home kitchen duties.
As Marlin is approaching three years of age, I am noticing in him a bigger desire to have tasks set for him that are ‘his’. I don’t remember this being the case so much with Chilli at this age, however I guess being a second child and seeing that each person in the home has their own ‘tasks’ – chores, home duties, school work etc – and that certain things are just for each person, then Marlin would like some things that are ‘his’ to do around the home. For Chilli, with no other children in the home, the division was a lot simpler – “This is for Mummy and Daddy to do, this is for Chilli to do”. While Marlin still enjoys to work alongside us with tasks and participate in joint activities, he also wants tasks that are ‘just his’ to do – “Ma do, Ma do that by self, Ma big boy now” he says. Therefore, even though it takes a little more time, set up and attention, it is lovely for him, his emerging sense of independence and his own sense of achievement that we can find tasks that he can do on his own.
One of these things is washing of vegetables such as potatoes that need left on soil removed, before we can cook them – as well as eggs we’ve collected from the chickens, that might need a little wash off before they can be put away in the carton. Sure, setting up the array of materials he needs to do this task takes more time, organisation and fanfare – but the sense of achievement he has at the end of the task as well as the sense of worth he has in doing the task are worth all that extra arranging.
I especially like the task of washing eggs, because for a 3 year old boy who is quite the boy it allows for a great practise of ‘gentle hands’. There is also a ‘process’ that needs to be followed – a flow of steps, and he takes great pride in doing the job just as he is supposed to. Of course it’s not too complicated nor detailed, but a simple, few step rhythm that he delights in following. It’s great for developing his concentration and attention to the work he is doing. The focus on his little face and his immersion in the task while he is at work, is beautiful to watch.
For the egg washing, I set up a hand towel underneath. A deep sided bowl with a little cool water in it, in the middle of the space and a dry, clean hand towel beside the dish to the right. The egg basket is to the left and the carton is just over the back of the bowl. In the bowl is a soft but slightly abrasive coconut fibre washing pad which has broken in half through it’s use and is the perfect size for his little hand. The process he follows is;
- Place an egg from the basket into the bowl to soak
- Take the egg that has been soaking in the bowl and rub over with the coconut pad, removing any dirt or grime
- Dry the egg on the hand towel
- Place the dry egg, point down into the egg carton
- Repeat the above steps until all eggs are clean, dry and in the carton
He thoroughly enjoyed this task yesterday when I set him up with it. We hadn’t been collecting our eggs for a few days while we were trying to get the chickens to start nesting (so we can get some fertilised eggs for babies! Yay!) so there was quite a collection of eggs. He patiently and with great focus, stood on his ‘moose‘ and tended to his task with great attention. When the carton was full, he climbed down and said “Ma have to get ‘nudda carton – that one full up”. It took him a good 20 minutes or so to complete his task and when he was done, he proudly told me “Eggs finished now Mumma”.
What are the meaningful tasks that your toddler enjoys to help with or take ownership of?