I’m a firm believer in allowing your kids the chance to serve as an apprentice. Long ago, it was how kids became adults, whereas now, kids are often disconnected from this process. Whether your sous chef in the kitchen or your tool holder while you do repairs, there is so much to be learned when kids work alongside adults.
Around the House
Everything from changing batteries to actual home upgrades are worthwhile for kids. My little one has known how to get out the correct screwdriver and replace batteries in remotes, toys, and electronics since she was in preschool. Not only is this actually helpful, but her confidence in identifying AAA vs. AA and knowing how to use a tool correctly leaves her beaming. This summer, we tackled a bunch of projects around the house- putting in a new floor, ripping up carpets and staples, hanging shelves. With each task, one of my kids was the helper. This is a great opportunity to teach safety- when to wear goggles, closed-toed shoes, long sleeves or pants, how to property circulate air if working with paint. As is so often true, the child starts out as the helper, but quickly becomes an equal counterpart in the completion of the task. Not only are you getting actual assistance, but you’re building your child’s confidence and future abilities.
In the Kitchen
I’ve talked about this plenty before, but it is worth repeating. Letting your kids help in the kitchen is always worth it. Yes, it’s going to take longer. Yes, they’re going to make a mess. Yes, they might even make a mistake and alter or even ruin what you’re making. Once, our finished product was so salty, it was inedible (then again, no one ever confused a tablespoon with a teaspoon). Once, my little one was helping me put ingredients into the crockpot and she banged the glass measuring cup too hard. It shattered, and we had to throw out all of the ingredients and start over. Did it suck, sure. Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate patience, understanding, dealing with frustration, and overcoming mistakes with grace. Furthermore, you and your child will both be delighted when he can suddenly make part (or all) of a meal. These are skills that will be used forever. Teach about knife and food safety, as well as ensure that your child will be able to survive on her own one day!
In the Yard
Planting vegetables and flowers, wedding the garden, watering and caring for things as they grow- all wonderful experiences for children. Older kids can be taught to safely use gardening tools and the lawnmower. Not only will they experience pride at the sight of their own flowers or vegetable harvest, but they may discover a passion and appreciation for nature that wouldn’t have been realized otherwise.
In our home, we believe in the Buddhist philosophy, “Leave No Trace.” In other words, don’t leave a mess behind. I tell my kids (husband!) that if they’ve cleaned up properly, I shouldn’t know they were there. Nothing like walking into a just-cleaned kitchen and finding the remnants of someone’s last snack! As your kids (undoubtedly) follow you around the house, teach them to clean as they go. I try to make it an automatic part of whatever we’re doing. Sure, have fun! Make a fort, spread peanut butter on apple slices, put fresh batteries in the remote, throw your dolls a parade! But when you’re done… put it all away. What’s more, as you do household chores, let your child watch and help. How exactly do you properly sweep, wash the front door, dust the piano keys? Before expecting kids to pitch in, show them the way you want it done.
With any luck, you’ll enjoy having your kids home for the summer, and miss their sweet smiles (and helpful hands!) as August draws to a close. Until then, apprentice them!