Today’s post is about purposeful and meaningful work for children. What qualifies as meaningful work for children? How will your tot benefit by engaging in these types of activities? How can you incorporate meaningful work for your child into daily life?
Here’s one activity we did today from the Leaping Lilies curriculum
This week’s Theme: Bed Time
Activity Description: Chores: Teach your tot how to make his/her bed. Make it his/her responsibility each day.
This Activity’s Main Area of Development: Emotional Learning
Specific Skill: Doing ‘real’ work
O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 2 years + 5 months
- What is meant by real work?
– It’s Not Pretend: Real, meaningful work for children is not the kind where you are sweeping and your little one is sweeping beside you with a toy version of a broom. It’s not when you give your tot a menial ‘task’ to keep him occupied while you actually do the ‘real’ work. Real work is completing jobs that are useful and actually need to get done.
– It’s Done Independently: While it may be necessary to help and guide the first couple of times a job is attempted, eventually real work is something your tot can do independently. However, even though your tot is doing things independently, this doesn’t mean that you can’t work together. Take gardening as an example. You can be gardening together, but you are not standing over your tot saying what needs to be done. Your tot has a meaningful job in the garden (a job that needs doing) and she does it (while you are also in the garden doing your job). It could even be the same job (like watering) but you are not holding the watering can together. Your tot has a watering can and is responsible for a certain portion of the garden while you have your watering can, watering another portion of the garden. Thus, you are working together, but also independently.
– It Benefits Others: Real and meaningful work for children is not simply done for reward or personal gain, it affects and/or helps others. It’s not something like cleaning up toys to earn a sticker or a ‘plus’ on the reward chart. We can use gardening again as an example where many people would benefit from their work. (Children who consistently engage in this kind of work continue to be of benefit to their families and communities throughout their lives because they have experienced and realized the importance and joy of benefiting others, rather than only themselves.)
- How can doing ‘real’ work benefit my child?
– A Sense of Purpose: Engaging in useful work provides a sense of purpose and pride (the same goes for adults!). Your children will feel productive and see that they are a valuable and contributing member of your family.
– Overcoming Obstacles: Challenging your children with meaningful work provides you with an opportunity to encourage them to persevere through difficulties, instilling in them a feeling of achievement. By providing an opportunity to achieve something more difficult, you can raise their self-esteem in a very concrete way. They will realize, through action, what they are capable of.
- What kinds of work?
The types of meaningful work for children is varied and really depends on the age of your child and your family circumstances. For very young children (like mine) it could be simple chores. For school aged children perhaps things like cooking and gardening. For teens it could be house repairs/maintenance or even paid employment. In all cases, the work should be safe (or in the case of older children, they should know what the safety concerns are, how to avoid accidents and what to do if an accident occurs).
- M making her bed – The girls really enjoy doing this and I am often surprised by how much attention to detail there is. It was a bit slow today but M got there in the end (with a bit of grunting to help her through the more difficult parts!)