Tis the season for all things magical, spiritual and plentiful—and none are as enjoyable without children. Children are gifts for all of us and a hope for the future, so what in comparison can we give our children beyond the latest advertised toy on the market?
There is, debatably, nothing grander than providing help toward independence. The ability to do for our self and think for our self is one of the higher attributes we all strive for. However, how do we give independence to our children when, by its very definition, it is developed through their own effort and activity?
We can give the gift of independence by allowing them to be included in everyday activities and showing them how to complete daily routine tasks. This can often go against our nature to nurture and dote over their every need.
There are three avenues parents can take to create a fertile ground for independence to develop:
(1)Prepare the environment.
(2) Break down each task into easy steps.
(3) Allot enough time to do this.
This formula can be used to facilitate using the toilet, feeding one’s self, dressing and other basic tasks.
Independent dressing should include dressers and closets where clothes are accessible for the child’s size. Keep the choices each day to a minimum by placing those items in a lower drawer or on low hangers. Make sure the clothes are easy to manipulate, with over-the-head type shirts and elastic waists. The ability to use snaps comes before buttons and buckles. Remember it is important to break down tasks into steps when showing your children how to put on shirts, socks or tie shoes.
When it comes to independent eating and drinking, it is harder to create an accessible environment in the kitchen—but not impossible. Using the same rationale as the bedroom, use lower drawers and cabinets in the kitchen for storing dishes and utensils for your child. Keep everything organized so your children can easily see where to return items after they have been washed. Let your child help wash off fruits and vegetables. You can either get plastic tubs, which can be filled with water, or get a sturdy stool that your child can use at the sink.
*TIP: Young children simply adore water. They also curious by nature and are drawn to sorting activities at a very young age.
Often, as adults, we view a spill as something awful. We try and avert such happenings and try to orchestrate our children away from such moments. For children, however, making a mess is an opportunity to learn how to clean up something. They need to not be scolded at times like this, but rather instructed on how to take care of their environment. Small, functional child-size brooms, mops and dustpans are not hard to find. A great gift would be a set of these that can be stored where the adult brooms are. They are not used as toys for playing, but for functional purposes. Give them help – but just enough – for them to clean up by themselves.
Having children is a huge responsibility. Helping them do things for themselves, by allowing them to be included in everyday activities and showing them how to complete daily routine tasks, shows them that you respect them, and are patient and willing to make time so they can be successful and self-confident. It is love in its highest form, and possibly the greatest gift we can give our children.