I have written a few posts recently about requesting help and the difficulty many of us experience in doing so. It’s a topic that is oft repeated. Not only do many have difficulty in asking for help, we are often unsure about when to offer help, how to help, and whether any assistance will be beneficial.
In a comment on one of those posts Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal, said that the way our first cries for help are responded to in infancy influences our attitudes to asking for help later in life. I suggest that the way we are responded to when offering to help in those early years also influences our attitudes later.
In an earlier post entitled Lending a helping hand, I asserted that
“Little ones love to help and hate to be helped in almost equal measure. “Let me do it!” and “I can do it myself!” are two frequently heard phrases in households with little ones. Opportunities for both are essential for their developing sense of self, independence and confidence. Both require a great deal of patience on the part of parents and a larger allocation of time than one would normally feel necessary.”
Sometimes, when young children ask, “Can I help?”, parents are reluctant to involve them because of the additional time required, and often the extra effort it takes to clean up the mess that may also be created. However, I recommend that the time and energy expended are more than compensated for by the benefits to the parent-child relationship, as well as to the child’s development of knowledge and skills.
Just as time to play together and read together is factored into the family routine, it is important to set aside time for tasks such as cooking and cleaning that help to develop independence and life skills.
With cleaning, as with other tasks, it is important to provide guidance and encouragement, and to accept the result. Don’t expect the child’s efforts to match yours. You can always finish off the task later, if you must, when the child is out of sight. Expecting too high a standard or being too critical will discourage a child’s willingness to try again.
As at home, in the classroom children can take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves and working together to keep the room organised and tidy on a daily basis. It may take a little longer to establish good habits initially, but the benefits are reaped throughout the year.
When I was in the classroom I provided children with a number of strategies to help them develop organisation skills.
- At the beginning of the year I showed them how to organise their belongings in their tidy trays so that they could easily find what they were looking for. I made a photo display to provide visual as well as verbal reminders.
- Throughout the day I would play music or transition games to help them move from one activity to another, and to indicate how much time remained until they were to be ready for the next activity.
- We had a wonderful programme called You Can Do it! which helped children develop personal and social skills, one of which is organisation. We had a great set of songs to support development of the skills. At the end of each day when it was time to pack up, I would play the organisation song. The children would happily sing along and have the room neat and tidy and themselves ready for home by the time the song ended.
These simple strategies helped the day run smoothly and required a minimum of instructions and reminders.
Cooking, or more specifically food preparation not necessarily requiring heat, in the classroom requires additional planning which will be influenced by the facilities and support available. Whenever possible I organised cooking experiences for small groups with the assistance of an aide or parent volunteer. This gave children more opportunities for discussion and involvement.
I always organised for the healthy smiley face sandwich to be made in small groups.
Cutting up fruit and making fruit kebabs is suitable for small groups too. Children can be asked to bring in a serve of fruit to contribute to the choices. We used to have a daily mid-morning fruit snack so it did not require any extra effort on the part of parents, just scheduling on my part.
One of my favourite cakes to cook with children is a moon cake. It is both fun to make and delicious to eat, and provides many opportunities for discussion. It is just as suitable for making in the classroom as it is for home. I have prepared a guided recipe which will be available on my readilearn website.
I recently made the recipe with my grandchildren. They were eager to help and took turns to add and mix the ingredients. There are sufficient things to do to give everyone in a small group an opportunity of being involved. However, it is also suitable to do with the whole class observing while individual children do different tasks.
Making the cake provides great opportunities for observing, turn taking, vocabulary development, curiosity, and development of science knowledge. All of these contribute to life skills and experiences. And then there’s the treat at the end!
Although involving children in tasks like cooking and cleaning at home or at school involves extra organisation and time, it is well worth it for the long-term, as well as immediate, benefits.
Do you have any recollections of helping with tasks at home or at school? How did you feel about it? How has it influenced your current attitudes?
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.