Guest Post by Charity Hawkins
You probably know that giving your children chores teaches them responsibility and is good for your own sanity, but did you know it actually helps develop their brains?
Crafts and educational projects are fine, but your children can probably learn just as much by helping you clean the house.
Folding Washcloths (toddlers, preschoolers)
My favorite chore for my two-year-old is folding washcloths. It’s easy, he loves it, and it doesn’t create more of a mess for me.
I took a basket of washcloths to our homeschool co-op the other day and taught the toddlers and preschoolers how to fold: in half, then in half again (fine motor skills, pre-handwriting). What shape does that make? (shapes) What colors are they? (colors) How many washcloths did we fold? (math)
Cleaning Up (all ages)
When you teach your toddler to put her toys in the basket or hang her jacket on the hook, you are teaching sorting (pre-math). She is also learning character—responsibility and neatness.
Cleaning up teaches language skills (pre-reading) and following directions. If you ask a preschooler to take something to the kitchen, put it in the sink, and come back to you, she has to a) understand the request, 2) remember what she’s supposed to be doing when she gets to the kitchen, and 3) remember to come back to you. These are no small things. In order to follow two- or three-part instructions, she has to hold an image in her head (pre-reading).
We play a Ten-Minute Tidy game. I’ll stand in the living room and give instructions to my kids: “Please take those dirty socks to the hamper,” “Put the bear in your room,” or something easy for my toddler like, “Put this book in the basket.” They have to answer, “Yes, Mommy!” with a cheerful smile, then come back and say, “What’s my next job, Mom?” It’s all very cheesy, but it teaches them to obey quickly with a cheerful attitude. And it doesn’t hurt that the living room gets cleaned up in the process.
Wiping Off the Table (preschool, grade school)
Every time you let your child use large muscle groups you are preparing him for reading. Children’s brains have to form in this order: large motor skills, fine motor skills, then ocular tracking (eye movement necessary for reading)[i].
The next time you are too tired to pull out an ‘educational activity,’ just invite your kids to help you clean the living room. You’ll be teaching character and preparing their brains for math and reading. And ending up with a cleaner house never hurts.
Charity Hawkins is a pen name, but the real author lives and writes in Oklahoma where she homeschools her three children and gives them lots of opportunities to clean up the living room.
[i] Most of the neurological information in this post comes from Jane Healy’s book, Your Child’s Growing Mind.
What are your favorite kid-friendly chores (real or play)? What do your kids love (or hate!) to help with?