Toddler labour, or rather, Practical Life

As I sit here typing these words, my 18 month old is cleaning up the kitchen.

Yes. She is helping me by putting all the cuttlery (except for the knives) into the cuttlery drawer (with aid of a step).

Of her own free will.

While I watch this phenomenon, comments I’ve heard people make run through my head. They said things like “oh, he wants to help but I can do it quicker if I could just do it myself”, or “I don’t have time to watch her”, or “he’ll break something, or hurt himself”.

Well, technically, I agree.  All of these things are true. On the other hand, the child needs something to do. We all know how toddlers want to be with you and imitate you all the time. This is both joyful (for you and her) and exhasperating (again, for both of you). If she does in fact hurt herself, you’ll feel bad. If she does in fact break a plate by dropping it on the floor, it’s a pain. You now have an upset toddler, pieces of plate that could cut someone, and a mess to clean up.

BUT, what if she doesn’t have any accidents? What if you are observant and proactive? What if you show her how to do it?

Maria Montessori called this “the Practical Life”..

I am a fan of the Montessori methods.

Earlier, Sonja and I emptied the dishwasher together. She got a lot of the plates out and brought them to me so I could put them away into the cupboard. Then she moved on to the bowls.

The bowls were stuck though. She couldn’t get them out. I said, verbally, without demonstrating, “pick them up from the bottom”. I was prepared to show her how but by the time I stepped up to the dishwasher, she had figured it out herself.

I don’t know if she understood the words but she moved her hands around and when the bowl came loose, she took it out and brought it to me. And continued with the remaining bowls in the same fashion.

I thought “what a smart girl….”.

So yes, it took a bit longer to empty out the dishwasher. But really, emptying out the dishwasher by myself  is about as much fun as sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with a fidgety toddler. And the expression of pride in her face every time I thanked her for giving me an item…now THAT was priceless!

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