How to Include Your Toddler While Doing Laundry

Photo Credit:  Muhammadtaha Ibrahim

Photo Credit: Muhammadtaha Ibrahim

My son was an early walker. That coupled with his curious nature, means he likes to follow me everywhere, including the laundry room. To him, there is so much fun stuff in there. So many buttons to push on the washer and dryer. He’s at that age where he loves to play with all the brooms, mops, buckets and other things one would find in a laundry room.

It would be easy to shoo him away and get things done quickly, but I don’t want to squelch his inquisitive nature; his love of learning as he explores the world around him. He feels a great sense of pride in helping me with the housework. At this age, he is not required to do any sort of chores, but allowing him to assist me builds his self-confidence by making his own contribution to the family.

I am hoping the early training will pay off in later years! It is my aim that he is doing all of his own laundry well before he graduates high school. Below are my tips on how to include a toddler in doing the laundry. I hope it gives you some inspiration!

Make Sure the Laundry Room is Safe and Child-Friendly. You might think that this would go without saying, but give it careful consideration. Take a look at the your laundry room from your child’s viewpoint and adjust the room accordingly. Are all the cleaning agents and supplies stored properly and out of reach including the laundry detergent or packs if you use those? Is everything properly labeled? Do you have the poison control number readily available in case the worst happens? Are your washer and dryer in good repair and all doors close and lock properly? Do you have a child-lock on the laundry room door?

Make it a Habit. Maybe you already have a plan for the never-ending cycle of laundry. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you are somewhere in-between. The secret is to make it habit. In The Gift of Failure, author Jessica Lahey discusses in detail the three important elements of a habit: cue, routine, and reward. For example, on the day of the week that I have planned to wash my son’s bedding, the cue is when breakfast is finished. At that time the habit begins. We go to his room and remove his bedding including is lovey and favorite blanket. Once we arrive at the laundry room, I carefully set him on top of the dryer so he can help put his items inside the washer. I add the laundry detergent and softener and he helps me push the lid closed. Then I help him select the appropriate wash cycle. He loves to see the buttons light up and hear the sounds they make. Then, he smiles ever so widely as he watches his bedding and lovely going around in the washing machine. The reward in this case, is in and of itself. At this age, just the satisfaction of a job well done, that he contributed to the task at hand, is cause for celebration. We clap together and I praise him for being such a good helper.

Have fun sorting and matching! This is a great learning opportunity for young children. Even if your child is very young, don’t underestimate their ability to pick up on sorting by color or matching socks. Even if they aren’t physically doing the tasks yet, the developing mind is catching on to more that you might realize. So, include them and have fun with it!

Talk! Explain everything as you go to build vocabulary. Use lots of descriptive words. Do this in detail even if your child is not yet verbal. The neural pathways are forming and even though it may seem silly, it’s actually a very smart thing to do.

Have Patience. This is probably the most important, in everything you do. Are there times when we transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer one at a time? Definitely. But instead of wishing the moment would go faster, I choose to enjoy the look on my son’s face as he helps me with the laundry. He is so focused, so precise. And he is also so proud of himself when he finishes and pushes the door shut. I’m playing the long-game and it’s worth it.

What other tips would you add? Share them with me!

14 Reasons to Teach Your Child to Cook

Photo Credit:  Daria Obymaha

Photo Credit: Daria Obymaha

My son is just a year old, but already showing signs of wanting to help in the kitchen. And there are some things I do allow him to help with, such as putting dishes away and so much more that I want to build on as he grows up. Below is a list of important reasons to teach your child to cook. I hope it leaves you inspired to have fun with your child or children in the kitchen!

  1. Learn About Nutrition. Helping your child learn to make healthy food choices for himself early on in life, will aid him in taking care of his own body. Start with basic concepts that can be understood given your child’s age level. Have fun learning about what the differences are between proteins, carbohydrates, and fats as well as which foods belong to which category and what constitutes a daily serving of each for your child.

  2. Learn About Food Safety. Teach your child how to properly store food. What temperature is best for which foods? What internal temperature do particular meats need to reach until they are cooked through and safe to eat? Consider any allergies in your family and circle of friends. How might certain foods need to be prepared in order to accommodate any particular needs? Why is this important? What might happen if food is not prepared properly? Discuss all of these points with your child.

  3. Practice Reading, Vocabulary & Reading Comprehension. Recipes and Cookbooks are great opportunities to get your child reading! It’s also a great way to build upon your child’s ever growing vocabulary and reading comprehension skills! While you are at it, if you don’t have one already, create a recipe book with your child of all your favorite family recipes and add to it as you find new ones!

  4. Provide Opportunity to Follow Instructions. Most kids need practice on following instructions and the kitchen provides a great place for just that purpose. Skipping a step or perhaps swapping an ingredient may lead to undesired results!

  5. Build Math Skills. Get your child thinking on his feet. Practice measurements, conversions and ratios. How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? How do you convert a recipe to the metric system and vice versa? How many calories are in a serving? How many grams are there of protein, carbohydrates, and fats?

  6. Build Science Skills. Short of the science lab, there’s probably no better place than the kitchen for science experiments. Chemistry and physics come to life right before your child’s eyes. It provides opportunities to learn about food pairings, flash freezing and so much more. Check out this cool video on Molecular Gastronomy. I definitely learned a few things while watching it!

  7. Enhance Fine Motor Skills. Sure your child might not be able to use a knife just yet, but don’t let that stop you from getting him in the kitchen! There are tons of ways to build on fine motor skills in the kitchen such as: filling measure cups, pouring, sifting, zesting, using a rolling pin, whisking, using a spatula, using cookie cutters, icing tools and so much more!

  8. Learn Where Food Comes From. Perhaps your child knows that food comes from the grocery store already, but what about before it gets there? Take a field trip and visit a farm to see the animals and crops. Start your own garden. Visit a bakery to learn about making fresh bread and other sweet treats. Learn about commercial fishing. Learning about where food comes from will give your child an appreciation for it to last a lifetime.

  9. Educate on Culture. Food and Culture go hand-in-hand. Teach your child about your own family culture and customs using food. Also, brand out and learn about new cultures together. How to others around the world celebrate with food? When you are traveling together, make a point to try the local dishes with your child and discuss them. You can also have fun recreating the dishes at home.

  10. Curb Picky Eating. Picky eating doesn’t stand a chance if your child takes the opportunity to help in the kitchen! Get your child involved in the process and watch him enjoy trying new foods.

  11. Expand Creativity. Let your child’s imagination take over the kitchen! Talk about what he might like to create and then set about making that happen. You are sure to be in for a few surprises and a good laugh!

  12. Build Confidence. Your child will take pride in his creations in the kitchen. Get ready to see his little face beaming as he says “I made it!” Cooking in the kitchen also has long-term benefits as your child learns this important life skill.

  13. Encourage Autonomy. As the years go by, your child will need to know how to care for himself. This includes cooking. While he may not be able to do everything by himself at the moment, start small. You might begin to get him ready to prepare his own snack if he is little. If he is older, perhaps he could start planning and preparing his own healthy breakfasts for the week.

  14. Spend Quality Time Together. It doesn’t get any better than this. Spending time with your child and creating memories are what it’s all about. The loving moments you share will bring warm memories for years to come. Long after your child has left the house. I may be old-fashioned, but I am holding onto special kitchen items to pass onto my son. What might you pass on? An antique serving platter? A special set of measuring cups and spoons? Cutting Board? Recipe Book?

What other reasons would you add? Share them with me!

7 Tips for Gardening with a Child

Photo Credit  Nubia Navvaro

Photo Credit Nubia Navvaro

One of the life skills that I am working to impart on my son is the knowledge of how to grow his own food. Not that he would necessarily ever have to, but he could if he wanted to, or he could choose to do so simply for his own enjoyment. In this article, I’ll outline 7 tips for how to start gardening with a child to help encourage interest and build upon childhood’s innate love of learning.

  1. Start Now. Even if you are new to gardening, you don’t have to wait until planting season to begin involving your child in gardening. Have your child be a part of the planning process. Have your child research what grows best in your area with you. Go out on your property together and discuss where might be the best location to plant which plants and why. Draw up a diagram of what is going to go where. Get out the calendar and write down a plan of what to do and when. For example, if you are going to start some plants from seed, select when you should pot them so they will be ready in time to plant in the garden.

  2. Make it Fun! The garden and pots can look pretty drab at first. Help bring a little color by adding a bit of whimsy to the garden through decorations. You can buy some at the store or better yet, make your own! You can create fun label markers for your plants, decorate your pots and create pet garden rocks. Better yet, ask your child how you should decorate the garden. You are sure to get some fun answers and it will help the child become even more engaged in the process.

  3. Get the Right Sized Tools. Gardening is no fun if you are just a small child and trying to water your garden with a huge and heavy watering can. Get a small watering can and other child-sized hand tools as well as gloves to make the experience enjoyable for your child. Also, don’t forget the sunblock and a hat!

  4. Designate One Garden Bed Just for Your Child. Let your child do whatever comes to the imagination in this particular garden bed. Let your child see first hand the results of what happens. As a parent, it is your job to let this bed belong completely to your child. That means you don’t even do any weeding. Whatever will be, will be!

  5. Keep a Journal. Record the events of the garden daily. This will add even more to the educational benefit. If your child is old enough to do the writing, all the better. You might want to including things like: date, temperature, rainfall, how each seed/plant is performing, the height and length of the plants, what soil combinations seemed to work well and which didn’t, how often the garden needs to be weeded, watered and pruned.

  6. Enjoy the Harvest! Use the yields of your garden to create family meals together. Your child will enjoy helping to prepare a meal using foods that came right from the family garden.

  7. Share with Others! Have your child prepare and deliver little care packages to family and friends. For example, you might find cute little containers to deliver strawberries. You could also help your child set up and small fruit and vegetable stand to share with neighbors either for free or perhaps accept donations to raise money for your child’s favorite charity.

There you have it! Your garden doesn’t have to be ornate to get the job done. The most important thing is the time you spend working on it together with your child.

Got any tips or ideas to share? Let me know!