Today, I was chopping oranges to make marmalade. My 3 year old went and got a plastic knife from his play kitchen and climbed onto a stool to help me cut the oranges. At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the sticky juice he was dripping down the cabinets and onto the floor, but he was having a great time helping. My 5 year old wanted to help too, so I found him a safety knife I had gotten a while ago. We had discussed fractions briefly before, so I was surprised when he told me he was cutting his orange slices into quarters before cutting them into smaller pieces. I thought they might get tired and go play after a little while, but they stuck with it through two bags of oranges and a few lemons. They both did really well, although my 3 year old did occasionally just cut his slices into one long strip and then toss them in the pile, so I had to keep an eye out for those so I could cut them up a little more. Once I relaxed a little and started enjoying them helping, it was fun working with them.
I am not someone who finds it easy to have them help me. I like things done a certain way, and most of the time, a 3 or 5 year olds version is not going to be the way I would have done it. I also remember though the times I wanted to help my dad as a kid, and he didn’t like us to because we didn’t do things as perfectly as he would like. There are times I do better than others, but I have gotten better at letting the kids help, even if it is not done the way I wanted.
My 3 year old loves to help me stir when I am cooking. My older son prefers to help me measure. It can be a little exhausting trying to follow the recipe and keep track of both boys to make sure the bowl being stirred isn’t being spilled and that the amount of ingredients added are right. They have so much fun helping though, and my older son is learning fractions through using the measuring cups and spoons.
Before we moved last fall, our dishes were in an upper cabinet, so if the kids helped me empty the dishwasher, they could only take the dishes out and bring them to me. My husband is building our kitchen cabinets for our new house, and he’s been working on other projects, so we don’t have upper cabinets yet. Our dishes are on a lower shelf in the pantry currently. The kids love that they can get their own dishes when they want them. My 3 year old sets the table for dinner on his own now. Unfortunately, he also goes through about a pack of napkins a week now that he can reach them, but at least he’s trying to be clean. The boys both like to help empty the dishwasher, and now they can actually put them away. We may have to change things soon, as my 9 month old is already starting to stand by herself and will soon be getting into things that are not just on floor level, but I’d like to keep the dishes accessible to the boys.
My 3 year has been making his own tacos recently, as well as pouring milk in his cereal and his glass, and buttering his toast. We may have had to clean the counter and the floor a few times, but he is also learning not only the skills of pouring milk, but also that he is capable of doing things for himself. That is something he needs to learn to do well in life, no matter what practical skills he learns. My boys are confident in their ability to learn and do new things. I love watching them take on a new task, knowing they can do whatever they try. It is more than worth putting up with a little spilled milk, or marmalade with a few orange slices the size of the toast I will be putting it on in order to have kids that are confident about succeeding in life.
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