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Children love to spend time working alongside the adults around them. They delight in practical activities like washing dishes, scrubbing vegetables, wiping tables and sweeping up crumbs. Helping to care for the home environment is a wonderful way for a young child to learn that his contributions are of value. These activities also help develop social skills, independence, fine motor skills, as well as strengthen intellect, concentration, and personal will.
Through the activities of Practical Life, children not only perform a task; they are also forming foundations on which to organize skills and intelligence. Through these activities, children develop concentration, become aware of order and sequencing, gain control over their movements, become more independent, and learn to care for their surroundings.
To encourage our young children to clean up spills and breakages at home we start with good role modeling and continue will a lot of patience and a few child-size tools. We consider:
- Good role modeling - clean up our own spills slowly and precisely if the child is observing.
- Starting young - once the child can walk confidently, they can swat down and swipe up a spill, from around 18 months many children will be able to wipe up a small spill independently and can get a feeling of satisfaction from it.
- Small, child accessible cleaning tools - it's really not about the 'stuff'. A small cloth is essential though. Make sure the child can reach it without any adult help. The child needs to know where the cleaning materials are and be able to independently reach them.
- Verbal prompts - if my child isn't cleaning up a spill I will give a verbal prompt, "I see you've spilled the milk, let's find a cloth and wipe this up".
- Cleaning up together - if my child isn't interested in cleaning up I will suggest we clean up together "do you want to wipe or spray", "do you want to sweep or hold the dustpan?".
- Development of practical life skills - children need practice to develop practical life skills like pouring, wiping, sweeping. These all require strength, coordination, and concentration. Mistakes or spills are a part of the process that we can, if possible, embrace. This is a learning process and children can learn a lot from spills and breakages.
- Staying positive and embrace the cleanup - spills and breakages will happen, we can teach children to be resilient and clean up the spills without drama.