Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

My daughters are two and four, and even at these young ages I see how much they welcome some responsibility around the house, and how proud they are when they can accomplish “grown up” tasks.  Household chores provide a wonderful way for little ones to learn and practice new skills.  Parents may also find that they come to appreciate the task in a new way, as you start to view it as a learning tool.

In my home, I’ve noticed how much smoother mealtimes are when I invite the children to help with some preparation and some clean up afterward.  In the morning, as I put their breakfasts on the table, I fill the sink with warm soapy water and set up a sturdy stool.  We eat together, and then I ask each child to take a turn washing her own cup, bowl and spoon at the sink.  Usually, at least one of the girls will enjoy this so much she will continue to help me wash other dishes, pots and the table.

I’ve also designated one kitchen drawer, “The Kid Drawer” where the child-sized utensils, place settings and napkins are kept.  They’ve each begun to pick their items and set the table for lunch and dinner.  This gives them a useful task to focus on during those hungry moments before the meal is ready, and it keeps them from fussing with each other too much.

Because they’re young, I’m not a stickler about chores.  If they’re playing quietly or engrossed in an art project before mealtime, I won’t interrupt them.  But if they’re looking for something to do, while I’m busy in the kitchen, it’s been fun to have their help, and I do believe we are setting the stage for continued participation as they grow.

Inviting young children to help with chores does mean that the grown-ups need to slow down and relax a little.  We need to view their involvement as an opportunity to connect, to share an experience and to help the child practice a new skill.  They are learning about life during these moments in the kitchen or dusting or making beds, and that is just as important as the housework that needs to get done (or more important!).

Who’s helping in your house?  Do your children have chores?

For parents of young children, here are some additional articles that go much more in-depth into the how’s and why’s of inviting children to help with household tasks.  Enjoy!

Joyful Toddlers: Young Kids and Chores

Simple Kids:  Kids in the Kitchen

For Small Hands is a wonderful resource for child-sized kitchen utensils and tools for yard work.

In the busy-ness of life, we often move, move, move forward without noticing the time or the space or the feelings that we’re moving through.  But what happens when we stand still?  When we relax for a moment, and breathe, and notice what is happening around us while we stand still?  Everything changes.

One simple ritual that helps me is pausing in my day to express gratitude.  It can be as easy as pausing while I’m washing the dishes to look out the window and feel gratitude for the sky and the trees.  I breathe deeply, feel gratitude and then return to my chore.  But I am calmer and happier as I finish those dishes.

This ritual has become such an amazing part of my life with my children, too.  It has been transformative to sit together as a family and name all that we are grateful for.  During dinner, we each take a turn sharing our favorite part of the day.  These can be short and sweet, sometimes silly, but they always leave us with a smile and a shared reminder that each day is special.

Sometimes we change this ritual up a little bit- especially when the day has seen a lot of bickering or frustration (from kids or adults!).  On those nights, we choose one family member to start with (we always know the one who really needs to hear it the most) and we go around the table, each of us telling something we love about that person.

Hearing these words, spoken aloud, changes the energy in my home every time.

Tension melts away, and is replaced by love.  My children’s small voices remind me of the absolute beauty waiting in every moment, if we just stand still and notice it.

The start of a new year carries with it so many possibilities!  I love the notion of a fresh start, or just creating a little more space in the New Year for things that are important to me and to my family.

In 2012, I want to create more space for connection to the people in my life–especially my children.  I thought about the activities that we’ve enjoyed together this past year- painting, simple crafts, baking, playing games- and then I wondered "what would make it easier to connect in these ways?"

It always comes back to space.

This feels like a good time to recommit to holding the space in my weekly schedule for these activities with my children.  Leaving some blocks of unscheduled time each day will give us the opportunity to bake cookies or paint with watercolors or play with trains.  This also feels like the perfect time to look at the physical space in my little house.  As I find a place for each new Christmas gift, I’m also choosing some toys and other items to move out of our living spaces altogether (some to donate, some to store in the basement).

Space is opening up for the activities that we enjoy the most as a family.  The art supplies and paper we need are easily accessible, favorite wintertime stories are at the children’s fingertips, and a few favorite toys and games are stored on low shelves so the girls can share in taking out and cleaning up.

As I look at the rearranged shelves, baskets and drawers I feel lighter.  I continue to remove the things we aren’t using, to create space for what we do want to do together.  Each time I walk past one of the transformed spaces, I am reminded of my goal to create more connection, and that little reminder keeps me grounded when I’m making decisions about how we’ll spend our days, where we’ll go, and what we’ll do.

How about you?  What do you want to create space for in the New Year?

Sometimes as parents, we are granted wonderful moments of true clarity.  For me, one such moment came after an afternoon walk with my daughters.

Our walk led to the discovery of an abundant supply of tiny pinecones at the end of our street, which immediately needed to be gathered, stowed in the back of a tricycle, and brought home to make pinecone soup.  With nothing else on my calendar, no where else to be but right here, I carried pinecones and tiny dishes and sat down to share in the meal.  It was delicious…

The freshness of the autumn air.

The crunch and earthy smell of the fallen leaves around us.  

A fiery pink and orange sunset, giving way to the quiet, slow darkening of the sky.

It was the simple joy of watching my children mix pinecones and sand and bring to life stories from their own imaginations.

That act of being truly present with our children can be so difficult.  I know that my head is usually swirling with to-do lists and notes to myself- there’s a regular running commentary!  But when I gave myself the time and the permission to do nothing else but make pinecone soup, I was able to experience so much more with my children.

During this moment of clarity, I thought a bit about the holiday season now upon us.  I know there will be many to-do lists and notes-to-self, many places to be and people to see, but I also know that there is pure delight around every corner, just waiting for us to notice it and share it with our children.

In the midst of all the holiday preparations, where can you slow down and make time to just be with your family?  What feelings from your childhood do you remember and want to experience with your own children?  Can you start new traditions that capture who you are as a family right now?

Make time for these things.  Put them on the calendar, if necessary.  Let us do what is meaningful now, while the pinecone soup is still simmering on the stove.

 

Today I welcome Allison Abramson as a new contributing write to Kidoinfo. A certified Simplicity Parenting© Group Leader, Allison is helping Rhode Island families slow down, and make space for the simple joys of childhood.  In her monthly column, Allison will share ways we can reduce the chaos in our daily lives by making small, do-able changes at home that will strengthen family connections and create more time for fun!  She lives in Providence with her husband and two little girls, where she blogs about their journey toward a Peaceful Life.

Today We Will signFamily life moves FAST!!!  In my house, we are two adults and two little kids, and already I feel our life cruising, so I know that those of you with older kids, in school with homework and activities are feeling it, too. We’re all feeling that rush of life.

One thing that has helped keep everyone in my family moving in the same direction, is a consistent, gentle rhythm underlying our days.   Each day, we move through some of the same activities, not because we’re super rigid, but because that rhythm provides such comfort to all of us (especially the smallest ones among us).

If you feel like you’re scrambling day-to-day, a new rhythm can relieve a lot of pressure. Taking some time to think about what will work best for your family, will put you back in control of that rush of life.

Start by identifying the basic things you can count on everyday- meals, getting dressed, homework, bedtimes. Look for the places where there are rough edges and figure out how to smooth them. For my family, I’ve tried to add more fun into some of our transitions. When I noticed my girls were clinging to my husband as he tried to get ready for work, we started eating breakfast earlier as a family and we added a silly good-bye ritual at the front door; and when I noticed that they were consistently crabby before lunch, I became more consistent with meal prep time and got the girls more involved.  In no time at all, kids pick up a new rhythm and begin looking forward to the little ways we move from one part of the day to the next.

Weekly Rhythm Chart

Once the basics of a daily rhythm are feeling pretty smooth, you can expand to think about all those other things that need to get done over the course of a typical week.  This can include the chores (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping), appointments (a weekly meeting, class, or practice), as well as the fun things you’re hoping to do together (art time with the kids, a family walk in the neighborhood). To create your weekly rhythm, assign a place for each activity that feels most natural and do-able.  In our house, for example, Mondays are quiet days, great for art projects and laundry; and Fridays are our days for a fun outings (nature hike, apple picking, that sort of thing).

Once you have it all mapped out, have fun posting your new rhythm in a place where everyone can see it.  (We keep this subtle reminder on a pantry door in the kitchen.)

Your family’s rhythm need not be a hard and fast schedule with set times, but a more general overview of the ins and outs of your days. As you begin to recognize this rhythm, and start moving with it, you’ll see how it can actually inform the decisions you make about your schedules and where everyone has to be. When your family feels out of rhythm, you can revisit what you hoped your days would feel like, and then pinpoint the problem areas and stress points.  See what you can rearrange and readjust to get everyone moving to the same beat again.

Need a little inspiration?  Check out these beautiful- and functional- designs on the following blogs.

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