Your little one is big and getting bigger at age 4, and she’s ready for new and exciting things to happen to her — are you? Says Tami Lanham of Kinder Garden School, “I have found that kids with responsibilities and chores at home tend to have a strong work ethic which carries over into their academic success. There are opportunities for learning and fun in almost every household chore. Most of the time, ‘work’ is really play for children, as they eagerly mimic our actions to be grown-up. The chores may take longer, and the result may not be as good, but the real result will come from the seeds of responsibility and self-esteem you plant in your child.”
According to Sharon L. Ramey, Ph.D., author of Going to School (Goddard; $19.95), children learn best when they are having fun. If you have older kids, once they start back to school, you can implement a strategy of your own for your youngster: Operation Self-Sufficient! She craves independence, so give it to her. Here are strategies to help you move forward:
1. Expect more.
Humans have a way of living up (or down) to expectations and the same can be said for your toddler. Allow her to experiment with pouring her own water — use appropriately sized containers. Expect her to hang up her own jacket and do as much for herself as she wants. Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it — the road to independence begins.
2. Resist doing for her what She can do for herself.
While you may want to do things more quickly than she can, it won’t make your child self-sufficient if you always take over the task. Ask, “Do you want me to help you or can you do it yourself?” These magical words will show you what you may not already know: kids almost always want to do things themselves. “Cherish your sense of wonder at your child’s remarkable growth and learning,” says Ramey.
3. Don’t redo what She’s done.
If she tries to make her bed, resist the urge to smooth over her messy blankets. If she dresses herself in mismatched clothing, compliment her imaginative style. Unless there’s a need, don’t “fix” your child’s accomplishments. You want to encourage her efforts and show her you are proud of her.
4. Encourage exploration.
Get used to saying things to your child like, “Let’s go find out about …,” “I wonder what would happen if we …” and “Let’s look over here, too,” says Ramey. Curiosity leads to learning. Little kids need guidance with exploration in some settings, but remember, great thinkers all love to learn and keep on exploring.
5. Assign a chore.
Put your little girl in charge of a regular, simple task to help her build confidence and competency. A child who is entrusted to water a plant or put away the spoons will soon learn she can dress herself and more. Make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of your family.