My 4-year-old daughter is my sidekick, my partner in crime. Really, she is my best friend. Since she was born, she has always been by my side. Going to my doctor appointments with me, trips to the supermarket, cooking, cleaning, and, ahem, trips to the bathroom. Initially when I tried to involve my daughter in mundane, everyday activities, it didn’t quite work out. Usually things took way longer, got really messy, and I ended up getting more stressed out in the long run (since I already suffer from anxiety.)
Soon after, I had a mental switch go off telling me I needed to slow things down and be more present (and patient) with my daughter. I remembered that in the past, even when she was a newborn, I would notice her curiosity in my everyday activities. From seeing her reach for vegetables as I prepared dinner to tottling over to the grocery bags to try to take stuff out to rearranging the changing table. I decided it was time to try including my daughter in my daily activities again—and I haven’t stopped since.
I now involve my daughter in pretty much everything I do. This year, my husband and I made the decision not to send our daughter to school just yet since we’re in a big transition period (renovating our house and living in a rental). So, my daughter is with me at home 100% of the time, while I also work from home. Yes, sometimes it can make things harder, but I realized these efforts shouldn’t be stressing me out as much as they did before. Here’s how I made a conscious effort to include her in nearly every part of my life.
Ways My 4-Year Old Helps With Our Day-to-Day
My daughter helps me load the cart at the supermarket, and even loads the groceries when we pay. Heck, she even asks to pay herself. When we go home, my daughter is the one who unloads the groceries. Yes, I could do this in half the time, but my daughter is learning basic tasks and responsibility.
When I cook, my daughter is by my side, helping put the veggies in the pan or whisking the eggs. Boy, have things gotten messy in the kitchen. Sometimes, as a mom, it’s so easy to got caught up in “silly” and unnecessary things that our kids can do (such as cause a disaster in the kitchen) and we lose sight on what’s really important and the moment that you and your child are passing together. Yes, things get messy. But a mess can be cleaned (and usually is cleaned by the one who caused it!). In the meantime, my daughter is a part of the meal that we then share together as a family.
When I go around the house to collect laundry, my daughter is the one holding the basket and responsible for putting everything in the washing machine.
The Benefits of Getting Children Involved at a Young Age, According to an Expert
“Teaching kids how to manage the tasks and joys of life helps them be the best version of themselves as they get older,” says Psychologist Dr. Robin Hornstein. “Being proud and knowing what your role in life is gets clearer when we include our children. Plus, enjoy the company as they enjoy yours, there comes a time when they don’t want to hang out with you as much!”
Chores are the backdrop of life, and no house is free of the daily work such as emptying a dishwasher, making food, doing laundry, wiping up spills and more. “Doing chores without including kids misses the point of family as the first place we learn to pitch in and cooperate as group members,” explained Dr. Hornstein. “Children also learn pride in a job well done and love the praise.”
Getting Kids Started with Household Chores
As a child gets older, you can assign chores that will help kids learn to plan time, suggests Dr. Hornstein. Kids who don’t do any chores from a very young age, tend to balk when you suddenly give them a bucket list of things including cleaning their room or tidying a playroom.
Kids who don’t do any chores from a very young age, tend to balk when you suddenly give them a bucket list of things including cleaning their room or tidying a playroom.
When we involve children in an activity that takes a long time, we’re also teaching them patience. And when we allow a child to help us with a chore that can get dirty, we’re also showing them that the mess is part of the process. If I always lose it when my daughter spills flour when we’re baking, what am teaching her? When she spills, she knows messes are a normal part of life and accepts the responsibility to clean up after herself.
Our job is to help our children succeed at all they do, including chores. Dr. Hornstein says that giving small bites of a job is going to go better, as opposed to too demanding a chore. “For example: can you put all the dolls in this basket is way less overwhelming than asking kids to clean up the whole playroom. Making it a game can also make it more fun. Think of motivating them and how you motivate yourself to do things. We ALL procrastinate, so if you find your child doing so, ask yourself if that is what they see you doing.”
How I Balance Work/Mom Life While Things Get “Messy”
I work from home full-time, so things are not always simple. Since I’m self-employed and mostly work for and with other mothers, my job allows this flexibility. I know the flexibility to have a child at home won’t be possible for every working parent. So I try to choose gratitude when my daughter sees me typing away on my computer, and she curls up in my lap and helps me type an e-mail. I tell her the letters to write, and she types away. My daughter has even been known to sit in on a Zoom call with me. She is learning to listen and often sits in my lap while I have my appointments and afterwards, will ask me questions about what we were talking about.
My daughter is learning so much by being involved in everything I do; responsibility, patience, and confidence. She’s even learning how to clean up after the mess she creates in the kitchen. She’s still curious, always asking about everything she sees me do. And often talks about things she wants to do when she “gets big.” By involving her in so much of my life, I hope I am teaching her about her own importance, showing her that she is capable, and proving that she is already “big.”