As I mop the wood floors in my kitchen, I look down at the bucket to find my toddler gleefully splashing in the sudsy, now dirty, water. For a moment, I think about asking her to stop, because I don’t like the idea of her having dirt on her hands, but I don’t. Instead, I smile at her innocence and ask her what she’s doing. “Mommy, I’m mopping my hands!” she exclaims with pride.
When I clean, my daughter cleans with me. When I cook, she cooks with me. When I garden, she gardens with me. And when I fold clothes, she (un)folds with me. Not because I ask her to, but because she wants to. She is at that beautiful age, in which she wants to see or do everything I am doing — including mopping. Most of the time her “help” creates a bigger mess, than if I were to complete the task without her, but I let her join me anyway.
It is amazing how even before children can take care of themselves, they still want to help. I have always tried to find simple tasks that I can include my daughter in, like helping me push the vacuum, using the duster to touch every item in the house, or splashing — I mean, stirring the bucket of mop water.
It’s messy. It’s less efficient. But it’s important. Her confidence is bolstered every time I communicate that I trust her to complete a helpful task.
Children learn through play. They pretend all sorts of things, including that they are able to do the things we do, with ease. That is why children enjoy toy cars, or play kitchens, plastic tools, or mini shopping carts.
Life experience is one of the best teachers. So, I let me daughter dip her hands in the dirty mop water, even though it causes me to cringe a little on the inside. I let her stir the cookies, even though the contents splatter everywhere. I let her dig in the dirt, while I work in the garden, even though this will almost certainly require a bath and new clothes.
I do it, because I want her to know I believe in her. I do it, so she believes in her own independence. I do it, so she will have the confidence that she can do whatever she sees someone else do. I do it to create a safe place for her to try new things and make mistakes.