Advice Column, Parenting

Finding joy in the simple, everyday tasks

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Getting your kids to help around the house aids in childhood development

Now that families are spending their time working, learning and playing from home, parents are juggling an overwhelming amount of responsibility, and finding time to engage in structured playtime with the kids is more challenging than ever. But, while playtime as a family is crucial for building strong family ties and developing a variety of important skills in children, there are other ways that parents can achieve all of this without adding any more stress to their day.

Carryn Martin, an occupational therapist with a special interest in sensory integration and child development, says that involving children in everyday tasks, such as household chores, meal preps and taking on more responsibility with the family pet, can be just as beneficial as playing together.

“From an occupational therapy perspective, involving children in a variety of household domestic tasks has huge benefits for skills development in children,” says Martin. “A child engaged in a variety of short, manageable and fun everyday tasks – independently and with parents – is able to grow cognitively, physically and emotionally.”

Bring back chore wheels – your kids will thank you for it.

In a Braun Research poll of over 1,000 parents, when asked whether they assign household chores to their kids, just 28% of today’s parents said they did, even though 82% said they had grown up doing chores themselves.

It’s not difficult to imagine why there’s such a discrepancy – kids’ schedules are busier than they used to be, parents may have negative associations to “chores”, and on the other hand, it could be easier for parents to just do the chores themselves instead of nagging their kids.

However, kids who learn how to fit tasks into their days are more likely to improve their time management skills. It also teaches kids a measure of independence as they take pride in being able to accomplish various ‘grown-up’ activities by themselves, not to mention the likelihood that kids who learn to pitch in at home are more likely to develop that mindset later on in life – like in the workplace.

Doing every day activities together is important, too.

While chores are helpful in teaching children independence, participating in everyday tasks with your child is just as important. Not only does it instil a sense of teamwork, but is also a great way to spend time together bonding as a family. This also teaches children social skills, like how to work together to accomplish a goal.

Martin says that children develop fine motor and bilateral skills by spending time in the kitchen – mixing cake batter, for instance, involves using both hands in a functional manner (one hand stabilizes the bowl while the other mixes). 

“Picking up small pieces of food, pushing buttons with their index fingers and opening containers may seem pretty basic to us as adults, but all actually support the development of fine motor skills in little ones,” she says.

“Mental and emotional care is just as important as physical care for children, especially during these times of uncertainty,” says Kristian Imhoff, Country Manager for LEGO South Africa. “Playing together builds healthier, happier families, but the simple act of making a meal or folding laundry together has an impact on child and family wellbeing too.”

Parents are trying their best under the circumstances, and while they can’t add more hours to the day to spend exclusively on playtime with the kids, getting the whole family to roll up their sleeves and dive into everyday tasks at home has just as much of an impact on childhood development and bonding as a family.

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