Independent Chores At Two Years Old- How We Do It

I recently created a chore chart for my two-year-old. I knew I should set one up for her around the time that she became more and more interested in housework and started seeing the benefit of helping. When coming up with the exact chore chart I wanted in my mind, I went through a lot of ideas before eventually lining out exactly what I wanted. Here were my stipulations. 

It needed to be fairly independent for her, with very little help from me. Both the jobs I was asking her to do and utilizing the chart itself.

It needed to be visual with pictures for her but also labeled with words. You can read more about the labels and the reason why here. 

It needed purpose, she needed to be doing real chores to help around the house, not just busywork. 

It needed to include her day-to-day tasks like getting dressed so that she could easily feel accomplishment from the get go, and see a better sense of the time structure.

It needed to be age-appropriate. 

And thus, our chore chart was born. I picked a central spot in our house so she could see it often and ran with my idea. I made little magnets for each chore, then separated out the day, morning routine, chores for the middle of the day, and night. I wanted her to see a better sequence of time, that’s why it was laid out this way. And then I separated it into to-do and done so she could visualize what she needs to do and what she has done. 

The whole chore chart- on the metal door in our kitchen
Broken down into sections of the day and what she still needs to do.
A close up of her chores. Labeled with words and pictures.

One of my favorite parts of this chore chart was how simple and cheap it was! I made the chore pictures and labels on my computer and printed it off on card stock at home, then glued on the magnets I picked up from Walmart for about $4. Not bad! Just the card stock was working great for a time, but we also have a baby brother to account for here, so eventually, I printed out a new sheet of chores, and changed a few after our first trial run, then brought it to our public library to be laminated. The total lamination cost was 90 cents! I rubbed the backs of cards with a little sandpaper so the magnets could be glued, and voila! A $4.90 customizable chore chart!

The main goal I’ve tried to remember with her is that our lives do not need to revolve around these magnets. I try really hard to put my Type A personality aside and remember that it’s not the end of the world if she did something like getting dressed, but didn’t move the magnet. And our end wasn’t to get everything done every single day but to use it how and where we can. 

It took a lot of modeling, a lot of guidance, and a lot of work. But months later we’ve gotten to the point where she is in charge of her chore chart and can be independent in carrying it out. 

Have you done something similar in your homes or classrooms? I’d love for you to share with me! 

Taking Down The Baby-Proofing: Some Thoughts On Self-Reg

Like many households with toddlers and babies, we have outlet covers placed in every reachable outlet throughout the house. For the first two years of my daughter’s life, they stayed put and did their job, keeping her safe from electrocution. 

But alas, at some point, her curiosity and fine motor skills moved beyond the simple plastic and left us with outlet covers being pulled out left and right. 

At first, we tried telling her no. 

Then we tried redirecting her every time.

When neither worked, we attempted to show her how to put them BACK in the socket in hopes that once pulled out, she would put it back in. However, instead of putting the cover back in the socket, she started sticking anything else that might fit. I’m sure a lot of parents are familiar with the objects- Pencils, forks, fingers, straws, anything long and skinny. 

Finally, I was at a loss, what was I going to do to keep my daughter from getting electrocuted? This was becoming too dangerous. 

One night it dawned on me. She was two and a half at this point and I thought to myself, it’s time to stop trying to block her from the danger and start teaching her how to properly use them as a tool, making the danger lessen drastically. 

We had a quick conversation about outlets and power, at a two-year-old level of course, and what we use outlets for. I pulled out her tablet and charger and showed her how to properly plug in one side of the cord to the outlet and the other into the tablet. She practiced over and over taking it in and out of the outlet and watching the screen turn on when it would start charging. We also talked about what can and cannot be placed in outlets. Tablet chargers- good! Forks- No way. She was overjoyed with this new skill she had just obtained. 

At some point, we had to take away the baby-proofing and hand-holding to let our kids just experience the world for what it is. This can be true for crossing the road or walking to the neighbor’s house. Maybe taking off training wheels or taking off floaties in the pool as Mary talked about in a past post. 

How do we help students learn self-regulation in our schools that can be full of figurative outlet covers? What would happen if we let elementary students choose their own tables in a lunchroom instead of assigning each grade and class a specific spot? At first- chaos. But over time, think of the self-regulation this could promote in students with the proper scaffolding. Just like how I had to sit down and show my daughter step by step how to plug in her tablet and effectively use an outlet, the same would be done with the students. 

The benefit became apparent for me almost right away after removing every last outlet cover from our home. When the vacuum cord wouldn’t quite reach the far corner of the living room, my daughter came running to unplug it from the current outlet and move it to a closer one. Less work for me! When her tablet dies, she is responsible for plugging it back in. She is excited at any chance she has to use the outlets, and I don’t have to worry about forks and straws in them anymore! 

How do we find the balance of a well run, efficient school while also putting responsibility into the hands of students to behave and act in a respectful, responsible manner? And how do we get to the point where the two can become one? A well-run school that promotes student decision making and taking off the “outlet covers”? Tell me your thoughts.

Featured Image: pexels.com

Using The Montessori Method In Everyday Life

The Montessori method is a common practice in schools today, mainly the places that focus on early childhood education. There are also entire schools based around this method Maria Montessori created in 1897. Maria has revolutionized the way we foster learning in children with her research and educational practices. 

The basic idea of the Montessori method is children take charge of their learning. The adult provides the material, the child makes the decision on where and when to spend their time. Everything is eye level with the child, making it easy access. Wood is the preferred material for toys, not plastic, being aesthetically pleasing, as well as durable and practical. It’s a method that can be adopted in homes, daycares, preschools, elementary schools, even up to high schools. 

“Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.”

Montessori Northwest

I had the intention to use the Montessori method in our home when my daughter was born, putting toys on a shelf at her eye level and practicing other Montessori ways. However, soon I began to feel inadequate about my implementing based on research I was doing and others I was comparing to, especially with my limited funds. Here’s how I brought the Montessori ways into my house without breaking the bank. 

We found a kid-sized card table we bought second hand. 
Toys were organized on a cube shelf, all at my daughter’s level. 
I was more mindful of the toys we bought for her, trying to stick with materials that promote imaginative play and learning, not limited, one-time-use toys.
We incorporated more play into our day. 
I let her prepare and be more involved in her meals. 
She took the reigns on her own learning, I stopped pushing her to learn letters and numbers and instead accepted that she would pick it up by herself eventually. She did. 

The Montessori method doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Certain aspects did not fit into our daily lives, but others worked great. Placing her dishes at her level to claim responsibility worked wonders, but setting up a functioning child-sized kitchen set for dishwashing and food prep wasn’t practical for us. I stopped comparing my small acts to those who had more resources. My main takeaway, in the end, was that just because I couldn’t orchestrate a perfect Montessori household for my two-year-old doesn’t mean that my efforts went to waste. This can be the case in any classroom. 

Move art supplies to kid-level. 

Give students access to imaginative play materials. 

Allow younger kids to use messy things such as markers and paints. They won’t understand the responsibility of playing with messy items until you give them the opportunity to. 

Place learning and classroom functions in the hands of the students. 

Be an advocate for responsible, independent kids, who will turn into responsible, independent adults. 

How do you implement Montessori ways into your classroom? How can this elicit deeper learning in other areas?    


 

I Am Not a Crafty Teacher and I Accept That

During my long term substitute teaching job, the first-grade team I was working with had started Fun Fridays. This is becoming a more and more common practice in schools, where the students who are caught up on work can participate in fun activities on Fridays, while other students take that time to work on assignments they may be missing. 

The four classes were intertwined and mixed into four different groups from all of first grade, allowing everyone to be with friends and peers from other classes. The doors to our rooms were opened up, and every Friday, chaos ensued. However, no matter how chaotic it seemed, it truly was a fun Friday to switch everything up just a bit and have a change of schedule. 

Each teacher had a responsibility to come up with a game or activity for the students in their classrooms for that week. We would repeat this every week with a different group until we made our way through the four groups, then move on to the next activity of teacher choice. 

On my first Friday I took over the class, the teacher had left me with the moving fish craft she had done the last two weeks prior, leaving me with two more groups to finish it with. 

Moving Fish


They are cute crafts and fun for kids to make! However, from a teacher’s standpoint, it’s actually a nightmare to conduct this craft with 30 first-graders, each needing individual help with 80% of the steps. Maybe I’m just not a crafty enough person, but this was not working out for me. I needed a change. I tried the fish craft for one week before I gave up and switched to a new craft for the last week of the month. This is what I chose: 

Origami Flowers


Why did I think for one second that I could pull off an origami craft with 30 students when I couldn’t pull off the moving fish craft, to begin with? That’s a very good question, because needless to say, I failed yet again. 

There are probably countless teachers that exist in schools all over the world that are great at crafting and teaching students cute origami and paper making crafts. I am not one of those teachers. I tried to be, I gave it my best effort, and I even felt obligated to because teachers are supposed to be crafty, aren’t they? I felt like they were known for that, and I was failing if I wasn’t crafty as well. However, at the end of the day, it wasn’t me. 

The biggest takeaway from my long term sub job was that being genuine as a teacher is the key to success. I had to fully accept that I was not a teacher that provided fun paper folding activities but instead prompted creativity in other ways. 

I found success in my Fun Friday activity the day I handed out a two-foot piece of yarn to every student and left a bowl of fruit loops on each table. I left no instructions beyond that, turned on classical music, and watched the magic happen. 

Many students walked away with fruit loop necklaces. Others with multiple bracelets because they cut the string into smaller pieces. I saw different weaves with the string and cereal pieces from kids, as well as some who simply just played with the string in their fingers and munched on dry cereal while they talked with friends. No one did it the right way, no one did it the wrong way, they simply just did it their way. 

This is the teacher that I am, and as soon as I learned and embraced it, it made the rest of my teaching experiences much smoother for myself and the students. All it took was a little life lesson from a simple cereal and string activity. 

How did you find yourself as a teacher? What helped you to create the culture in your classroom that flows and works for you and your students? 

Featured Image: pexels.com

How Might We Remove the “Floaties” & Give Students “Goggles” Instead? #TeacherMom

A great Costco deal led to goggles for everyone in the family this summer. However, I didn’t bother with them for my 2 year-old since we were dealing with his floaties, which generally kept his face about water anyway. For those unfamiliar, they look something like these:

One day, he snatched his pair of goggles and insisted on wearing them, too. I realized that if he was going to get any use out of them, we would definitely need to give goggles a shot without with floaties:

Image result for speedo kids comfort fit goggles

I couldn’t believe what happened next.

Within about 30 minutes of swimming in the 2-foot end of the pool, he went from a formerly clingy, somewhat nervous state to confident explorer.

Where I had once struggled to convince him to try blowing bubbles, or to let go of me even to stand up on a bench, he was now diving under the water. He couldn’t get enough of enthusiastic underwater waving, suspending himself with his feet off the floor, and testing his breath-holding ability.

As with hiking (and pretty much everything else!), I have been pondering teaching connections to this shift. In what ways might we similarly replace the floaties with goggles? How might we give our students tools for deep experimentation, and remove structures that might actually be impeding that opportunity?

Perhaps we might:

I think the real reason for my toddler’s transformation was that the goggles literally gave him a new lens with which to see water. No longer was it a threatening, mysterious body, but something with which he could actually interact and discover his own capacity. Meanwhile, without the floaties, I could no longer push him beyond his comfort level and had to stay near his side. Yet with the goggles, he was pushing himself in his own way.

What shifts have you seen give students a new lens for the structures and concepts around them? How else might we allow students to dive in when given some “goggles instead of floaties?”

featured image: Thomas Hawk

The First Time Our Child Was Asked “To Come Out and Play” #TeacherMom

My oldest was 4 years old, and she was happily playing with her toys in our 3rd-story apartment. Suddenly, a knock came on our door: a 7 year old girl who lived a couple blocks away wanted to know if our daughter could come out to play.

My husband and I looked at each other. Could she just go out to play? Where would she even go? Our apartment building was mostly surrounded by parking spaces. And could she just skip away with this little girl without one of us accompanying them?

We asked our daughter what she thought about the idea. Her response was to leap up and run for her shoes. So we told the neighbor that it would be alright if they stayed nearby. Our 4 year-old couldn’t have been prouder to cross our threshold without us.

And we were left peeping through a a chink in the blinds to make sure everything was alright.

And it was! They had a great time running around a little patch of grass for a while, and then the neighbor brought her back upstairs. Pretty tame, as far as first outdoor independent play goes. But powerful. It was the first foot in the door to a world where our child didn’t need us anymore. A scary prospect for all parents, but especially when we’re bombarded daily with headlines and messages that make us all want to keep that door locked tight until the 18th birthday.

But the problem, of course, is that it doesn’t work that way. Growing up to become an autonomous adult is a process that must build throughout childhood. Parents should feel supported as they make decisions on what exactly this will look like for each of their own children. It’s hard enough to do this confidently — even without the internet endlessly supplying worst-case scenarios and vilifying parents for daring to make reasonable decisions about what their kids are capable of.

And if parents aren’t trusted in these judgement calls with their own children, how can we possibly trust our teachers?

That’s why, when I talk about independent play, my first goal is to reassure parents. They need to know they are not bad parents for letting their kids walk 3/4 mile to school (even in the rain!), or for allowing their child run a lemonade stand without continual supervision, or even for leaving him/her in the car on a mild day while you run in for a quick errand, if you, as their parent, have judged them capable of handling these scenarios.

The hardest part about building autonomy in our children is that it is almost guaranteed to feel uncomfortable. We can’t predict exactly how it will unfold — will they get along with others? will they remember the path home we’ve walked together many times? will they remember how their bike lock works? — but that unpredictability itself is one of the essential ingredients required for autonomy to unfold.

So let’s think about ways we can support and reassure parents as they strive to build autonomy in their kids:

  • Share accurate statistics on crimes (Pew Research Center is a great source), such as the fact that violent crime has decreased since 1990, or the low chances of random child abductions from strangers (“…if you wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, do you know how long you would have to leave that child outside, unsupervised,  for this to be statistically likely to happen?…You’d have to leave your kid waiting at the bus stop 750,000 hours [or 85 years].” ~Lenore Skenazy)
  • Hesitate before sharing that scary “see-how-easy-it-is-to-snatch-a-child” video or “my-child-was-almost-abducted-from-our-shopping-cart” story. Given the statistical rarity cited above, the sad truth is that such stories tend to be rooted more in racial bias than actual danger.
  • Encourage adventure playgrounds and other environments that promote healthy risky play.
  • Join your school’s Safe Routes to School organization to help make kids’ walk or bike ride to school safer.
  • Share strategies for reasonable precautions parents can take without making them feel like they have control over all possible scenarios.
  • Support legislation like Utah’s free-range parenting bill that protects parents trying to make these judgement calls for their children’s autonomy.

From that first encounter with outdoor unsupervised play to watching a high school grad embark on their new journey, let’s find ways to help parents feel confident in building happy, healthy, and independent children!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Parents, Reject the Fear-Mongering #TeacherMom

Phones are destroying our teens

…except that it turns out the negative connection between tech and teens’ mental health is fairly minor, according to research.

Children are being abducted on their way to school or from distracted parents…

…except that “children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children.”

The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to live

…except that the opposite is true. See below:

Where are his/her parents? a passer-by might wonder…

…except that unsupervised play is critical for children to develop properly.

(sidebar: isn’t it funny how despite essentially every child in human history spent their days getting dirty, it’s only now that showers are ubiquitous that we have grown uncomfortable with the idea?)

Parents are bombarded with worst-case scenarios every day. Even casual Facebook posts from a concerned friend or relative often contain terrifying videos or messages that end with “Keep your babies close.” I shared one such example with my daughter in our conversation about how strange it is that these videos go viral when they really don’t represent the actual dangers kids face today. Far more threatening to our kids are dangers of childhood diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and mental health issues that seem inextricably tied to the modern lack of childhood independence.

For those in the U.S. observing Independence Day tomorrow, celebrate by saying no. Push back against those viral videos. Question the frightening headlines (see this excellent piece on zooming out for context). And above all, allow your children to experience some of the same freedoms you yourself probably had as a child. Perhaps start by asking some of these questions:

  • Does my elementary-aged child know how to navigate our neighborhood independently? Does she know where her friends and family live within a mile radius? Could she get herself home from school?
  • How might learning to ride a bicycle help further my child’s independence?
  • Has my child ever tried to earn money independently? Lemonade stands, bake sales, yard work, etc?
  • Can my child handle something risky by the same age I was permitted to as a child (starting a fire, using a pocket knife, etc)?
  • Does my child know how to go inside a store to handle purchasing something independently? How might allowing my child to help with groceries help foster their sense of competence?

What better ways to celebrate independence are there than fostering it in our children?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto