Post Written By: Antoinette Stein
“Mommy, you work too hard!” A glance at my three-year-old revealed the stress the whirlwind move had placed on our family. The sea of boxes covered our new rental and repair men were busy fixing broken appliances and the leaky roof. I realized more than a perfect house or a return to their schedule, my children needed a mother. “Ahh! Here they are,” I smiled and pulled out a pot, cocoa powder and some honey. In no time at all, my two toddlers’ faces were filled with delight as they made hot cocoa for everyone on that cold, blustery day….
Balancing the ever growing “To Do” list with a healthy dose of playfulness is a challenge, yet it is so important to teach our children how to work hard and play hard. Here are some ways we incorporate temperance each day.
Each day we do activities of my kid’s choosing. Taking time to mold play dough, build Duplo towers or repurpose our recycle bin shows them that their opinions are important and gives them a voice in our family. It also teaches them to have fun with the resources and people they have around them, a skill that I hope will transfer to their future families, friends and places of employment.
Bring On the Mess.
I wish I could have captured the wonder on my children’s face the first time they stomped through puddles in their rain boots. While I love a clean house and clean kids, children learn through exploration: messy exploration. Build in a time and a place to get messy and a time and place to be clean.
Turn Mundane Into Fun.
As adults we often dread clean up. For children, it’s almost unbearable. I began using music, singing and dancing to signal clean up time. We dance to our favorite song and work as a team to clean. Finding a way to make menial tasks exciting teaches that we can choose joy no matter the circumstance.
Everyone Does Chores.
Yep, everyone! As soon as my children turn one, they are expected to help around the house. The little guys clear their plate and wipe their spots (which usually needs to be wiped again as soon as they are on to the next task). I of course praise them for their helpfulness and respecting those in our house by being helpful. The point is not perfection, it’s training them to work hard and enjoy the benefits of that work.
Anyone who browsed Pinterest has seen someone’s dinner plate turned into a whimsical world. While I have to admit this is not my thing, I see how this can be an amazing spring board into a child’s fantasy as well as a great way to introduce the dreaded vegetables.
Chefs in Your Kitchen.
Most meals in our house begin with my kids pushing their chairs to the stove as we create a culinary masterpiece. I’ve found including my children in my daily “To Do” List turns drudgery into family fun. They not only participate in the cooking but are also give suggestions to improve the food, many of which I take. Their wives will thank me someday.
Learn through Play.
As an educator, I often get asked about my preschoolers’ academic achievements. We have not formally done school, but instead I read and create play that allows my children to grow in a holistic way. After turning Costco boxes into trains, we labeled each component; when my children wanted to be servers in a restaurant, I turned $5 into change and we had dining experiences. Much like us, children desire to play. So give purpose to a family game of monopoly and enjoy the hours spent.
Maintaining equilibrium between work and play is no small task. As parents we must assess our own actions to find how to turn a cold day into a hot chocolate moment if we are to instill the virtue of temperance into our sweet children.