By Lauren: Lunch is coming to an end at Elm House. Children are sitting and chatting companionably; laughing at each others jokes and talking about what will be happening after lunch. RT looks to me, “Umm, I think I’m done.” “Okay”, I respond, “Don’t forget to clear your plate!” He laughs, “Oh yeah!” and begins to take his plate to our compost bin, dumping the remnants of his lunch and placing it on our lunch tray. Other children begin to finish their food. Sometimes with prompting, sometimes without, each child makes their way to the compost bin, cleaning up after themselves before selecting a book to read until the bathroom is available.
This is a routine that the children are very familiar with. And, as we all know, routines are the foundation of positive experiences in early childhood. Children feel most secure when their lives are predictable. With well known routines in place, children feel safe to explore the world.
Aside from providing a sense of security found through routine, cleaning up their own plate after a meal is a very important lesson in self-care. Self-care is an important task in toddler-hood. As children become aware of themselves as individuals, they are constantly looking for ways to assert their independence. By giving them a way to care for themselves, we provide the opportunity for independence and a chance to build self-confidence. Simple, achievable tasks, such as clearing your own plate, pave the way for an understanding that doing things for yourself feels good. And, let’s be honest, we all benefit from having children take a little responsibility for themselves.
It’s my belief that giving children these tasks from an early age can pave the way for more competence and confidence in adulthood. Providing them with these opportunities to show that they are capable creates a sense of pride in self. This early sense of pride is also a major tenant in anti-bias curriculum. In an anti-bias classroom, our first task is to foster a sense of pride in the child’s own identity. What ways does your child seek independence at home? How can you foster their sense of pride and accomplishment by providing them with reasonable responsibilities?