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A Walk in Your Shoes

Have you acquired a little shadow... someone who always wants to be with you... and be you. Your little shadow finds you endlessly fascinating and is eager to do what you do, even if it's just tidying up around the house. For little ones, washing the windows or folding the laundry is the farthest thing from drudgery. To them it's challenging, intriguing, and just plain fun. And they get to be with you! What could be better than that?

This is the very basis of what teachers call play-based learning. The ancient Greek philospher Sophocles said, "One learns by doing a thing. Although you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try." And for little ones it hardly matters what the doing is. As long as the child chooses it and is physically involved in it, fun and learning are bound to follow. 

Taking a walk in your shoes is an important part of your child's development particularly in the toddler years. This is the beginnings of role play, and the role they want to play is you.

So, whenever there's a chore to be done, watch to see if your little shadow wants to "help" out. If they show interest, invite them in. And whenever you can, make it real. Hand them a sponge or a brush or a squeegie, not a toy. Give them a bottle or bucket of water (not any cleaning fluids at this point), and watch how they try to do what you do. Several things are happening when you do this...

  1. Little ones don't know how to behave yet so they use you as their model. After all, you are their introduction to the world, their first and best teacher. And one of the ways they learn from you is by doing what you do. 

 

  1. When little ones mirror your movements, they are moving their bodies in new and unique ways. They're learning what they can do with their bodies, which in turn is developing new and important pathways in the brain.

 

  1. And you're together as partners in the process, in the moment, sharing the task at hand. They are "shoulder to shoulder" with you and that makes them feel important. And, remember, no matter what the outcome, at this stage, the result is always "a job well done."

 

And sure, it's going to take a few minutes longer with your little shadow's help, but only if you see them as chores. Instead, I invite you to see them as your child does... time well spent.