The Getting Excited stage of learning takes our children through years that see so much change and growth. They go from heavily dependent preschoolers who are just beginning to learn life skills to the “big kid” capabilities of elementary school. Even though they are still not ready to process all of the reasoning behind the information and skills they are accumulating, the budding independence of elementary children is fun to watch and delightful to encourage.
Skills to Work On
Take advantage of this precious stage by working on these skills during the elementary years.
Home & Family Awareness
Your child is naturally progressing from a somewhat self-centered stage of life into a greater awareness of other people. Encourage this by structuring chores and activities to be interconnected. If Big Sister needs chairs moved before she can sweep the dining room, have that be one of Little Brother’s chores. Show that wiping crumbs from the table into our hands or onto a dirty plate also helps make Sister’s sweeping job a little less difficult. When Little Brother takes care of his own toys well, he’s less likely to get upset with Big Brother for accidentally stepping on something. Use ideas like these to cultivate an awareness of the needs and roles of other family members as well as a sense of joint ownership in home care.
Children don’t automatically become efficient in organization or in keeping up with chores, no matter how many checklists, fun charts, or lectures we hand down to them. But, as your child progresses from elementary age to middle school, she will begin to understand the reasons underlying the foundation you’ve laid for them.
Establish organizational basics by letting them help you build a chore chart, reorganize their room, or even build a menu plan. Have a “calendar meeting” every week to lay out what is expected in the coming week, and use this time to let your child feel like she is a part of the planning. Encourage her to keep her own planner and be sure to ask if she has anything she needs Mom and Dad to put on their planner or on the family’s radar for the upcoming week. Even if she always says no, this helps her begin to think about planning.
In the elementary years, children begin to become more aware that they have their own space in the home. Whether it’s just a bed and a portion of a bedroom or an entire room, this personal space offers a great opportunity to build responsibility in children. Using a checklist or a routine, help your child learn the benefits of maintaining his personal space well. Here are a few examples:
- Clothes are always at hand and ready to go, so there’s no last-minute laundry emergency.
- Favorite toys are much less likely to get broken.
- His bedroom is always ready for friends to come over and play!
Not long ago, you had to help with bathing, dresses, teeth, and hair. Now, though, your child is progressing to a point of being able to take care of these things herself. During this stage of growth, create a routine that helps her develop self care habits. Will she bathe daily? Does she know how to wash her face (great preparation for the impact of teen hormone changes!)? In the preschool years, it was about teaching how to do these things. Now, it’s about ensuring that routines are in place to make these activities habitual.
As you keep building life skills gradually through each age and stage, you are laying a foundation of skills and habits that they will carry even into adulthood!