As I read it, I am reminded of a conversation with a parent when I first started teaching. She said that she could stay and help me put on each child’s jacket, as I “didn’t have time to do it for them.” I paused at her words. I surely could have put each child’s jacket on them. However, it was more important for me to TEACH them to put on a jacket and learn to zip it up. Learning to dress was just as important as playground time. And if the transition to the playground took 10 extra minutes as I coached children about sleeves and fasteners, then so be it. That example has always stayed with me.
At FUMP, one of our core beliefs is that children should learn age-appropriate self-help skills that evolve into the larger goal of self-sufficiency. This means that simple tasks, like three year old’s putting on shoes or toddlers throwing away trash, are part of our intentional teaching. Giving children tasks such as these, which seem easy and unimportant, is, in fact, important work for children. Tasks build developmental skills: gross and fine motor by their physical actions and language by listening and processing instruction, and they build a child’s emotional development as well. Most importantly, they learn responsibility.
When you think of your preschool-aged child growing up into the elementary years, middle and high school years, and adulthood, I am certain that you want “responsible” on this list of traits they have. Developing the trait starts in the early years with small steps. You will see our teachers patiently coaching children through tasks. Teachers will break down tasks into small steps that a child can master with confidence. As a result, the child gains a feeling of pride in their accomplishments, and they seek it out again and again.
We seek to develop this skill in children rather than rushing in to complete a task for them. We seek out the long-term rewards of mastery over the short-term convenience. Yes, as adults, we can do it better and faster, but where is the learning for the child, and what message do we send by taking over? Perhaps this column will give you pause. At FUMP, we are playing the long game of growing responsible people.