If you have a toy storage system, such as separate bins for building toys, action figures, toy animals – then, you can use clean-up time as a sorting lesson. Your child will have to decide where each item belongs, sort them out and use small and gross motor skills to clean up the toys, and ... you will get a cleaner play space! Labeling your bins with small pictures of what belongs in each bin will help your child determine where to place the toys. This lesson, if made into a regular practice, will help develop these life skills – and it’s much easier to start with a young child than with a teen-ager!
Helping around the house with a list of chores or simple tasks can be great practice at following directions – “Could you bring that bag over here?” or “Please hang your coat up on the hook.” – and will give your child great practice at a task they will need to develop for success in school.
Even setting the table can be a math lesson – “four plates, one, two, three, four … four spoons ….” Repetitive counting is an early skill, but don’t stop there! “If” questions help your child in acquiring reasoning skills – “If Grandma came to dinner, how many plates would we need?” or “If Mom is not eating at home tonight, how many forks will we need?” These simple questions encourage your child’s math skills’ development – and it’s never too young to start!
While it’s not necessary to reward your child for contributing as a member of the family, specific praise is always GREAT – “Thank you for picking that toy up – you put it back exactly where it belongs!” Specific praise tells your child what they have done and enables them to learn from each experience.
Singing or playing games while doing a clean-up or set-up job will also add a little fun to the job – I have my classes sing a favorite song while working – the ABC song is a great length for a quick clean-up. You can mix it up with a count-down or have each child pick up ten things (or more!) – whatever works for you! Have fun with it!