Have you ever noticed you have 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. 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." 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 so they use you as their model. They learn from you by doing what you do. Go at their pace.
2. When little ones mirror your movements, they are moving their bodies in new and unique ways. They're learning what they can do and developing new and important pathways in the brain.
3. And you're together in the process, in the moment, sharing the task at hand. When you are "shoulder to shoulder" it makes them feel important.
And sure, it takes a little longer with your little shadow's help, but it's time well spent when you both feel the satisfaction of a job well done.