Featured Picture Book
THE THINGS I CAN DO by Jeff Mack
(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)
THE THINGS I CAN DO is told from a child’s point of view and is illustrated in the style of a child’s drawings – which makes it especially interesting to young children. They can tell right away that it is a book about them. THE THINGS I CAN DO reminds us how important it is for children to learn to do things – to develop the skills that help them become independent. The pictures tell the story as much as do the words. We see the little boy’s drawings of himself doing, doing, doing – from making lunch to combing his hair to tying his shoes. Although most things he draws are real, a few are more like what he “wishes” he could do – like flying. In all cases, the little boy is telling us, “I can do it myself.” What an important goal!
Four Ways to Encourage Children to DO Things
- Give doing messages.
- Learn how to give useful compliments.
- Learn how to teach skills (see below).
- Avoid overindulgence and doing too much for your children.
- Break the task into parts. For example, making a bed means smoothing sheets, fluffing the pillow, and smoothing the top cover.
- Explain how well the tasks need to be done to meet your expectations. How smooth? How straight? By when does it have to be done?
- Allow the task to be learned in stages. Start by having the child do just one part of the task. When he can do that well most of the time, move on to add another part until he is able to do the whole task.
- Compliment when the child does the task or part of the task well. Let him know he is doing well. Give him details about what he is doing well.
- Be aware of safety. When letting a child do for himself, be sure he – and your important things – are safe. For example:
- If putting toys away is a responsibility, make sure the places he is to put them are not so high that it encourages unsafe climbing.
- Make sure toy shelves are well anchored and are not likely to fall over from the weight of toys being put away.
- Make sure electrical cords aren’t in the way of what the child is trying to do.
- Consider that children may spill or drop things while doing tasks. Make sure your best things are not nearby.
Darling Daughter: We are trying little check lists for Ezzy (and everyone else in the house). I made index card size lists of steps to complete each chore. Now, “clean room” does not show up on a list with lots of other chores. Instead, their is an index card that says make bed, put away clothes, put toys in their containers, etc. We’ll see how this works. Every new idea is trial and error. Don’t you wish parenting was more like a prescription – do this and then that will happen?
Ten Activities Inspired by Jeff Mack’s THE THINGS I CAN DO
Have your child draw the things she can do.
1. Have your child draw some things he wishes he could do (like the little boy wished he could fly).
2. Have your child tell a story. Listen to see if she “talks and talks” like the little boy says he does.
3. Have your child help make up a list of lunch menus that he can make for himself – or can mostly make by himself. Post the list somewhere in the kitchen.
4. Have your child pick a lunch from the menu list she posted in the kitchen. Have her fix the one she picks. Celebrate what she can do as you have lunch together.
We are going to have E start making “part” of her lunch the night before school. She can pack up chips or crackers, pour her drink into its container, get silverware & napkin together. Then, I won’t have to do the whole thing in the morning.
Dr. Mom: Great way to break the task into parts. Try yo follow the other four rules as well: explain how to do the task well, work in stagesntoward E being able to do the whole task, compliment, and check for safety,
6. Make a checklist of all the things the little boy in the book can do and see how many your child can do. Ask him which one he can’t do now but wishes he could do.
Begin teaching him that skill.
7. Explore how fast your child can run. Time him several times and post his best time. Check in with him every so often to see if he wants to check his time again. Be careful to not compare different children. They all grow at their own pace. Focus in on each child’s personal time and how it changes as he grows.
8. Explore how high your child can jump. Have her jump as high as she can and touch a point on a wall. Have her do it several times. Measure each one and then post her highest measurement. Check in with her every so often to see if she wants to check her jump again. Be careful to not compare different children. They all grow at their own pace. Focus in on each child’s personal jump and how it changes as she grows.
9. Help your child make a chart of the things he can do to take care of himself – like brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and taking a bath. Make a place to mark each time he does those things (calendar, list, chart, etc.). Celebrate when his chart shows he is taking good care of himself.
10. Work with your child to organize her toys. Make sure it is safe and easy for her to put her toys away.
Read All About It
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HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft
SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke
PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary
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