I get funny looks from people when I tell them that my girls are able to take over all of the household duties when I am sick. Many people don't think that a 9, 7 and 5 year old can manage a home for a couple of days, including taking care of a younger sister. I tell them that it is possible and my children are proof.
Do my children have some special abilities that other don't? Absolutely not! I just try to teach them things whether they (or I) think they will be able to accomplish them or not. If they are able to do what I am teaching then that is great! A new skill has been learned. If they are unable, I tell them they CAN do it, it will just take some time, patience and practice to get it just right. And we keep right on working on that particular skill until they master it.
Here are some examples of things I have taught my girls to do.
All my girls began to learn to sew at age 4. I love to do hand sewing and a curious child will always want to try something new if they are watching. So I offer a small rectangle of fabric, folded in half, and a threaded needle. I am sure to explain that it will hurt if they prick their finger but not to give up, just to be more careful. I then show them how to take stitches (my hands over theirs). Once they get the idea, I let them try on their own. After a while, I go back to my own project (sitting right by them) and am available to undo any wrong stitches or mistaken knots them make. Soon they have it all stitched around with a small opening left that I instructed them to leave. Then together we turn the pillow right side out and stuff it and the child closes the hole with a few more stitches. Not only has the child learned a new skill but her favorite doll has a new pillow. A love for sewing has begun! I have no need to coax them to practice, they always ask on their own!
Cooking is a smilier task that I start very young. My two year old helps put ingredients into the bowl when I bake and always lines the muffin pans with paper liners when we make muffins or cupcakes. She stirs with my hand over hers and I always lift her to see what's cooking on the stove. By the time the girls are 5 or 6, they can easily assemble a crock pot lasagna or similar dish, as long as I brown the meat and open the jar of sauce. Wow, it gives them a good feeling to tell Daddy that they made dinner that night. And it helps me A LOT when I am sick, I know all I need is to have my husband brown some beef and let the girls put the meal together and they have fun doing it and feel a great sense of accomplishment.
At two years old I also start children as laundry helpers. I let them put clothes into the machine and dryer along with me. I let them fold and put away wash clothes and their own clothes. Neatness in folding can be learned along the way, I just want them to get the basic idea of how the job goes and that it can be fun! At 6 years old they know how to run the washer and dryer and can easily do a load of laundry on their own.
My 5 year old started helping me with dressing and caring for 2 year old when she was 4. She could change a wet diaper and help 2 year old into her clothes easily. My 7 year old and 9 year old can easily bathe their two year old sister, help her brush teeth and help her to bed, complete with a good night story read to her.
It really is amazing the abilities that children posses. It's easy to do things for your children without realizing how much they are able to do on their own. Teaching children basic life skills at a young age not only boosts their confidence, it can be an invaluable help to parents when they need help from their children during times when life gets very busy or parents get sick and must stay in bed to recuperate. Children's abilities are often far greater than we realize and it is a blessing to the entire family to take advantage of teaching them as much as we can as soon as they are able to learn a skill.