Learning through Living – Tips for Including Your Young Child in Your Daily Life Part 1

by ChristinaPilkington on September 24, 2011 · 2 comments

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Young children learn by doing. Actually, we all learn best by doing- it’s the best way to create the neural pathways in our brain that allows learning to really “stick.” But, young children especially need a lot of time to use all their senses in learning.

Young children also want to do real things. I believe we all want to do real things- things that matter personally to us and make a difference in the world. But young children need this even more than adults. They live in the world of the concrete. As adults, we can deal with abstractions. We can understand the importance of learning something that will connect to long-term goals, even though we might not be using it in the present. Young children have a hard time doing that. They need to do things that they can see and experience right now. They need to do things that connect to their everyday lives.

Schools focus so much on reading and math skills, which can be personally meaningful and important to young children, but they introduce them in abstract ways. They present them as isolated skills that don’t connect with what the child is doing every day. Young children want to be involved with what their parents are doing. They love to copy and emulate the adults around them; they want to be included in their parents or guardians’ lives and be respected for what they can contribute to the family.

I understand how frustrating it can be when you look at a long list of tasks for the day and just want to get them done as fast as you can. Including your children in what you’re doing usually means it will take twice as long to do. But if you’re serious about showing your children the skills they need to take care of themselves one day, they need daily practice in contributing to the family. They need to see how they are a valuable member of the family-how their contribution is important to the entire family’s success.  And if they are included from the beginning, most children love to help. They love to do what their parents are doing. They love knowing they are needed.

So often the big push is for early academic skills instead of focusing on life skills that will actually help children take on adult responsibility when they are older. Kids can graduate with a high school diploma, but if they haven’t played an important role in the family making real and necessary contributions, they’ll be left floundering when they want to go out on their own. 

Here are ten ways I’ve worked to include my young children in my life. I’ve also listed some of the things they are learning as a result of helping in those areas.  This is by no means a complete list. Your list will probably look different than mine, depending on the way your family lives and learns best.


1.  Task-Helping plan meals for the week.  My kids are picky eaters, especially my son. It’s frustrating to make a meal and have him pick at it or not eat it at all.

*I’ve found that if my children help plan the meals for the week they are more likely to want to eat them. They play a big role in deciding what we eat for lunch and dinner.

*looking at our calendar for the week and see what we have planned. If we’re going out late in the afternoon one day, we talk about making something that can be prepared in the morning in a Crockpot or something that can be made quickly.

*talking  about eating a variety of foods and what kinds of foods should be included in a meal to make it balanced so we get the vitamins and minerals we need (It helps that we are doing the Magic School Bus Human Body kit right now, and they’re excited about learning what the body needs to function well).

Learning that takes place –science of nutrition, time management, calendar skills, planning, decision making.

2. Task – Making a grocery list & shopping.  We talk about how making a list ahead of time will help us remember all the ingredients and food we need so we will not need to make multiple trips to the store and how it will save in gas.

*looking through recipes to see what we need to buy

* looking on the shelves at home to see how much we need to buy

*estimating how long it will take us to consume certain types of food like boxes of cereal

* deciding on a budget head of time and making sure we don’t go over it

*writing down things that we need to buy

* looking at different brands and deciding which is the best deal (price per ounce),

* weighing fruit to estimate how much it will cost

* helping to pay for and hand over any coupons

* loading and unloading the car

*putting the groceries away at home

*looking at expiration dates and deciding how long it will take for fruit to spoil

  Learning that takes place – math skills (estimating, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, percentages, budgeting), handwriting and spelling, cooperation, critical thinking, decision making, physical fitness, science of food, organization, planning.

*since this is a long list I’m breaking it down into two separate posts. Look for part two of this post next Saturday

Photo Credit: monkeyc.net

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 I’d love to hear from you. Send me an e-mail at chris@christinapilkington.com or leave me a comment below.


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  • http://bethcranford.com/ Beth

    So often I find myself doing what you said, trying to get the work done as quickly as possible, with the idea that then we can get on with life. What I need to remember is, this is real life and children enjoy working alongside their parents every bit as much as they enjoy playing with their parents. My three year old comes running if he hears me rustling around in the kitchen. I’ve learned not to try to cook without him. And guess what, I wouldn’t trade it because it’s in these times that we’re building a relationship and he’s learning valuable skills while we’re at it. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and make the most of the things we have to do by including our children. I’m looking forward to part two!

    • Anonymous


      I felt like I had to write this post because lately I’ve been neglecting to do this myself! We’ve been out and about lot and housework is starting to pile up. Then I just feel like getting it done as quickly as possible. I need to remind myself that days at home where we just do the things that is necessary to keep the house going is just as important as our other adventures.

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