How to demonstrate our love for our children.

The Practica Programme Blog – How to demonstrate our love for our children.

Today we introduce our very first guest post – we will be inviting many people who work within the child development field to give us their take on what’s important to know when it comes to your little one!

This guest post is written by Carol Bailie, a Child Educator and Parenting Workshop Facilitator. To learn more about Carol, visit

The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman and D Ross Campbell’s book) is a wonderful general parenting book that gives such helpful insights into how to help our children feel loved and cherished and is certainly worth the read. One of the Five Love Languages is “ACTS OF SERVICE”. It is an interesting love language because of the huge spin-off it has for general, as well as academic development. Looking closer at this love language is a fascinating topic.

“Acts of Service Love” occurs when a parent demonstrates their love for their child through doing things for them that they can’t do for themselves. Examples would include cooking supper, changing clothes, bathing, carrying, feeding and helping with tasks they can’t quite manage.

However, acts of service love have to evolve as the child gets older – they have to learn the art of serving themselves and serving the family, and not having everything done for them all the time. This is where it gets interesting – how do you cultivate independence by teaching your child “Acts of Service Love”, and what is age-appropriate?

Gary Chapman says in his Love Languages book that “we do our children a disservice if we do not teach them to do laundry.” The principle is simply this – children of all ages need to be actively involved in all chores around the home regardless of how imperfectly they contribute.

So let’s have a look at some age-appropriate chores for little children:

• From the moment a child can walk (technically then, a toddler), they can be involved in many acts of service. They can lay the table (one fork or knife at a time, and probably not in the right place) and they can take their own plate to the kitchen after every meal.

• From the moment a child can sit upright, they can and should be involved in helping to pack their own toys away. A good way to do this is to sit on the floor and help them, but you only do one handful or one toy when they do one handful or toy. So you take turns. While packing away you sing a little pack-away song (make something up if you like) to signal that this is the time to tidy up.

• Small children of 2 or 3 years enjoy cleaning activities, especially if they think they are helping mom or dad. They gain a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. You can try giving a small spray bottle with clean water and a cloth and ask them to “wash” the windows – granted it will only be the bottom bit, and it may not be sparkly clean, but it will keep them occupied for some time if you work close by doing something else. They can wipe the windowsill, dust with a brightly coloured yellow duster, and wipe out toy drawers or containers when you sort toys.

• My children always loved washing activities – I give them play kitchen plates and cups in a basin of soapy water with a drying rack and dishcloth. Washing plastic items in a basin is great fun, as is cleaning plastic toys or washing dolls.

• Gardening is always brilliant – small rakes for raking leaves may take forever, but working alongside you with your big rake they will have a huge amount of fun. Putting the leaves in a wheelbarrow and then climbing on for the ride is even better!

• I started a very small vegetable garden when my son was about 2 or 3 years, as I found it to be a fun and constructive activity to involve them in putting compost in the bed, digging it over, making little spaces for seeds, planting out seedlings and best of all, picking vegetables for our table. Our gems have been far and away the most fun!

• From about 3 years, a child should start to help with the making of their bed.

• All children from two onwards should carry their own bags to school and back again!

• Children who can walk can help to put their pyjamas under the pillow and dirty clothes in the laundry basket and towels in the bathroom. At this age they will have to be reminded and accompanied, but from about 3 – 4 years they should be able to do it as a matter of course.

• Washing is indeed full of opportunities – putting the clothes in the machine, pouring in the soap, handing mom the pegs, sorting the colours of the dirty clothes. From about 4 years they should be able to take their own clean clothes to their drawers and put them away.

Acts of service involve a number of very important skills which all children need when they go into a playgroup or preschool setting:

1. Hard work
2. Work ethic (i.e. we value hard work)
3. Team work
4. Appreciating the work of others
5. Responsibility (care for toys, the house)
6. Perseverance
7. Doing things you don’t like
8. Eye hand co-ordination
9. Crossing the mid-line
10. Visual perceptual skills
11. Satisfaction
12. Patience
13. Following instructions
14. Autonomy and independence
15. Task specific skills

Involving small children in manageable acts of service each day not only helps them to learn the art of loving others through serving, but it serves the purpose of preparing them for many educational and life activities. Have fun!

when we know better… we do better

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