The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara

The Magic of Household Work - An article by Stephen Spitalny

Real Quality Time - 5 Important Considerations

By Stephen Spitalny

Recently I was re-experiencing the amazing results of doing real work when the young children are around. When I am truly engaged in necessary, meaningful work around my house or preschool or kindergarten, the children are served in ever so many ways. Of course it is important to be playful with the children, and to play with them sometimes. It is also important to get the things done that your household or facility require for continued smooth functioning and beautiful aesthetics.

 

What sort of work am I talking about? I mean the real stuff of cleaning, cooking, pruning, raking, laundry, bathroom cleaning, window cleaning, sweeping, mopping, cobweb removal... You know what I mean. Some call these sorts of things ‘domestic activity.’ When you hate to do these things, the benefits to the children are limited. Learn to love taking care of your home - for the children’s sake at least.

 

Young children are newly arrived to our world. What helps to ground them into earthly life, and gives them activities to imitate and thereby develop capacities and skills, is the work of taking care of our home environments. This is true quality time for the children. If we learn to focus our engaged attention on these needed tasks and at the same time develop open channels of communication and connection with the children, we have high quality time.

 

When a baby is born, first he has to develop control of muscles to be able to pilot the vessel he has been given. Then he has to learn hygiene of this inherited body. Next step is to learn to care for the home and the surroundings his body lives in. For me, incorporating activities of caring for the home environment into daily life is supportive of early childhood development in so many ways. When he is going on the grade 1 it is time to look out into the surrounding world and discover what is there.

 

I think of early years development as concentric circles. The inner circle is learning how to move. Next is learning to keep the body clean and fed. The next circle out is caring for the home. And just in time for first grade, we look out into and begin to learn about and understand the wider world.

 

Why real work is so important:

 

  1. Getting done what needs to be done around the home decreases stress levels for the adults which in turn creates a more harmonious, peaceful and wonderful environment for the young children. Adult stress and anxiety don’t foster the child’s development.

 

  1. Play is the essential ‘work’ of the young child. When the adult engages in ‘real’ work around the home or kindergarten, the play of the children is more grounded and harmonious. The more you can focus on the work that is needed (while keeping the eyes in the back of your head on the children) the more constructive the children’s play. If you continually are the ‘entertainer’ for your young child, you are creating a pattern that is hard to change later. The child will rely on you as a playmate and won’t be as much of a self-starter able to entertain himself.

 

  1. Young children learn by imitation. With the adult example of real work activities, the children can learn actual skills. And they can develop habits of taking care of their home environments. We are thereby helping the children into the community of human doers, workers and makers, and giving them a strong foundation for their individual futures.

 

  1. The so-called domestic activities are love in action. These activities are in service to the community of the home or kindergarten and are social deeds. Without instructing or explaining, we are helping the children develop a sense of social responsibility by including home care as part of daily life together.

 

  1. We are giving examples for the children to imitate and develop skillful hands able to do these tasks. The children become handy, and as they grow they are able to handle many types of situations.

 

What sorts of activities can you do to incorporate the children? If you are doing the laundry, the children can joyfully join in the folding. They may not be as quick or as neat as you, but they can participate just the same. Sweeping is an amazing activity for enhancing motor development. Washing and cutting the veggies for the soup is an obvious time for young helpers. Window washing is a great joy for young ones. Try filling a spray bottle with plain water and using microfiber cloths to clean the windows. It is the best way to clean glass. In fact, water and microfiber cloths is the best way to clean most everything. Be the example of using some elbow grease and the children will be lining up to help!

 

Can we support the children in their development by becoming handy men and women, whether we are a teacher or parent? That is, the person who can fix what needs fixing, and clean up afterwards. We can all learn to do simple plumbing, wood repairs and so much more and thereby give the children so much to imitate. This way we support them into the community of human doing.

 

-----------

Attend Stephen's upcoming presentation at The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara.

"How to Consciously Connect with the Young Child:
Helping Your Child and Yourself Through Challenging Situations"

 REGISTER HERE