Preschool children love to be rewarded, if they do something good then heap on praise and offer a reward - in turn, you will be rewarded as you begin to condition their behaviour. Even the most trivial or trifling rewards can fill a toddler's pride. Sometimes you may reward with food, but try to coax with healthy foods rather than sweets and chocolate. Offer raisins or other dried fruit or perhaps rice cakes as an incentive for good behaviour or simply for being helpful.
Children will be just as stimulated by earning points or stickers. A sticker chart offers a simple visual reward mechanism. Even the youngest children will understand that when they do good or clever things, they will be rewarded with another sticker on the chart. If you don't have stickers, just draw stars onto a piece of paper. Even before they can count, young children will be able to sense quantity from the number of stars staring back at them.
Schools reward with responsibility; young children may take it in turns to deliver the register to the school reception, or to tidy away craft at the end of a session. Wiping the table after dinner may be seen as a privilege rather than a chore. See if you can instigate that same sense of importance and value by offering chores as a privilege. Invite your little ones to pair shoes or wellies by the door, to place their dirty clothes in the washing basket, or to collect waste bins from around the house before bin collection. There are a number of small jobs that young children will be able to take on around the house and by offering these as a reward for good behaviour, you will start to instil a sense of value and worth.
Dressing up offers a great opportunity for children to learn about professions and what different people do, or perhaps used to do in the case of pirates! But another way to expand children's knowledge of professions is to act out what people do. This is a simple and easy game to play in a group. Go through a series of professions and act out what they do. Here are some ideas:-
Act Like A...
Farmer: drive a tractor, scatter seeds, cut grass
Firefighter: drive a fire engine, put the siren on, put up a large ladder and climb it, point a hose at the fire
Doctor: mime putting on a stethoscope and listen to each other's chests, put on a plaster or bandage, administer medicine
Explorer: hunt aroudn with a torch, look amazed as you find spectacular things, cut your way through the jungle
Footballer: dribble a ball around, shoot at the goal, celebrate a goal
Have fun thinking of all sorts of things that people can do, and help your children learn all about various professions!
If they can ride a scooter, eat with a spoon and fork, sing the alphabet and reach the top of a playground climbing frame, then even the littlest children can help around the house. Introduce chores and rewards and get your little ones used to the idea of being helpful around the house. Here are some jobs that young children can help with:-
- Putting shoes away: teach your little ones to pair up shoes and place them nicely by the door, or wherever you store them, when they get a little unsightly.
- Collecting rubbish: if you have waste bins around the house then invite your children to collect them on bin days so that you can empty them into the dustbins.
- Laying the table: give them the right cutlery and see if your children can lay the table for you. They may have seen a table set hundreds of times, but see if they know where the knife, the fork and the spoon should go themselves!
- Putting out washing: it's so easy to discard dirty clothes at the end of the day and leave them all over the bedroom - yes, even you do it, and you'll wonder why the kids do in a couple of years! Have them take their dirty laundry through to the washing basket.
- Straightening the bed: if they aren't in a cot any more then your little ones should be able to straighten their bedclothes in the morning. Encourage them to do so, and to lay their pyjamas under their pillow.
- Turning off the television: if your children watch a little bit of TV, teach them to turn it off when you ask them to. Most children love turning things on and off, and they will love the responsibility of this job. Hopefully it will make it easier for you to extract them from the telly when you need to!
There are so many chores that you can find for your little ones to do. Draw up a reward chart for them, or even start giving them pocket money, just a few pence for each task. The reward is only half the motivator, most children will also be driven by the fact that they are being helpful around the house, and receiving praise for being so.