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    “When a child learns by experience that music forges direct links between self and world, self-expression becomes more fluent; the music helps interpret ‘who I am’.” -"Growing up Complete”, the report of the National Commission on Music Education
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Watch Out – Spontaneous Housecleaning May Occur

Whether it’s “Dust, Dust, Dust”, or “We are clothes in the Washing Machine”, our families are learning some great songs and activities that help make the cleaning up routines at home something to look forward to. 

In the Family Time program, Our Kind of Day, and the Our Time program, Milk & Cookies, children become actively engaged in real life issues, but in a more playful way.  Amazingly, when they think cleaning is fun, and got some good tunes to go with it, they are more likely to start some spontaneous housecleaning at home.  (Mine has, and many other mothers are reporting the same phenomenon.) 

The “Put Your Things Away” song that we use in ALL of our Kindermusik classes to encourage children to put their things away has generated SOO many comments from parents – like “As soon as my son hears this song, he starts putting his things away.”  “That song works miracles at my house.”  “My baby just LOVES that song, and it helps soothe her to sleep.” – That comment was made just this week in my Village class.

The “In My House” song has also generated it’s share of comments from parents.  This semester, homes throughout the United States, as well as 60 other countries, have little children with dust cloths in their hands trying to dust anything they can reach.  The repetative rhthmic ostinato of “Dust, dust, dust…   ”  makes a soothing backdrop for the melody to be sung above it, and it is so easy for the children to sing along and feel confident in their abilities.  The repetitive phrase also tends to help keep them focused on the task – well, mostly, they are children after all.

I simply love to put on CDs of upbeat music while going about the cleaning process.  We dance and sing, and may not be as quick about it, but it is done with a more joyful spirit.  Of course, there are several Kindermusik CDs which have great “cleaning” sections (two are listed above).   My favorite music, other than Kindermusik, is actually Benny Goodman, or some other big band jazz music to get me bouncing along to the task.  And I come up with more fun ways to engage my children in the tasks at hand. 

  • “Can we get all the clean dishes put away by the time this song ends?”
  • Folding clean laundry together often ends up in a sock tossing contest of some sort.
  • And there MUST be dancing celebrations upon completions of each task.  Well, there IS a lot more floor room for that now.

When done right, children take pride in their ability to contribute to the workings of the home, they feel “useful”, like “Thomas, the useful little engine” takes such pride in his work.  They can do more than is believed that they can do, given the right tools, and proper training in the tasks. 

Two year olds, and older 1 year olds) can help set the table, put their shoes, or toys, away in a specific box, put their dirty clothes directly into a hamper (my son called it the laundry “hamster” for the longest time – I didn’t correct him.)  Two year olds should be given ONE request at a time (don’t confuse them with multi-step directions).

Three year olds can sort the dinnerware into the drawer (matching the pieces correctly).  They can START to help match the socks, and fold the smaller towels – AND put them in the right drawer.  Three year olds CAN follow 3 – 4 step directions, like “Please, fold these towels and go put them in the kitchen drawer, then come touch my shoulder and I’ll give you a spinning hug!”   Setting up the last request as a return to the parent provides them a “finishing touch”, some recognition for their achievement, and gives parents a way to know that it was done.

Four year olds, and every age after that, can do more and more.  A good friend of mine purchased a little hand held vaccuum cleaner for each of his daughters at the age of 4, so they could easily help clean up messes that were made.  And they LOVED having their OWN vacuum, in the color of their choice, to use in the cleaning process.  They would race to see who could get their vacuum out first.  Children thrive on having their own real tools, in their size, for the job at hand.

I personally believe that it is important for them to realize that as they get older, they are allowed to learn additional responsibilities that will help them become successful adult when the time comes.

On my son’s 3rd Birthday, he had a wonderful birthday, and recieved many wonderful things.  He also recieved his first family chore of sorting the clean silverware while I emptied the rest of the dishwasher. 

On his 4th birthday, he learned that his new family responsibility was to sort and put away all the socks for the family.  And each birthday thereafter, he has received a new responsibility.  These are added to the previous responsibilities, instead of replacing them.  Although, some of the earlier responsibilities were given to his little sister when she became the right age.

I truly believe that being a useful part of the family in this way helps to build a family team that works together to support each other, and build bonds that sustain them during hard times, gives them the skills and feelings of personal responsibility that they need to lead sucessful lives.  It also helps them learn how to pass these skills along to their children as well.


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