Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unexpected Parenting Lessons

I had an interesting experience recently that is a bit off topic from my usual posts, but since birth is about becoming a parent, I thought it wasn't totally inappropriate to share here.
One day, towards the end of my children's and my recovery from an icky cold/cough, my daughter was using drawers and chairs to climb around in the kitchen, and I discovered her with a bowl and a wisk trying to combine cornstarch, salt, and an egg. (Yes, she is very independent for a three year old.) At first I was angry at her for making a mess, but I soon realized that she was, in fact, showing an interest in baking, so I decided to stop yelling at her, get out my measuring cups, and let her help me bake something.

Since I suspect my son is has a problem digesting dairy, if I was going to bake, I needed it to be something without dairy and something without margarine, since I was out of Earth Balance vegan margarine (did you know that many commercial margarines have whey in them?). I decided on the Amazing Vegan Brownies recipe from One thing I love about this recipe is how food-storage friendly it is--everything in it can be stored for a long time since it doesn't use milk, eggs or even any milk or egg substitutes. (and I had just a few weeks before this taught a lesson for a Relief Society activity on the importance of and how to start a home supply of food). The taste and texture were a little strange, but they were still brownies to me. My husband thought they were awful, but he pretty much hates all "health food," especially unusual desserts.

When the brownies were in the oven and I was cleaning up the kitchen, I thought about the Waldorf idea that parents should try to incorporate their children into their daily work routines. I haven't completely figured this out yet, but I like the idea of involving my kids in my chores instead of putting on a movie or a TV show off the DVR (we have 90+ episodes of Dora the Explorer recorded) for them while I work. My daughter watched a lot of tv while the sickness went through the house--of course that makes sense when she was so sick she couldn't get up to play, but she was getting better and I didn't want her to get too used to it, so making the brownies was a good opportunity for us to actually do something. I haven't fully figured out involving her in my cleaning, but she does like to help scrub the toilets when I do swish and swipe, likes to help wipe the table, and she will help me make beds sometimes. She also loves to help me bake, and there are lots of things she can do--I let her dump the ingredients into the bowl after I measure them.

As I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I noticed that my daughter had disappeared to her room. I went to check on her, and found her sitting on her bed looking at a book. It was one of my favorite picture books, The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. I thought, "Of course!" We had just read the book at bedtime the night before and in her cooking experiments, my daughter was trying to apply what we had read in the real world to the book. By baking with her, I had just taught an integrated literacy/math lesson without realizing it! The Seven Silly Eaters is about cooking and baking. It tells the story of a mom of seven children who each only eats one food, and the mother works constantly to keep them all happy by making each food for each child. In the end, they combine the foods together and make a cake. A recipe for the cake is on the authors website, and I hope to make it with my daughter some time to further expand her experience with the story (though I will have to use a milk substitute in it if I make it while I'm still dairy-free).

I learned from the experience to always pay attention to what my children show interest in, (even if they are making a mess with it) because where there is interest, there will be opportunities for learning.


  1. How wonderful! I've had to somehow integrate housework with my friend's toddler while watching her one afternoon because she insisted on helping me do the dishes. My first reaction was to distract her so that I could finish doing it quicker but caught myself and allowed her to double check my work for any misses and she seemed to enjoy being a part of it. Perhaps it wasn't very efficient but it was a learning experience.

  2. I struggle with the same thing, I know it is important to let them "help" but it often isn't "helpful"!