I just learned about the book "The Ordinary is Extraordinary: How Children Under Three Learn" by Amy Laura Dombro and Leah Wallach from an email I received at work. Needless to say I was very intrigued. This book was originally published 28 years ago but I feel it’s message is relevant in today’s world as well. In introducing this book, Amy and her co-author Leah Wallach shared the following observations:
"The book is about the tremendous education you give your child simply by loving her and living with her. Recent child-rearing literature often stresses the importance of 'quality time' — time parents dedicate wholly to their children.... The hour you set aside just to teach your child is exciting and valuable for both of you, but it is only a small part of the time you spend with her, and it is not the most important part. Most of your time together is inevitably spent on personal and household routines: changing, dressing, and bathing her; cleaning the house; preparing dinner; paying the bills; doing the laundry; reading the paper.
"These everyday activities are not just necessities that keep you from serious child-rearing; they are the best opportunities for learning you can give your child and the most important time you can spend with her, because her chief task in her first three years is precisely to gain command of the day-to-day life you take for granted. Ordinary time is 'quality time' too.
"...To a small child, our chores are intriguing performances: fresh, complex, and absorbing. For children, the mundane is new, unclassified territory, and it's magical. They set about exploring every day by collecting, organizing, and reorganizing information about their bodies and their environment, about people and how people behave and communicate with one another."
My children are now adults. After reading these comments I found myself thinking back to the days when my own children were young. Back then, our financial situation was such that any activity that cost money was simply out of the question. We stayed mostly at home and I enlisted them to help out with the ordinary chores that I did all day long. Folding laundry, feeding the dog, dusting and vacuuming, preparing dinner. We spent a lot of time reading, coloring and playing with toys as well. We would have outings to visit their grandmother and have lunch, take walks to the local park and have a picnic. Our days were quietly spent with each other.
I didn’t think I was doing anything extraordinary and to be honest I used to feel bad that we didn’t have outings to the zoo, aquarium or science center. Since I have been involved in early childhood education, I can see the wisdom in all the mundane, every day activities we did. While they are mundane and “everyday” to us, to small children they are exciting adventures. And the one thing all small children want and crave is their parents’ attention and affection. It doesn’t matter if they receive it through doing ordinary household chores or visiting the zoo.
So don’t feel bad when you have to clean the house or do the laundry. Enlist the help of your child and turn the mundane into the extraordinary.