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Meaningful Chores

When my friend was upset as a child, her Native American grandmother would suggest she work at her weaving. My friend was always surprised that as she worked her design, her mood lifted. The knots of the day would smooth out like the skeins of yarn moving in her hands.

Our ancestors showed wisdom in busying children with crafts or chores. The job of working a heavy loom or carrying dirt in wheelbarrow involves important proprioceptive activity, helping coordinate communication between the brain and the muscles and joints.

Imagine the number of beneficial activities children had in the past that boosted their strength, balance, and coordination, working on farms or helping to keep up their homes and gardens. Rhythmic physical work activity like sweeping leaves or digging in the garden soothes children’s minds and helps integrate their sensory systems.

Springtime brings the most delightful opportunities to engage children in activities that work their large muscles. In preschool and elementary school, raking, clearing, digging, and planting are part of the curriculum.

Put your child to work at home. Sorting activities are soothing and promote cognitive functioning. Have children sort laundry by color before washing or match socks afterward. Putting away groceries, loading the dishwasher, and sweeping the sidewalk are jobs that involve rhythmic activity. Instead of turning on the TV when a child needs calming, have them rearrange a book shelf, grouping it by subject, size, or color.

As children do physical work, we can encourage them to imbue these activities with love, to handle objects gently, to notice the beauty and harmony of a shelf or room that is organized, to care about a garden and the welfare of plants.

What a blessing it is to teach children that in a world full of so much thinking and planning, using their bodies can be an important channel for quieting their minds and bringing more order to the world around them.


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