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Thread: How much do you let your older kids do?

  1. #1
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    Default How much do you let your older kids do?

    I guess I am referring to kids 4 and up? Maybe some mature 3 year olds?

    How much do they do on their own - like get themselves a drink, snacks, brush teeth, put coats on, etc.... I am mostly referring to the food stuff though like going in the fridge for a snack, pouring a drink, washing a fruit, fixing a bowl of cereal, buttering bread, serving themselves a second helping of food or salad - stuff like that.

    I feel like all I do is serve my kids all day and I think there are things they can and should be able to do themselves. Sometimes it results in a mess but I literally feel like a slave sometimes. And they play the helpless game....like DD2 will drop her napkin RIGHT next to her and ask me to pick it up.
    Thing 1 (7), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (20M)

  2. #2

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    Right now, not much because most of the food my 4yo can't really reach. But I do ask him to do things on his own, and if he asks me to do something like pick up a napkin that he can get, I tell him he can do it himself.



  3. #3
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    Both my girls are pretty self suffcient, except when they want to be lazy!! My 6 year old just started making herself cereal, but she's been able to get quick snacks out of the fridge for awhile. Usually, I'd start giving them something small but stay fairly close to supervise until they know how to do it well.


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    3-4 year olds, I wouldn't think are capable of making themselves food. They should be able to get fruit off a fruit bowl, spread cheese on crackers, butter on toast, that sort of thing, but still would require a lot of help. Don't think they can get stuff out of the refrigerator, and do food prep that involves more than one step. The dropped napkin - I'd ask that she do it herself, since she is perfectly capable.

  5. #5

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    I don't consider 3 or 4 "older" lol. My older kids are 16 and 18 ;) a 3yr old, even a mature one is barely out of toddlerhood. I wouldn't expect them to do any of those things you listed specifically without close supervision and guidance. My 8yr old still asks for help getting milk out of the fridge because it is too high. She can do all the others though (and could get the milk with a chair).

    You could put some stuff down low, snacks, cups for water etc. Maybe fruit and veggies cut for snacks in a drawer in the fridge. And certainly they can pick up their own napkins.

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    Cody wants to do everything. I worry about him getting hurt like example: putting things in the toaster. With me watching him I tell him to never stick anything in the toaster except for food- at this point pop tarts. To never put his finger in there or he'll get hurt. He carefully puts them in. He can pour drinks into a cup, he dresses himself for school, he brushes his teeth and I will go over them with him, he puts on his shoes, etc. He hates having help. He also put the dishes in the sink. He puts his clothes away. I grew up with my mom doing a lot for me because she did not want us - my brother and I to mess up anything. I just teach Cody how to do things and if he messes up we try again together. That's how he learns. He'll be 5 in July.



  7. #7

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    My 6 year olds now can fix themselves a sandwich. Aslan is more independent than Ambria. Aslan will also fix cereal and drinks and will even fix them for my 4 year old. They get themselves dressed every day and even pick out their clothes the night before. They put on their own socks and shoes and brush their teeth and their hair. My 4 year old can dress himself, but he still has trouble picking out clothes. He brushes his teeth with supervision. He doesn't fix food for himself, but he will get things out for me to fix. He can get fruit because that doesn't require any preparation. I think 4 is still really young for most of the things you listed. From my experience with other parents, my kids are more independent than most other kids I encounter. I'd say around 5 they started getting out their clothes and dressing themselves. They just now at 6 started fixing themselves food. They can make sandwiches, toast, cereal, cheese and crackers, etc. My 8 year old has started heating things up on the stove some. He makes soup and ramen noodles. My just turned 11 year old cooks now. She can cook eggs and other simple things. I know how it feels when you seem to be waiting on people all day every day, but it will get easier.
    Mary Jane, doula and mom of Vada, Brynna, Tea, Moira, Kyan, Ambria, Aslan, and Anakin.
    “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss

  8. #8

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    Idk, Sadie is 4 and gets herself any food or snacks within reach. If she can't reach, she stands on a chair (which I don't love). She doesn't pour milk without help, but she does fill cups with water from the fridge. If I am in view, she always asks for help. But it's amazing how self sufficient she is when I am in the shower or she's trying to help her brother. Our dentist said to keep assisting while she brushes her teeth until she can tie her shoes. But yeah, she asks me to hang her coat on the hook and do all kids of silly things whenever she's feeling lazy. Sometimes I help to avoid a battle. Sometimes I just tell her with having big kid privileges come big kid chores.

  9. #9
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    Yeah I was really talking about my 6yo. But DD2 turned 4 yesterday and does just about the same things as my 6yo for herself...which may not be saying much. Mostly getting snacks out of the fridge or pantry, getting her own napkin, filling up her cup with water from the fridge dispenser.

    What about hygiene stuff? Brushing teeth, hair, washing themselves, washing hair?

    ETA: Sorry I didn't see that many of you mentioned hygiene stuff.
    Last edited by macksmom; 02-28-2013 at 07:01 PM.
    Thing 1 (7), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (20M)

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    Yeah I was really talking about my 6yo. But DD2 turned 4 yesterday and does just about the same things as my 6yo for herself...which may not be saying much. Mostly getting snacks out of the fridge or pantry, getting her own napkin, filling up her cup with water from the fridge dispenser.

    What about hygiene stuff? Brushing teeth, hair, washing themselves, washing hair?

    ETA: Sorry I didn't see that many of you mentioned hygiene stuff.
    We don't have water dispenser in our fridge. I can't answer the hygiene question because my younger kids shower with my older ones so they help them. The twins though can wash their hair and bathe themselves, but Aslan usually showers with Kyan who is 8 and Ambria showers with Moira who just turned 11 so they have some supervision. Anakin cannot. I still do it for them sometimes to save time. They all brush their own teeth but I still supervise the younger ones. They all brush their own hair most of the time.
    Mary Jane, doula and mom of Vada, Brynna, Tea, Moira, Kyan, Ambria, Aslan, and Anakin.
    “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss

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    Mira can dress herself reasonably well, but has trouble with stuff like buttons, and telling front/back on underwear. She does a good job with brushing teeth, but I follow up and get stuff she has trouble with. She can brush her hair, but it won't look like she did. Shower, I don't trust her at all. She'll play, wash the shower, and call it done.

  12. #12

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    Oh, my 4yo can get himself completely dressed, though he can't do buttons and has trouble with socks (he has to have them on *just* right or he kind of freaks). Hygiene stuff? I let him brush his teeth and then I go over them. I still wash his hair and body in the tub, but I think I'm going to have him start washing his body. His hair, I think he'll need me to do for a while longer.



  13. #13

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    Mine are 5 and 7. They both dress themselves and brush their own teeth. I have one spot in the kitchen that I fill with healthy snacks so they can help themselves. I have a small pitcher of water that I keep on the counter since Kai can't reach the sink and HATES filter water from the fridge. Savana will go in the pantry to get herself something. I don't really want them in the fridge because they stand there with door open too long and sometimes it's so full that I'm afraid they will knock stuff over digging. I still bathe both of them as far as washing hair even though Savana takes a shower she has a massive fear of soap in her eyes so she prefers me to do it if it must be done. Dinner is the worst as I feel like I can never sit down for all the little things that everyone is asking for. Dbf won't get up for them because he thinks they should "do it themselves" but some things they just can't reach. Oh, and I have recently started letting Savana make her own toast but that's the only form of cooking that they do unless I am right there. Oh and I still wipe Kai's butt which, as much as I try to cherish every moment, I'm so dang tired of doing that and am really working on him doing it himself. He's terrified that he'll be dirty.

  14. #14
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    For food stuff my girls are expected to get their own water-we have a fridge dispenser but also our water is tasty and fine from the tap and they both have Camelbak waterbottles so it's been...years?...since I've been the main drink-getter for them. If I have milk in a small enough container AND THEY ASK FIRST (so I'm aware to be on the lookout for massive messes) then they can pour their own milk for a glass or on cereal. We use raw milk so I keep it in a pitcher and they know if it's in the small pitcher they can pour it themselves, if it's in the gallon one they need to ask me because it might be too full for them to handle. They get their own carrots and cucumbers-those are pretty much free range for them. They know how to peel them over the compost bin, too. Sort of They know how to make toast and LOVE to do it, spread peanut butter or butter, and in fact believe somehow their toast tastes much better than mine...so I let them have that one! The fruit is in a hanging basket and if they ask first they can get their banana down, or an apple or orange...basically I prepare meals and other than that they fend for themselves with permission.

    They also have a lot of chores around the house. We'd gotten out of the habit of them since the new year so I just revamped the chore chart, but basically every day their bathroom gets cleaned by one of them and I go over it on Saturday to be sure it gets super clean once a week. The kitchen is the same-they sweep every day and I sweep and mop on Saturday. They vacuum the main living areas, their bedroom and the hall every day, John or I do it on Saturday. They sweep the front porch and entry way twice a week. They put way the dishes if the dishwasher is full after school. Scharae dusts-it's her favorite chore and I pay her a penny to do it every day. She thinks it's awesome Keira washes the baseboards once a week for a quarter, and the windowsills. Scharae cleans the doorknobs on Saturdays for a quarter...on and on and on. I expect a lot out of them, but they love to do it AND they still have a few hours a day to play, read, get their homework done AND get to bed by 6:30pm

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  15. #15

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    Emme just turned 4 in Jan, and doesn't do much for herself. She doesn't have the desire to. Occasionally she helps me bake, or wash fruits/veggies, or set the table for dinner, but she wants ME to do everything else for her..... get her food, get her a drink, wipe her bum, get her dressed, take her out of the carseat, FEED her, wash her hands, search for a specific toy. If anyone else offers to do any of it she flips out-- "I WANT MY MOM!" (I hear that several times a day). She CAN do a lot of it herself, I've seen her do it.... get dressed/undressed, she can reach the water from the fridge, she can reach most of her snacks, her plates and utensils, put on her own shoes, clean up her toys. I don't mind doing the hygiene stuff, I actually prefer it (especially brushing teeth and wiping her bum).

  16. #16

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    Maiya is a month from turning 3 (I need a hug...), and I have things set up so she can be very independent.

    I mean, she can't take a gallon of milk and pour herself a glass, but she can get her own cup and put ice and water in it from the fridge. I always have a sippy of milk on the bottom shelf of the fridge so she can get it. Same with snacks- all in her reach in the fridge (or counter, for like oranges). She still generally asks first, but is starting to just get what she wants without asking. She cannot reach the microwave (over the stove), and we don't have a toaster, but she is learning to use the stove and oven pretty well (we cook together a lot!). Obviously I won't let her use that stuff alone for a LONG time, but she seems to think she can do it already, hah.

    As for hygiene, she WANTS to do it all herself. I generally let her, but then I finish up- hair, face, and teeth. Including washing herself in the bath, and her hair. She HATES getting her hair washed, so sometimes the only way to get it done is to have her do it herself (while she cries the whole time...). She likes to pick out all her own clothes, but still can't dress herself yet. Since she PTed, she is getting better at pulling her pants up and down, but anything beyond that is very hard for her yet. We practice often, but I'm not pushing it.



  17. #17

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    My DD will be 5 in April. We are working on her dressing herself (preschool has been a huge support with that because they are the ones that consistently get them to put on their own sweaters/jackets/gloves etc) 'getting dressed' is on her chore chart, in september i did it all for her, but now she can do almost everything except some socks. If she's thirsty she'll get her own water from a cup that's beside the bathroom facet on her own, she'll grab her own snacks (fruit from the fruit bowl and wash it herself) but she'll always ask first. I keep all her snacks in the shelves of the fridge door (yoghurt cups/apple sauces, etc) so they are easy to grab. If the jug of milk is less than half full, she can warm her own milk up in the microwave. It's so adorable and she looks so grown up. I wash her hair or else it will never get washed, she hates shampoo. She 'brushes her own teeth' but I 'get a turn' after she's done to make sure all her teeth or clean, i'm very anal about teeth brushing!! She washes her own face before bed. I'd say she's fairly independent!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    I guess I am referring to kids 4 and up? Maybe some mature 3 year olds? How much do they do on their own - like get themselves a drink, snacks, brush teeth, put coats on, etc.... I am mostly referring to the food stuff though like going in the fridge for a snack, pouring a drink, washing a fruit, fixing a bowl of cereal, buttering bread, serving themselves a second helping of food or salad - stuff like that. I feel like all I do is serve my kids all day and I think there are things they can and should be able to do themselves. Sometimes it results in a mess but I literally feel like a slave sometimes. And they play the helpless game....like DD2 will drop her napkin RIGHT next to her and ask me to pick it up.
    Ari does the napkin thing too!! Since I am SO pregnant, she has learned that mommy can't bend over easily. I am often asking her to pick up things for me! Which sometimes annoys her, but really.... bending down is no easy task right now! lol

  19. #19
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    Mine are 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 and just recently I have been encouraging them to do more for themselves. On the weekends I will set them up with baggies of cereal, put out bowls and spoons and a small container of milk in the fridge. This way they can have cereal and DH and I can sleep in. Sometimes there are messes, but they are doing pretty well with getting up and playing quietly. They both can open the fridge and get cheese sticks or yogurts or fruit if they want. This has backfired a little because DD2 is a grazer and 15 minutes before dinner I have found her getting a snack because she is hungry. I am also having them help with setting the table for dinner. Our table is not in the kitchen so they have to carry 2 plates each and set out the forks and napkins.

    Getting dressed is hit or miss. DD1 can do it all herself but in the morning before school I tend to help her with it because we are pressed for time. DD2 is the one that wants to do things on her own and that can sometimes be frustrating because she still does need the help. We only have a small shower so I get the both showered together because it's easier and faster for me and then they can play for a little while. On the rare occasion that DH gives them showers he will make DD1 wash herself and then just wash her hair for her. They both brush their teeth in the mornings and do well and then DH or I brush them at night after they have a turn. Our dentist said we need to do it until they are 7. Neither will brush their own hair.
    Last edited by ljs318; 03-01-2013 at 06:03 AM.
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  20. #20

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    My DS can get himself completely dressed, but if he asks for help I give it, since often he will spontaneous just do it by himself. He can get his coat and shoes on. He just learned to put his own toothpaste on.
    As far as food, he can grab boxes of crackers from the cupboard, apples from the fruit drawer, etc. But when they ask for a snack (even my just turned 2 year old) I always make them help in some way. If they want cereal, they know they are responsible for grabbing the snack bowls. If they want milk, they have to bring me their cup. I'm hoping to instill a little initiative, so that once they can do more for themselves they will be used to getting up to do it.

    ETA He is turning 4 in April.

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  21. #21

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    Since Chris is an only child I realized I was doing way too much for him, not letting him be independent enough. I've been working on that though. He feeds himself breakfast on Saturday mornings because he wakes up before I do. He'll get fruit or eat cereal dry. I've recently taught him to get the colander out to wash his fruit in the sink and sometimes he remembers to do it and sometimes not. I always remind him though. He has poured drinks for himself a handful of times but that makes me too nervous he'll spill, so he doesn't do that too much. If we are eating something like nuggets, he can serve himself more but 99% of the time, I help him serve his food. He can make sandwiches, though they are not the prettiest. As far as hand washing and brushing his teeth-I have to constantly remind him to do both.
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    My DS is 4, he brushes his own teeth but then I go over them again. He will help me wash his body or he will do it himself and then I do it again. He will get his own water from the fridge dispenser. If he wants a sandwich he gets everything out I will need. He helps me spread butter on toast or pb on bread. He gets himself dressed. I have to help with buttons sometimes and socks. Just recently I was able to get him to start using the bathroom alone. If he poops though I go in with him and wipe him, he has done it before himself but does not get clean. He will even put himself to bed if he really does not want to wait for me to finish doing whatever I'm doing. He can not reach cups etc without climbing on my counter and I wont let him do that so normally I leave one out that he can reach.



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    Quote Originally Posted by macksmom View Post
    Yeah I was really talking about my 6yo. But DD2 turned 4 yesterday and does just about the same things as my 6yo for herself...which may not be saying much. Mostly getting snacks out of the fridge or pantry, getting her own napkin, filling up her cup with water from the fridge dispenser.

    What about hygiene stuff? Brushing teeth, hair, washing themselves, washing hair?

    ETA: Sorry I didn't see that many of you mentioned hygiene stuff.
    When it comes to hygine I have shown Cody how to add soap and later up his blue puff thing and he knows how to scrub. I wash his hair. He now enjoys a shower and that give him more privacy. I watch him brush his teeth and we go over it together. His hair is short and doesn't really need to be brushed but, he uses a comb. Also, if I already mentioned this in my other response I am sorry.



  24. #24
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    I have had the recent bright idea to tape a note on the tv on weekend mornings saying, "You can watch a show you ALL agree on only until I wake up. It is in your best interest to stay quiet if you want to watch tv." Since they don't really get to watch tv at other times, they have been loving this. Then after I wake up I put some cereal boxes on the table, a milk carton, and they can help themselves while I make a grocery list. This is new, and it means I get about 30 minutes extra of sleeping in, and about 15 minutes of time to work on a chore without interference while my coffee kicks in. And they have been spilling a bit, but the gallon of milk is pretty big. They can butter bread or make sandwiches and toast, get cheese and yogurt, help themselves to fruit and clean it, but all of the plates and cups and even paper towels and everything are way to high for them to reach and I discourage them from climbing up onto the counters -- one of the times DD did it, she needed to go to the ER for stitches.

    However, I am realizing after reading the other posts that I tend to manage snacks and eating a lot. If I left them to their own devices, one child would only eat cheese and milk, another would only eat bread and butter, and another would eat dried mango slices. And I have to restrict the milk my youngest one drinks--he wants it all the time, to the exclusion of food. So I often just put snacks out (fruit, cheese, whole grains) on a couple of plates and let everyone share a couple of times a day, rather than having an open-fridge policy.

    They all get their toothbrushes out and put toothpaste on them and brush and rinse and spit in the morning, and we do the brushing for them at night. They floss themselves about half the time, and we do it the other half. The boys don't really need to comb and brush, and DD is not good about it and I have to comb her hair. They can shower by themselves and soap and rinse themselves, but I have to go in and out of the bathroom to prompt them. The older two wipe themselves, but this is new since a couple months into kindergarten. We used to always wipe them, although we knew they could do it if they had to, but one day DS had an accident right at the end of the school day because he was holding it. Why? Because he was trying to wait until he was home to go to the bathroom, because he didn't want to wipe himself. Right then and there we instituted a no-wipe policy. Well, after I cleaned him up.

    The 5-year-olds get dressed head-to-toe by themselves and pick out their own clothes and try to evaluate if it's appropriate for the weather and if the outfit is coordinated. Yes, even my boy. They still occasionally have trouble with some zippers or buttons or if things are inside-out.

    What they do have trouble with is opening snack packages, or starting with whole foods (like apples). Since there have always been at least two children, and things have always been shared, I have always cut things up for them so there are multiple pieces, or opened packages so all the bits were out already to share. I think it was just within the past year that they got to try a whole apple that wasn't pre-sliced for them. Even a banana -- I didn't hand it to one of them and expect that one to start peeling it and give part to the other child (because that would have caused screaming)-- I would peel it myself and break off part for one child and part for another. So it's been harder for them to deal with opening things or just what to do with an apple that isn't pre-sliced, or how to peel an orange.

    The other thing is that a lot of times I would be trying to have someone help me cook something in the kitchen and pretty soon I'd have three kids in there yelling and fighting over who got to stir something and I couldn't get anything done. I have had a lot more success with DS in the kitchen, because DD and younger DS can play together and not notice that I have DS in the kitchen, whereas neither of the other two could visit me without the other two noticing. I can have him chopping something on the cutting board or zesting lemons or peeling carrots while I get the rest of dinner going. This is the same reason that DS is completely able to clean the bathrooms independently, but the other two don't know how.

    Finally, I have sacrificed a lot of independence in my children for the sake of time, at times. It was a lot faster to get them both dressed and ready and out the door than have them try to put both feet down the same leg in their pants and cry about it for 10 minutes. It is hard to balance all of this, I know. I do know that for us, I ask my children to help each other out a lot. I ask one to go check and see what the other ones are doing if it's too quiet or if there is yelling coming from the bathroom and I can't go. If someone asks for help with a shirt, I ask if one of the other kids can help first. They feel a lot more accomplished if they can take turns helping each other. My DD has been the first to develop the thumb strength to unbuckle her car seat, so now she hops out when the car is stopped and will help her brother out. Now a lot of times they will turn to each other (even the little one) when they need something, instead of automatically asking me. It gives all of us a sense of being in this together, and I don't think they feel like it's drudgery the way we sometimes do.
    Last edited by 3andMe; 03-01-2013 at 01:21 PM.


  25. #25
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    My oldest (almost 7) finally will get her own breakfast. I will pour the milk if the container is completely full, though, or else it will end up all over the table. She also dresses herself, brushes her teeth, wipes her own butt (seriously, we worked for a long time on this one!!), and has just started washing her own hair on occasion. My 3 y/o can dress herself, but sometimes I need to do it for her because she resists getting started and we need to get out the door for school in the morning. They can get some of their own snacks, depending on what they want to eat.

    ~ Cassie, mama to Madison (8), Ali (4) & Wesley (new dude!)


  26. #26

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    my 4 year old gets herself water, there is a cup in the bathroom since that is the sink she can reach. but in terms of pouring milk, juice etc...that i do.

    she dresses herself completely, wipes her bottom by herself, can do a large portion of her baths alone, but I am always in there with her mostly because she has a baby sister(2) that needs me too.

    She can put on her own shoes(not tie yet though), coat and zip her coat...she pretty much does everything aside from making a meal on her own.

    Jenny~ Mama to Katelyn(7), Ben(my angel in Heaven, 6), Megan(5), Allie(2years), Nora(8m)

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    DD1 will be 4 in 3 months, and wants to do everything independently, although she doesn't realize she still needs some help. lol She can get her own water from the fridge dispenser, but I don't allow her to pour milk or anything in a container yet. She can get one step snacks like fruit/yogurt/cheese sticks out of the fridge, but anything more complicated I help her with. She brushes her teeth, but I follow up, same with bathing. But in general she has a strong desire to do things herself. Sometimes she likes to play that she can't do something herself, and sometimes I will play along, but that is because its just pretend. On rare occasions she gets whiny and wants me to do things for her that I know she can do herself. In those instances I tell her I know she can do it (with a confident positive tone) and flat refuse to do it for her. Its not usually an issue, though.

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    You all have totally inspired me. I put all cereals and snacks as well as kid cups and plates and bowls down in a lower cupboard today, after we came home from school and both of my kids started making themselves sandwiches. Now all of my pots and pans and mixing bowls are up high, but they are super-excited.


  29. #29
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    I would not be as worried about spills as portion control. I would imagine cereal bowls to be filled to the brim and sandwiches a mile high!

    I also let my 6yo help my 4yo with some things. Sometimes I am busy with the baby but sometimes I am just lazy and tired of serving all day

    It is amazing what my 4yo can do as compared to her sister at 4. It's partly a "fend for yourself" thing and partly her following her sister and me not "babying" as I did when I only had one.

    I may re-arrange some things so they are more accessible but for the most part my kids do what many of your described your kids doing. Hygiene-wise they do everything themselves and I follow up except hair. They really don't brush their hair well at all.
    Thing 1 (7), Thing 2 (5), Thing 3 (20M)

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