Chores in the Nature Lab, and why it’s so important

By: Erin Tessier

Teacher: What is this?
Child: A broom!
Teacher: What do we use it for?
Child: To fly!

Laughter ensues, but also an eye opening experience for the real uses of a broom :). These past weeks in the Nature Lab we’ve been busy working in the garden and caring for the animals. We are developing routines where the children will become competent in many of the tasks that are regularly required to keep our garden and animals happy and healthy. In turn, research shows these chores will create happier and healthier kids.

A well-known Harvard study found that the greatest predictor of healthy, happy and independent adults was whether or not the children had been engaged in chores from a young age (3-4 years old). Building mastery in helpful tasks builds confidence, independence, empathy and improves self-esteem. It also creates a sense of community and teaches them the importance of helping and being responsive to others.

The task needs to be age appropriate of course, and adult involvement and positive support is important. Our toddlers and 2s mostly worked on properly watering our plants, worm bin, fairy garden, and pollinator waterer. 3 year olds were able to feed and care for our lizards, cockroaches, sweep the sidewalks, and harvest ripe fruit. On top of all the previously mentioned tasks, the 4 year olds were also able to plant additional seeds, top-dress plants, and collect eggs.

Visual aides, such as pictures of children performing the task or simple drawings, helped to remind the children what their jobs were without an adult needing to model the behavior each time. The kids did so well and were so helpful.

We often think that it will take twice as long to do a task if we involve our children, and it may that first time or two. They have to start somewhere and they truly are so capable and willing. Practice makes perfect! In the end we enjoyed the fruits of our labor by making some lovely mint and stevia tea right from the garden and grabbing a few fresh tomatoes and strawberries to munch on. Well earned after a hard days work!

Children Helping Outside at Daycare Center
Girl helping with plants at daycare center
Young girl sweeping at child care center