The Benefits Of Children Seeing Their Parents Get their Hands Dirty
Let them see you get dirty!
How often do we send our children outside and encourage them to "have fun," then we proceed to sit down on a chair and supervise. Probably quite often, and there is nothing wrong with that! However, there are big benefits to having our children see us get our hands dirty.
Here are a few of those benefits:
1. Helps build a relationship of trust
- As caregivers, we often encourage our children to get dirty. We send them to play in the sand with bare feet and bare hands or set them up to experiment with paint using their fingers. All of such activities we push them to do because we believe (and we tell them) that they are "fun" and "good for them." This is true; however, our children have to trust our word and our word can lose meaning over time. If we occasionally participate, and our children see us having fun, and we can bond over the activity, this builds a relationship of trust that will carry through to all areas of life.
2. They learn to value the work
- When our children see us working hard toward a physical goal, they begin to understand the effort that goes into tasks. A physical goal could be weeding the garden, moving stones to frame the driveway or decorating the house for Halloween. If they are able to watch from beginning to end, see our hands getting dirty or watch us exert strength and see the final result of the project, they will gain an understanding and appreciation of the work that went into the task. This will help them develop work ethic as well as a sense of empathy.
3. They witness messy activity modelling
- Some children may enjoy getting their hands dirty but they lack the self-regulation to carry out a messy activity so that it lasts. Other children may not understand how to let go and allow themselves to get messy. If a child sees a trusted adult carry out a messy activity by setting it up, executing it and cleaning up, they can witness how to carry out a messy activity so it is safe, productive and long lasting. In addition, a child's level of physical activity is proven to rise if they witness their caregivers participating in physical activity (source: CBC). Therefore, there are long term benefits to this type of modelling as well.
4. They learn not to fear dirt or mess
- It is natural for a baby to dislike the feeling of grass on their bare feet, or a toddler to startle when they see a bug. Providing continuous opportunities for exposure can help a child overcome these fears but if they can also see their caregiver enjoying them through these natural elements they will trust that they are safe. When a child builds this trust, they will be able to experiment and take risks and have the courage to try new things as they grow.
5. They feel motivated to help
- When our children see us busy doing something that they think is interesting, they intrinsically want to help. Whether this is actually helpful is another story, but the effort is there! Outdoor, dirty work, is a great place to practice this helping quality. Your house isn't going to get destroyed, whatever you are working on can be hosed down or will grow back, it's a free environment for everyone involved! Find tasks that they can help with and encourage them to get to work.
I bet there's some jobs around your house that you've been putting off. Keep these five things in mind and let's get our hands dirty!