Young children have a natural internal motivation to be involved in a wide range of household tasks. They enjoy emulating the activities performed by family members and caregivers because they intuitively understand that such activities are important. There are many ways to facilitate your child’s participation in the home environment. One task that the children have been practicing at school on a daily basis—multiple times a day—is table setting!
During the process of setting the table, the child is utilizing and strengthening executive functioning skills. The first item needed is a placemat. Should the child initially forget the placemat, he/she will have to reorganize the setting. The child also has to recall the chair and table at which he/she is setting up for snack or lunch, which becomes more complicated when multiple children are performing the same task at once! Lastly, the child must recall which items he/she has already brought to the table, as the children are expected to carry only one item at a time.
Table setting also promotes the development of grace and courtesy. The children practice waiting patiently in line as a peer takes an item from the dish shelf and then moves out of the way, making room for the next child to retrieve an item. With so many moving bodies, it is likely that the children may bump into each other. When this occurs, they have the opportunity to use common courtesies, such as “excuse me.”
When young children make concrete, tangible contributions to their environments, they further develop their independence and self-esteem and strengthen their sense of belonging.