Things in the kitchen move more quickly, smoothly and efficiently when I do things myself. To be honest, most things go more quickly and smoothly when I do it myself because after so many years, I’ve got most things optimized.
Cleaning, organizing, sorting, shopping, gardening, refilling, discarding - almost everything can be done faster, if not better by myself. That said life, at least with children, is not always about optimization and efficiency. Life is about exploring and learning, participating and belonging.
So even though, my 3 year old cuts wonky irregular pieces of strawberries, even though she places them in a totally haphazard pattern on the sheets, I still encourage her to work with me to dehydrate fruit.
Certainly, she is practicing her fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination. She is actually preparing her own snack from start to finish. She is learning to exercise self-control by just sampling a few pieces of fruit as she cuts and as she stores.
For restraining my obsessive need for order, for being patient and flexible I am rewarded with this smile of happiness and pride. And it makes me realize how important it is to allow children to participate in (practical) life not simply so they will learn necessary skills and feel a sense of accomplishment but because it reminds us as adults to pause our need for perfection, to enjoy the moment as it unfolds.