Updated: Dec 3, 2019
This book has been a family classic, ever since I was a child. My kids have loved reading it this week as I recently borrowed it from the library. Today everyone was home on a PED day (no school!) and as we were enjoying reading it on the couch, we couldn’t help but notice that the muffins in the book looked so tasty. We decided today would be a great day to make some baked treats!
I was a little skeptical, but tried to be optimistic as I know how messy baking can become - and that is when I am cooking alone! But when you add a 2, 3, and 5 year old into the mix, it has the potential to become overwhelming. Nevertheless, we had the goal to make Blueberry Oatmeal and Banana Chocolate chip muffins for the neighbours as a holiday treat, so I took a deep breath and we gathered the necessary supplies.
After washing their hands, the boys lined up in front of the bowl. Right away, they started touching the ingredients as each brother took a turn to pour their item. My first reaction was to say, “Stop! Get your hands out of the bowl! We don’t touch the flour once it is in the bowl!” But instead, I put into practice a very helpful tool of telling them what they can do, and what they cannot do.
“You can keep your hands on the counter while you wait for your turn.”
“You can watch your brother pour the ingredients in the bowl. But, you cannot put your hands in the bowl.”
This proved to be so effective for the rest of the activity. And the amazing thing is, they caught on right away, especially with my two year old. He pressed his hands so tightly on the counter, like there was no way that his hands would be anywhere except there until it was his turn to pour the next item.
Instead of, “don’t spill the ingredients when you mix”, I said, “keep all the ingredients in the bowl as you stir”.
Rather than, “don’t push your brother off the chair,” the instructions were, “show me how you can keep your feet on your own seat.”
It was incredible seeing how easy it was to invite them to cooperate. Instead of hearing what they could not do, I was empowering them by giving them a positive and clear goal on what they could do. Children are so literal as well as selective listeners. So when they hear a sentence, typically a few words stick out to them. When they hear “Don’t shout so loudly”, the words “shout” and “loudly” are the most clear in their mind. Makes sense, right? While we are saying not to do something, they tend to miss the “do not” part of the sentence. When we can be a little more creative about telling them what they can do, it invites teamwork and gives them a clear picture of what your expectations are.
If you are looking for other ways you can use this “can and cannot do” tool, think about the different “do not” sentences you use in your day and how you could give your children a positive command instead.
“Do not splash in the mud puddle” … try “lets keep our feet dry on the sidewalk”
“Don’t run so far ahead”… “show me how your feet can walk close to me”
“Don't throw your toys”… “We can either play with the toys on the floor or at the table”
“Don’t come out of your room, it is bedtime!”… “You can read books or play quietly in your bed as you let your body rest and fall asleep”
It turns out, my children’s cooperation skills are better than my baking, so we will be finding a different holiday treat for the neighbours as our muffins are a little too toasty! But, I saw my children thrive in this activity and I call that a success!