My youngest kid is super strong and extremely adventurous, so today I had to install various counter-measures throughout the house to keep his zone of destruction relatively isolated.
My middle kid, who is on the most adorable kick ever of wanting to help everyone do everything, was practically salivating at the idea of getting to dig around in my tools with me to install these new features. She changed my name to “Tool Daddy” (instead of regular Daddy) and amended her own name similarly – complete with insistence that I refer to her this way.
She was quite diligent! The entire time I was installing, she was right next to me with a tool of her own, mimicking my actions. Every ten seconds or so she’d stop to say “Wow Tool Daddy! You’re doing a great job!”
There’s an explicit understanding I’ve had with all of my children, and I think it’s a good bargain to strike. The bargain is this: yes, my kiddos, you can help me or accompany me with absolutely anything, as long as you’re not deliberately hindering me. Of course I understand that the work goes slower with a kid on each leg than it would otherwise – but it’s also not really “work” at all if my kids are laughing and learning and we’re all enjoying the time. The hard rule is just that they’re not allowed to “goof off” in a way that is counter to the activity. My kid can take a screwdriver and poke at what we’re building all day, no matter how ineffectually – but if she pokes me, or starts digging in the grass with it, etc. then she’s on her own.
This works well. Even at a very young age, it makes my kids want to learn what I’m actually doing, makes them observe, teaches them a little more focus and discipline each day while still preserving the fun. That’s a good lesson for everyone – have fun, but stay focused.
You can build a lot that way.