Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Washing The Dishes (Preschool Activity)

When I used to teach preschool at a Montessori school, washing the dishes was one of the kids' favorite works to do.  Even the little little kids were super focused on and delighted by their work.  It was a major win.  Though I admit, as a teacher, I got tired of it because it usually meant a lot of spilled water on the floor.

I had kind of forgotten all about that experience until I saw Olivia busy at work washing these cookie cutters this morning.  We had finished all but the last part of our preschool routine and when we were deciding what to do for "play" I suggested that we go upstairs and wash the cookie cutters.  Olivia was thrilled.

I bought this big box of cookie cutters at the thrift store a week or so ago and they have been sitting in their box just taunting Olivia ever since they came in the door.  She's been itching to put them to use with her play dough, but I insisted that they get washed first.

Well, wash them we did.

P.S. My ego would like to say that these pictures are not my best work.  I blame that on my own lack of skills, the fight I was having with getting the auto flash to not turn on, and the fact that I can't move the kitchen sink closer to a window.  Okay, the end.  Back to the important stuff now.

This activity helps build the following skills:

  • focus/concentration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • attention to detail
  • doing things in order

Let's get started!

Olivia was super excited about this.

There were actually a few dirty dishes in our sink (including knives), so she had to wait for a few minutes while I washed those and put them away.  I thought she might get tired of standing there watching me, but she was perfectly content to stand on her little stool and soak it all in.

Soapy Water

First, we filled up one side of the sink with soapy water.  Only fill the sink about half-way or less or you'll end up with water slopped all over your kitchen floor.  :)

Tip: If you have one of those little hand sprayer things attached to your sink, put a little bit of dish soap in the sink and then spray it with the sprayer.  It makes a lot more bubbles than just letting the water run onto the soap.

Note: If I was going to do this serious Montessori style (or at least the way I was trained), I'd set it up so everything worked left to right (i.e. sink with soapy water on the left, then the sink with clean water, then the towel on the counter on the right.).  Obviously I was not thinking about this at all at the time.  But if you want to be legit, now you know how.

Add Dishes

Next, we added the cookie cutters.

These made for some happy, colorful, interesting things to wash.  :)

Even if your cookie cutters are perfectly clean, you might consider letting your child wash them anyway.  Olivia had a blast looking at all of the letters and shapes and numbers as she washed them.

Note: I would suggest choosing items for your child to wash that are:

  • non-breakable
  • mostly clean already
  • easy to handle when wet
  • light enough for the child to hold on their own

It might be fun to pull out your child's silverware and dishes and let them wash some of those!

Once all of the cookie cutters were dumped in, we pushed them all under the water so they'd get nice and wet.

Tip: If everything won't fit in the sink at the same time (or you just don't want it all in the sink at the same time), set the dishes on the counter next to the soapy water and let your child wash each dish one at a time.

Wash Dishes

I gave Olivia a washcloth and she was very dutiful in her washing.  :)

A scrub brush or sponge would also be good washing tools.

Rinse Water

We filled the other side of the sink with clean water for rinsing.

Once she had finished washing a cookie cutter in the soapy water, she dipped it into the rinse water and made sure she got all the bubbles off.

Towel for Drying

Once it had been washed and rinsed, Olivia put each of the clean cookie cutters on the towel next to the sink so they could dry.

The Process

When I initially suggested that we go upstairs and wash the cookie cutters, I had it in mind that we would wash them together.  But I soon realized that this was something that Olivia could (and wanted to) do by herself, so I let her.  (Though I stayed close by to supervise.)

Olivia looks a little solemn in most of these pictures, but it's not because she's upset or unhappy.  She's just so focused.

The thing that makes my heart melt (as a teacher/mother) when it comes to doing learning activities is when we get to a point where the child is truly focused.  This is when the learning happens.  These are the times the kids are most proud of themselves.  They're not just along for the ride.  They are engaged.  That, for me, is what activities like this are all about.  It's fun because it's real work and the pride she feels when she's finished is just as real.

Set Up

After Olivia got going on washing the cookie cutters, I added a dry washcloth on the edge of the counter where water was already starting to build up.  This seemed to do the trick.  By the time she was finished the washcloth was pretty wet, but the floor wasn't.  :)

We have a great little (well, tall, really) stool that we got at Ikea (for $8--score!) several months ago.  It's just the right height for Olivia because she can climb onto it by herself and then be high enough up that she can reach the sinks and counter tops.  I also like it because it's really stable.

While washing the dishes Olivia wore her little vinyl apron to help keep her dry and it worked like a charm.

If you don't have a child size apron you might try using a painting smock or even a folded adult apron.

Finishing Up

Olivia was a great little worker.  She washed and rinsed and set the cookie cutters out to dry until she had washed every single one!  Here she is pointing to her achievement.  :)

I didn't actually count them, but the box said there were 100 cookie cutters inside.  If that's true (and I think if not it's at least pretty close), then that is quite an accomplishment for an almost 3 year-old!

She was very proud of herself when she finished and I was equally proud.  :)

Giving our kids opportunities to do real work and feel the joy that comes in real accomplishment is a great gift.  It's one that I need to give Olivia more often.

What I Was Working On...

While Olivia was hard at work washing the cookie cutters, I was busy getting some special cookie dough ready so we can put all those clean cookie cutters to good use!  More on that to come.  :)


Find more fun and easy preschool ideas on the Preschool page.  You can also find them by clicking on the Preschool button in the header.  Enjoy!   


Kathy Haynie said...

I completely expected you to say that this should be done left-to-right. Whichever direction, this is a wonderful activity. I agree completely about watching kids get engaged.

nick said...

She is too cute Katie!

nick said...

Um, that was from Alex...guess Nick is still signed into gmail :)