No matter what the age of your children, it is never too early to start teaching them to serve others. Chores are a natural way of leading them to develop an “others first” mentality. It takes some thinking, planning, and creativity on your part to make this work, but it is well worth the effort. A child that grows up with a heart inclined toward serving is such a treasure in a self-focused world.
Setting the table was one early responsibility given to my little ones. I had some lovely dinnerware left over from our wedding, and for the time being, that was put away out of reach. I knew there would come a day (and it did come -very quickly) when little fumbling hands would turn into strong, able hands and I left those special dishes to that distant day.
I actually was given some “plastic” plates and bowls by my mother. They weren’t easily breakable and they were dishwasher safe. You can probably find some “temporary” plastic dishes at any box store or perhaps at a thrift store or garage sale. So if this idea appeals to you, be on the lookout.
I relocated all of my child friendly plates and bowls in a lower cabinet within their reach. They could easily acquire napkins and silverware as well. At first, they were just expected to put a plate, a napkin, and a fork at everyone’s place at the table. Later, we introduced the ideas of filling glasses with ice, counting dinner guests, folding napkins, arranging a proper place setting, and even table decorating.
My youngest ones soon found joy in making our table a special place to eat each night. Often times there were pictures drawn and left at everyone’s place, love notes tucked under napkins, place cards made for each family member (in case we forgot who sat where), or flowers picked and lovingly placed as the center piece of the table. It was a labor of love, a first lesson in the joys of serving the family. I had to make it “doable” for our children by supplying them with easily accessible tools and by providing an example for them in the beginning of the “how to’s" of table setting.
Equally as helpful, other chores grew out of the plastic plates and bowls. Not only could they set the table at mealtime, but they could also clear the table as well. And after dishes were washed, they knew where they belonged and how to put them away. A little foresight enabled our family to come up with quite a few “responsibilities” that were able to be assigned to our youngest children.
Setting the table was such a little thing, but it grew into a huge blessing for our whole family and for others. Plastic dishes and early opportunities to participate in responsibilites became the seeds planted which later developed into hearts that are ready to serve.