By Elizabeth Gelfeld
“It was fun because I could use a real vacuum!” —Theo, 7
At the 15th annual Can Do Kids Fair last Saturday afternoon, nearly 200 children aged 3–11 walked with their parents the three floors of PEP’s building, stopping to try their hand at roughly 20 activity stations grouped by themes including Carpentry, Bike Maintenance, People Skills, Good Eats, Home Creating, Plumbing, Gardening and several others.
Children learned to do—and did—useful, necessary and fun tasks that we adults often consider to be “adult” work, including vacuuming, polishing a mirror, working in a team to clean an entire room, practicing table manners and apologies, machine-sewing a head warmer, hand-sewing a button, clearing a clogged drain, planting vegetables, painting walls, sawing wood and making fruit smoothies, sushi rolls and homemade applesauce.
During the fair, Barbara Fairfield, an Adlerian psychologist and moderator of many of PEP’s Open Forum Counseling sessions, interviewed children as they traveled between activities, asking them for feedback on their experiences. Several commented on the joy of learning something new and useful.
“I learned to put soap in the laundry machine and I had never done that before.” —Ari, 4½
“I wanted to come and learn how to do some things that my mother and daddy do. I already know how to cook eggs!” —Elisa, 7
“I learned something new: how to patch a hole.” —Etherige, 11
“I liked carpentry because I got to build something. I like to build with Legos, but this was different because you got to use screws and nails.” —Alex, 9
“I liked learning to sew a button because I have lots of stuffed animals at home and now I could patch them up.” —Andrew, 11
“In my basement, we have toys, but here you have tools!” —Charlie, 4
“I did not know how to make sushi before I came today, and it’s my favorite food!” —Emerson, 10. Barbara adds that Emerson’s mother was glad for that skill, too, since sushi is a pricey item.
Other children focused on the fun of the activities and, often, their pleasure in the results of their work.
“I liked the electrical wiring because I like to know how stuff works and how to take things apart and put them back right. I like mechanics.” —Neil, 9
“I liked stepping on the pedal that makes the sewing machine go, and I like the head warmer that I made. It is so pretty and soft!” —Olivia, 7
“I like the water part of the shoe shining.” —James, 6
“The best part of ‘Good Eats’ was that we got to eat it!” —Gabriella, 7
Several children also grappled with the complexities of people skills (one of the activity themes), including working with others.
“Sometimes it’s good to have a helper and sometimes it’s not. It was good to have a helper to make the bookholder in carpentry.” —Scott, 7
“I liked the vacuuming better than learning to say you’re sorry because the vacuuming was easier.” —Elisha, 7
And, children at the fair showed their capacity to accept the pain along with the joys of life’s tasks and their resilience when things were hard.
“I did not like the bike repair because I hurt my finger on a spoke.” —Shea, 6. Barbara adds, “She agreed to repeat this next year, since she now knows what she needs to do to avoid injury. She quickly showed me her Band-Aid when I asked why she didn’t like bike repair.”
“I am not that patient about a lot of things. Today, I felt impatient, but I didn’t show it.” —Max, 9
Photo above: Barbara Fairfield interviews a child at the Can Do Kids Fair last Saturday.
Did your child have a fun or useful experience at the fair? Share your comments below!