Children Learn by doing. They are happiest (especially when young) to be involved in grown-up activities. My children have a little wooden kitchen that they do play with. But given the choice, Anna would do the 'real ' dishes any day!
As she feels the water running through her hands, I tell her what she is feeling..or I will ask her a question- "Does the water feel warm?" "Are you going to use soap to clean the dishes?" All the while her vocabulary is expanding, and she is feeling different sensations. The sense of touch is very important !
Another important aspect of 'doing' for children is the parents' ability to let go. In other words, we need to let go of higher standards and control over every situation. This morning I inwardly cringed as I sent Sam downstairs with Mary Margaret and Tommy and only verbal instructions on how to make pancakes. He repeated the ingredients to himself all the way down the stairs. When I finally made it down, he had made pancakes start to finish! We need to let our children mess up- or not mess up! Sam did an incredible job, and he was so proud to serve me breakfast!
I can't recall how many times Will has fixed something-even big things like tillers and lawn mowers, because we let him have at it. I have to remind myself of letting the kids "do" on a daily basis, because it's too easy to get comfortable with not wanting to bother with the mess .Fill your home with creative things to do! It doesn't have to be fancy! One thing we have had off and on over the years is a giant 'make-it box.' It is a huge Rubbermaid container filled with junk!: cardboard tubes, pipe cleaners, boxes, string, etc...Just last night Will said, "Remember when I always made rain hats from the 'make-it' box" .... Oh, How I wish we had had blogging back then!!!