Carter (age 2) makes coffee

How does a 2-year-old make coffee for his dad? Take a look:

When I show this video, almost without fail I get two responses: ~"That's so cute!" and (from parents) ~"No way my kid could do that." I agree with the first, but the second just isn't the case -- or at least it doesn't have to be.

After working with thousands of children over the years, I can confidently say there is nothing special about Carter. Each and every unique child in this world is capable of his achievement. There are, however, a few important things that make it possible. Here are three:

1) An environment that says: "You are capable."

Notice how much Carter is allowed to do for himself:

  • He has his own child-sized ladder.

  • Many things in the kitchen are positioned so that he is able to use them without parent help, from the accessible Keurig machine and its pods to the sugar container and spoon.

  • The pitcher is small enough that he can handle it with no problem. (Note that the pitcher is real glass. "But what if it breaks?" a parent might understandable ask. No problem! then Carter and his dad, who is always nearby, can work together to clean it up.)

  • The garbage bin opens with a pedal so Carter is able to throw away trash on his own.

2) An environment with A LOT of language.

Carter actually spoke a surprising amount while he was making coffee. Here are just a few of his words/comments -- most of which he no doubt absorbed from his dad's prior modeling:

  • "Milk, there," as he points toward the fridge. "Turn on, turn on, Daddy." "Warming up, Daddy." "Push that, push that." "Oh, need to turn it off," as he reaches around the backside of the Keurig machine. "Need some sugar, Daddy." "Under water, under water," referring to the sugar he just put in the cup of coffee. "Lift it up," as he remembers that the Keurig pod needs to be taken out and thrown away. "Hot, hot, hot," as he takes the used pod out, holding it safely by the top. "Here's your coffee, Daddy." "Climb up there," as he goes to place the empty milk pitcher in the sink (gently, per Dad's guidance).

3) An environment of respect.

In the video, we see the great care with which Carter's dad speaks to him. We never hear Carter ordered around. Instead, we hear appreciation from Dad for Carter's work: "Wow, thank you." "Ok, thank you, Carter." "Thank you very much." "Thank you for putting the pitcher in the sink." Carter's dad obviously has tremendous respect for his son as a unique individual. He speaks to him not as a baby who can perform cool tricks, but rather as a growing boy who can increasingly do things on his own.


Of course regardless of how great an environment, the feat of making coffee at 2 years old doesn't occur overnight. (We all know adults who can't work a Keurig machine; you may be one of them! :-)) Thankfully, though, aiding children toward increasing self-reliance doesn't have to be a stressful mess. It can actually be enjoyable. (Carter and Dad clearly had a blast together.) And as noted in last month's Newsletter, such independence building is not limited to infants and toddlers. Carter is 2 here, but his lesson can easily be applied to older children. For instance, imagine all the seemingly "adult" tasks that ten-year-olds can do on their own -- such as purchasing movie tickets, planning parts of a family vacation, helping cook for guests, etc., etc. When one's mind is set on (respectfully) including a child in traditionally adult work, the possibilities become endless.


*This post was originally sent as jemslife's October 2015 Newsletter. If you are not receiving the free Newsletter, you can sign up for it below.


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To contact Jesse McCarthy for media, consulting and speaking, email