A key component of a Montessori home is overestimating what children can do. Too often, we don’t give our children enough credit for their capability and willingness to learn. While it can be tempting to do everything for our small children, it is important that we give them the opportunity to practice daily tasks that will prepare for the responsibilities of running a household of their own one day.
Children are naturally inclined to want to try new things and imitate what parents and older children are doing. With your help, they can move from imitation to true learning to mastery of concepts. The joy in the process of doing is a key part of helping a child learn while building a foundation of responsibility for the future.
Montessori Services offers the following suggestions for helping your young learner pitch in around the house.
For the Youngest Child
The young child of 12 to 18 months is very observant and will imitate the adult. He learns and can follow your lead as you return toys to the shelf or put clothes away. You might show your child how to:
- Take one item, such as a pair of socks or a t-shirt, and carry it with two hands to place on the low shelf or open drawer in his room.
- Hang a towel on a low hook and put his toothbrush in its holder.
- Put clothes in the nearby laundry basket or hamper as he undresses.
- Remove one spoon at a time from the dishwasher, taking it to the silverware drawer or basket.
“I Can Do It Myself”
Between the ages of two and four, your child becomes more verbal and independent, with more muscular control and a greater ability to be of help. Previously, there was little interest in actually completing a task, because the activity itself was intriguing to your child as she unconsciously refined the brain-to-body pathways. With increased coordination and a growing sense of independence, your child is ready to take on more complicated tasks. Now you might demonstrate how to:
- Fold simple items of laundry such as dish towels or napkins before they are placed in their proper place.
- Set the table, carrying one placemat to the table at a time, then napkins, and then a spoon on each mat. You will know when her coordination is good enough to add the forks, knives, and plates.
- Buckle the car seat chest straps, showing how they snap together.
- Pour dry ingredients like rice or beans from one container to another, in preparation for pouring milk from a small pitcher into a glass.
You can watch as your child figures out how to accomplish a new activity by herself. There’s no need to remind or hover, she will know she can ask someone for help if needed.
There are so many ways you can help adapt everyday chores into learning experiences for your child, including incorporating the same tools used in the Montessori classroom into your home. St. Paul’s recently distributed its For Small Hands catalogue, which includes many of the tools used for practical life in the classroom. When you order $25 or more in merchandise, the school receives a merchandise credit voucher equal to 10% of the merchandise total. You can also place orders online here to help support St. Paul’s!