Maria Montessori is known best for her educational philosophy and hands on learning materials but you may not know that her innovative ideas didn’t stop in the classroom. Montessori was focused on supporting the development of the whole child and she actually created a curriculum for self-care, clean-up, and even social graces. She imagined the classroom as a working community of young people and envisioned the “teacher’s” job as more of a guide and support.
When I worked at Montessori schools, I saw Montessori’s vision realized. The children were incredibly self-sufficient. At the time, it seemed like magic to see three four and five year olds hanging up their own coats, putting their activities away when they were finished, and cleaning up wet and dry messes independently or helping another student. But it really wasn’t magic at all and that’s the good news for you.
With a few simple changes to your home environment, and some slightly bigger ones to your own habits, you can have self-sufficient children too.
11 Tips to Bring Montessori Into Your Home
1) Notice the times when you do something for your child that you know he can do himself. Now stop helping so much. Whether this is excessive carrying, dressing or feeding, every time you do something for your child that he is capable of doing himself you subtly undermine his confidence. That is unless he asks for help. When a child needs and asks for help, the more often you’re available, the stronger your connection will become, which ironically leads to them needing your input less and less.
2) Install a low hook and ask your child to hang up his jacket every time you walk in the door. We have a shoe free house so my daughter also takes off her shoes and puts them into a shoe bin near the front door.
3) Teach young children to put on their coats independently. At first, you’ll take the coat off the hook for her and lay it on the floor, but soon, she’ll learn to do the whole process independently! Here’s a video that shows you exactly what to do:
4) Purchase Velcro shoes that are easy to put on independently and then encourage your child to figure out how to put his shoes on all by himself. If your child is older, teach him to tie his own shoes.
5) Instead of washing your child’s face when it’s dirty, install a full-length mirror, hand them a wet cloth and invite them to look in the mirror and wash their own face after a meal. You might have to do some touch up work with your toddler, but this gives children a sense of responsibility for their own body. You can also encourage your kids wash their own bodies when bathing.
6) Make sure there is a stool and possibly a faucet extender in the most frequently used bathroom in the house. Children should be able to go to the bathroom and wash their hands independently by three or four years old (possibly later if they have delays, but it’s never too early to try it out!)
7) Consider a low hook for a hand towel in the bathroom too. Children love to put things onto hooks.
8) Give your child access to a drink of water and a healthy snack that she can enjoy on her own. A small pitcher filled with fresh water daily can be a fun way to practice pouring and means that you don’t have to refill their glass! Be sure to provide access to towels for clean up in case there’s a spill and ask your child to take care of his spills herself.
9) Provide child sized and child accessible cleaning materials like towels, sponges, a broom and dustpan, a duster, etc. and invite your child to help out with the household chores.
10) Ask them to help with dinner, dishes, grocery shopping and cleaning the bathroom when they’re young and it will be much easier to practice and refine their skills, rather than introducing them to “chores” when they’re bigger.
11) Put clothes within reach and allow children to choose their clothing. Also, encourage kids to learn to take off (first) and later to put on their own clothes, rather than doing it for them every time.
This is just a start, there are a lot more things you can do to make your home more child-accessible but I’m excited for you. When you can begin to delegate some of the personal care and household chores to your kids you’re not just lightening the load for yourself. You’re also teaching them valuable skills and giving them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Please give this gift to yourself and to your family.
Give Options and Encourage Effort
One very important thing to note though, don’t force a child to do anything they don’t want to do. When we try to force children to do our will, they resist and power struggles between parent and child can painfully undermine our connection with our kids. Besides, we’re already more powerful in that we are the stronger, larger, more competent, more experienced humans. Do we really need to force them to comply too?
Instead, try offering a variety of options and let your child choose how he’d like to contribute to the household. Notice and encourage any effort your child makes and show him how to improve his results when necessary.
I hope this was helpful and provides some ideas for how you can make self-care and clean-up easier at your house. And I would love to hear about your own experiences. Please leave a comment below and have a fantastic day!
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