I might have mentioned before that my mom was a Montessori teacher and I went to Montessori school as a young child. My older daughter has recently started in Montessori preschool. The school she attends does some amazing parent education nights. I’ve only been able to attend one so far, which focused on Montessori for Practical Life, but I came away with so many helpful tips for creating a bit of the prepared environment in our home. The North American Montessori Teachers’ Association describes this as a “calm, ordered space” where “children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.”
At home, this translates to making things accessible to children and empowering them to do the things that they can do themselves. The head of the school encouraged us to step back and really let our children be independent when they are completing tasks (take a deep breath, this might take a while). If they ask for help, then help. If they don’t, then don’t, even if it means it takes a few minutes to get a pair of socks on. If they get frustrated, you could do the task with them, instead of doing it for them. I started talking about this when I was freaking out about getting to work on time. I’m doing my best, but it sure is hard sometimes when you just want to get out of the door.
She gave us some homework to help make our children feel that they are contributing members of the family and empower them to help themselves. We were to make as much of our home accessible to our child as possible, minus our own bedroom and anything that’s harmful of course – maybe they don’t need to be able to reach the steak knives. I’ve taken some photos of the small steps we’ve taken that really seem to be helping her feel more in control of her environment.
1. We moved underwear, socks and PJs from the top drawer to the middle drawer. We keep extras in the top drawer and restock the middle and lower drawers as needed.
2. We moved her all of her clothes down to the lower level of her closet so she can hang things up and pick out what she’ll wear (even though I still usually do both of these things). Note that any clothes that you wouldn’t want them to choose should be put away. This includes clothes that don’t fit or are not appropriate for the season. You need to be ok with what they choose to wear, so don’t provide inappropriate options.
3. We installed handles on the front and back screen doors at her level. Don’t worry, they still have locks at our level.
4. We hung hooks at her level inside the coat closet so that she can put away her coat and her backpack by herself.
5. We finally got a decent stool that allows her to help in the kitchen, reach her own snack and wash her hands. It’s heavy so we still have to move it around for her, but it’s much better than the shorter plastic one we had before. (I’ve also seen fold up stools that I really like.)
6. We took the middle piece out of the Swiffer handle to make it shorter and got her a little vacuum cleaner, so she can help out with the cleaning (she wanted to!). I’m also planning to get her a hand broom and dustpan because she loves using that to cleanup messes at school and at my mom’s house in Florida.
It’s been pretty neat to see her so excited to have these little adjustments make tasks easier for her to do on her own. Do you have any other things you’ve done around your house to make it more kid friendly and encourage independence?