Montessori for Mom Life I Practical Life Work That Will Change the Way You Stay at Home
The Montessori Method has for too long been reserved for those willing to pay the tuition at accredited schools and Montessori teacher certification is totally worth it but rigorous, time consuming and pricey. Public interest has caused the Montessori approach to begin popping up in preschools and even living rooms across the country. The Montessori Method has proven to be incredibly effective over decades of research and multiple generations of children. Maria Montessori was doing these same exercises and lessons with children in the 1900’s with the same astounding results. I spent a lot of money on my Montessori teacher training and the alumni of the organization that granted my cert would gasp at the idea of allowing just anyone to present a Montessori lesson, but why? Isn’t a little Montessori better than none at all? Of Course! A few daily Montessori habits can set your toddler up for success and once mastered, can make Mom and Dad's day go much more smoothly at home. A 1-3 year old child is old enough to engage in daily responsibilities and tasks that will make them feel in control of their environment. When the child feels like a participating member of their community (your home), and is held responsible for their contribution to your little community.....or lack thereof (Think huge irresponsible messes or erratic behavior), it will ultimately lead to self-worth and a curated environment of peace for you and your child.
Toddlers are capable of so much even at this very young age, they just need an adult who gives them the opportunity and takes the time to teach and trust them and let them try again, and again, and again, if needed. Here are a few things we do in our home that set the Montessori tone for our toddlers.
Cracking the Eggs - Helping Prepare a Meal
Okay, I put the hardest one first. It's really hard as an adult to watch that shell go into the yolk but the task itself is a magical one to the toddler. Eggs in general are amazing to them. Give a bowl and a small plate for any shell discards and demonstrate one yourself first. Show them how gently you tap it on the bowl or counter edge (whisper when you say "gently" to signal how important it is and catch their attention) , and use two thumbs to slooooowly pull the shell apart right before their eyes. Then you have to let them try one, and give them a whisk to let them practice a circular motion gross motor skill. You are going to have to fish shells out of the eggs the first time, and the second time, third, fourth and so on. Each child is different. They are going to value being given something as delicate as an egg and so many chances to try again that eventually they won't drop shells in the egg mixture anymore and it will be a proud moment that was genuinely earned over time with hard work and dedication. The look on their faces will be priceless when they master the task and then you can move on to bigger and better things like cooking the egg and using a spatula!
Did the eggshells get you all worked up? If you don’t think your child is ready for eggs, try something a little simpler. With two small bowls and some rice, demonstrate how to use two hands and pour the rice from one bowl to another. This is a large motor skill and perfect for the youngest ages. Repetition is best and you are going to have to clean up a bit of rice but practice makes perfect. Once they have mastered this skill they can graduate to appropriately sized utensils to transfer the rice. Give them spoons and utensils that are specifically designed for their size. Keep it interesting by changing the rice to beans, lentils, or something else interesting. Keep the rice if your child puts everything in their mouth.
Structured outdoor time can re-charge children that are overwhelmed and help them to reorganize their thoughts. Giving them a job of taking care of another life can add a sense of responsibility to their day and make them feel more mature than they might if they just headed for the swings. Children are naturally fascinated by animals (especially baby ones!). Chickens are easy and can be kept in most neighborhoods and you eventually get to gather your own eggs for breakfast! I’m not trying to turn your home into a homestead but bottom line is, have something outside to "check on" if things are going awry inside. Your child can learn to ask for this when they are recognizing their need to change activities and this can make them feel more in control of their own situation which benefits everyone.
I say dish scrubbing and not washing because they aren't really washing ANYTHING this young. The 3-6-year-old can learn to effectively wash dishes but the toddler just needs to focus on the scrubbing motion, the sensorial effect of the water trickling (only turn the faucet on low), and any bubbles 'one drop of soap' makes while scrubbing. They can scrub all kinds of things; small dishes, stones, dinosaurs, etc. The bubbles are an added bonus so demonstrating how to make the bubbles with a scrubber brush is a good idea. In this time you can also introduce how to use a small spray bottle. This hand motion will take some time to master but they can start practicing now. I like to keep several versions of soap here so they can experience different ways to use it (a bar of soap and a hand pump). A small dish towel should also be available for them to wipe puddles or their hands. Keeping a step ladder next to the sink they is ideal. They can learn to initiate dish scrubbing on their own. You will have to turn the water on for them and they will go through a period where they will do it quite a lot and then when the need has been satisfied the frequency of the activity will diminish. Allow them to enjoy it as much as possible.
Scrubbing, Scrubbing and More Scrubbing!
If they can use those spray bottles to clean, let them! We have a low drawer with lots of clean dish towels the toddlers can access for personal spills and cleaning purposes. We also keep a small bin next to the washing machine for them to deposit dirty towels. If they can't use the spray bottle yet, spray it a few times for them just to get water on the surface. This activity works especially well when the table is actually dirty and they can see the progress the towel makes rubbing on the table. Most children will enjoy using the towel in a circular motion and the 'helping' part of the activity. This is a large gross motor skill and OH so important for this age group. Once they have been introduced to table washing basics you can add a little soap and a scrubby brush for extra sensorial fun. This circular motion may just seem like busy work but it is groundwork for the early Language activities. As their hand and arm moves in the circular motion over and over and over they are learning to cross the mid-line which is a crucial skill in the left to right progression for reading and writing. The more you know, right?
Choosing the right knife and supervision is critical for this activity. A knife that is just sharp enough to slice veggies or fruits and not hurt the child OR they sell a handheld slicer for children on Amazon. I won’t link it so I don’t have to post an affiliate disclaimer but you can do an Amazon search right? If you have some trouble finding the right tool for this, message me and I will share some favorites. This activity is best performed while you are cutting and preparing produce also so they have an example of the kind of hand action that needs to take place and they can feel like they are working alongside you.
Gardening - Life Cycle of Plants
Planting, tilling, digging, and harvesting. All stages of gardening are good for the soul and your little one. Even if your space can only afford small pots, anything is better than nothing. Showing the child the process is more important than the size of the crop or the field. Being able to eat something they produced would be the ultimate mastery of this activity but daily watering and watching the progress is also important. Structured outdoor activities will make going outdoors more like an outdoor classroom and will benefit your growing child on a long-term basis.
Practical Life Montessori work to us looks like an old homestead where the children are regularly included in chores and the daily tasks of maintaining a household, helping to harvest on time whether it’s eggs, meat, produce, honey, or wild edibles (prickly pear season was a hoot). These lessons and procedures are in fact the basis of the practical life Montessori system Maria wrote into history 100 years ago, teaching children to love meaningful work and participate in activities that benefit the whole community. These activities lead to responsible, confident, well spoken and well behaved children. Yes, it is possible. The proof is in the Practical Life. What do your mornings look like?
Here are some great resources I love to use when planning my Montessori day for my Toddlers..