Top 10 Montessori Daily DO's I Montessori at Home
There are a few things to practice in home with your toddler on a daily basis, whether you plan to one day send your little one off to Montessori school, public or private school or even Homeschool. These daily habits can set your toddler up for success and once mastered, can make Mom and Dad's day go much more smoothly. 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, feel like a participating member of their community (your home) which in turn leads to self-worth, and be held responsible for their contribution to your little community.....or lack thereof. (Think huge irresponsible messes or irratic behavior) They 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 the Top 10 things we do in our home that set the Montessori tone for our toddlers.
CRACK THE EGGS FOR BREAKFAST (GASP)
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 deadication. 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? 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 this age group. 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.
Depending on how things are going inside you can continue with the next indoor practical life activities or, if patience is thin and everyone needs a break, an outdoor responsibility is perfect to break up the morning. Structured outdoor time can re-charge children that are overwhelmed and help them to reorganize their thoughts. Giving them a job taking care of another life can add a sense of responsibility to this and make them feel more mature than they might if they just headed for the swings. Children are naturally facinated 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! Bottom line, 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, dinosoars, ect. 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 will use 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.
If they can use those spray bottles let them clean the tables. We have a low drawer with lots of clean dish towels the toddlers can access and a small bin next to the washing machine for them to deposit dirty towels. There is always a lot but throwing them into a laundry load when one starts helps to keep a fresh supply. They will learn to love to clean! If they can't use the spray bottle just 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 the early stages of Language activities. As their hands move in the circular motion over and over and over they are learning to cross the mid-line which is a crutial skill of left to right progression for reading and writing. A dish towel is needed for wiping clean any bubbles or water.
Parchment paper or newspaper works well for this. Having a tray on a shelf with tearing paper in it helps to keep this activity available to use whenever the toddler feels the need. They have a natural desire to tear and crunch paper so the more you allow them to excercise this the sooner they will experience mastery which will cause less of an interest in this activity and this sensitive period will pass.
LOADING LAUNDRY !!!!
All those dirty towels from all that scrubbing need to be washed! What a better responsibility than to load your own towels into the laundry machine. A step ladder should be good to get them up high enough to get a few things in there and let them put as many things in as they would like. They will have to go down the ladder to get each new item only to climb back up and place the item in. So there is a lot of up and down motion here and that is a lot of energy spent in that little toddler body and that is good for everyone!
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. Another outdoor activity to participate in is a win as well. Structured outdoor activities will make going outdoors more like an outdoor classroom and will benefit your growing child on a long term basis.
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 hand held slicer for children. This activity is best performed while your 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 along side you.
Step ladders are critical for most of these activities so it's important to purchase a good one. We chose ours on Amazon here and more that one is ideal to reduce the amount of times the step ladder needs to be moved putting the child more in control of their activities. All of these tasks focus beautifully on practial life and sensorial but if you look closely each one also whispers gently foundations of language and math. When a child develops a strong sense of order and this is practiced over a period of time it becomes very easy to introduce reading and math concepts. If a young child is organized in their thoughts they can easily learn addition, subtraction, geometry and other advanced math concepts with ease. Start them young!