Working from Home with Toddlers I Montessori at Home
In one particular writing of Maria Montessori's life work she described her observation of the child engaging in a home environment and participating in whatever daily chores and responsibilities he could or was capable of alongside the working family members and would independently engage in other activities of his own interest along the way (as children do). When the child was tired he would lay down on a mat and rest on his own accord. When he was hungry, he would eat. I wish I could remember what text this passage was from so I could reference it. Maria never described the child as the center of attention. He was valued and played a role as a member of the family, providing a sense of deep responsibility and satisfaction, leading to enough confidence in his maturity to direct his own activities without the constant redirection of an adult.
This is a quintessential description of an everyday Montessori classroom. These kinds of accomplishments are standard in really well directed environments in Montessori classrooms all over the world. This level of normalization and self-discipline in a child requires a very prepared environment (a classroom) but there are a few things everyone can do in their own home to work towards a peaceful co-exististence while working alongside one another in a parent-child environment.
Food! A basic need that can be met by the child. Provide regular meals and snacks but leave out readily available fruits and vegetables for them for the in between times to curb cravings and give the child a way to meet their own needs, leading to self- confidence and independence. Make sure the healthy options are in a specific area, at the child's level and readily accessible. My toddlers always seem to be hungry and if they ARE really hungry they WILL eat the fruits and vegetables. If they want to eat fruit and vegetables all day, so be it. Re direct them here when they are requesting a snack, they will learn to satisfy their hunger or move on to the next activity. I always appreciate a gorgeously curated snack spread and children notice the beauty in things also, these are some things we use to make fruit and veggies more enticing and inviting:
ART! I highly recommend keeping an easel in the kitchen with a watercolor set, an apron and easel paper. Always. Continuously play opera music in the morning and this activity will make your house feel like a playschool museum while you take care of business. Keep the easel in the kitchen so water and paint spills are easier to clean. There will be some spills so expect it and keep small towels nearby. If you choose not to keep an easel then place a basket (1) with watercolors and paper in it's place, another basket (2) for ONE pencil & a few small sheets of paper, and a basket (3) with a few crayons designed specifically for their small fingers & a little more paper. Some children can paint all day long, let them! Others will scribble on paper for a few minutes, get it out of them and move on to something else. The idea is to give them access to the tools they need when they are feeling artistic or feeling the need to express themselves. Having art available at all times to choose daily can do a lot for a young child's soul. Some simple items to keep in an art area to speak to a toddlers creative side are:
ART Easel, we like this one here
Sensorial Sensorial Sensorial activities! Toddlers are in their sensitive period for sensory work!!! Keep an area with a few sensorial activities available and rotate it weekly to keep interest up. Sensorial activities are important for all toddlers but especially important for children who have been through a lot, have personal struggles or ANY learning delays or disabilities. I have watched children with really frustrating home situations become so peaceful and calm when presented with the right sensorial activity and allowed to use it at length and at their discretion. A lot of toddlers don't have proper language skills to fully cover all emotions and feelings in conversation the way adults would 'talk it out'. Sensorial activities outside of language can help little people work through these unexpressed feelings and ideas and leads to a peaceful child over time with practice. Playdough and cookie cutters are a good start but this is an area to do some thinking in. Beans in a bucket can be a sensorial activity if you generally trust your toddler not to put it in their mouth or you have enough time to sit with them. Clay is a good rotation when playdough becomes old to them. A bucket full of reindeer bells, large plastic jewels, pom poms, fabric scraps, strips of sandpaper...the list is endless.
Some preferred items to keep on rotation are:
Music! A child will be musically inclined if musical options are readily available. Music can also help to curate peace for your child in the environment. Texting, calling and any other visible electronics will disrupt and distract this time. While the music is on the child is allowed to participate in any activity while you may do non-technological work. I love to play the same Italian Opera/ English Symphony Album I have been playing for 10 years. I have watched many children learn to sing in Italian by keeping this album on repeat. Opera and Symphony are very peaceful options but children will respond positively to lots of different kinds of music. We also play traditional nursery rhymes, cultural music, and Disney compositions. Keeping a variety of musical instruments available is beneficial also. We keep a Ukulele in the room which is a perfect child size instrument. Some other ideas are a xylophone, a piano or Montessori bells. If I absolutely need to make a phone call or use the computer or things are getting out of control with the kids, a YouTube instructional video on the instrument they have access to is a great resource. If you have to use the TV, make it instructional. We take a lot of enrichment courses on YouTube. Right now they are taking Mandarin, Guitar and they watch a Phonic's Lesson 3x per week. Just be vigilant about skipping the Ad's, some of them can be a little strange and even inappropriate for young children.
Cleaning supplies! Supply your toddler with REAL cleaning supplies. A handheld vacuum, a broom and dustpan, a step stool to reach the sink to wash dishes, plenty of towels to clean up spills, and a spray bottle. They may not be much help at first but allowing them to practice is key. They will learn the skills needed to use these tools if given the opportunity and they will use them effectively in time. They will also learn to love meaningful work and cleaning up after yourself is universal so it's and a great lesson to cover early on. It's important to send them the message even at this young age that their messes are their responsibility. The messes get smaller and smaller if the child is held responsible and given positive outlets to clean up after themselves. My toddlers LOVE to clean, my teenagers not so much.
The most important thing to remember and execute is designing the living space, your home, into an accessible environment for the littlest members. Young children often have needs and feelings that are difficult to express when they are so young in their language skills. Having an urge to do something and being able to fulfill the need independently is a powerful accomplishment for a small child who often has things done for him or her in an excuse for time. Slow down. This is an intentional practice for us adults. A large part of the Montessori Method is learning how to just sit still as an adult and observe what the child is doing, why are they doing that? Are they expressing interest in something or acting out a need? Try to predict what to do next based on their behavior. When you curate peace in your environment based on the child's needs you are rewarded in the end with long periods of uninterrupted time to accomplish things alongside them, while the child is engaged in their work as well.
A quick re-cap of some of our favorite products to get started with:
- Children's Easel
- Child Size Tongs
- Re-useable Fabric Napkins
- Child Size Glass Bowls
- Easel Paper, Pre-cut or Roll
- Toddler Pencils
- Crayons designed for a toddlers grip
- Toddler Watercolors
- Small Art Apron
- Child Size Rolling Pin
- Large Plastic Jewels
- Kinetic Sand
- Modeling Clay
- Pom Poms
- Reindeer Bells
- Italian Opera/ English Symphony Album
- Children's Piano
- Montessori Bells
- Handheld Vacuum
- Child Broom and Dustpan
- Step Stool for Dishes
- Re-useable Cleaning Cloths
- Child Spray Bottle
- Scrubbing Brush
Wow, thats a lot of affiliate links!
Have any additional questions or want to talk more about how to make it work? Leave a comment! I'll try to help!
Note: This article contains affiliate links at no cost to you.