Young children have an insatiable desire to reach out, touch, handle, and learn how to operate in our world. Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children are born with a dynamic, powerful inner teacher and guide that leads them to seek out the experiences they need in order to create fully functional people. Trusting that inner teacher is the heart of Montessori.
This drive to be independent can cause problems. Montessori mentioned the ‘conflict between the adult and the child’. Our world is designed for adults. Add in millions of young children reaching out to touch and explore everything and you have a recipe for trouble! “Don’t touch”, “No, no”, “Put that down”, “You can’t have that”, “That’s not for you”. These are said a lot as we try to keep children from destroying things!
Maria Montessori saw the need for a specially prepared environment where children could follow their inner drive to freely handle, touch, explore, and learn. She created the first Casa De Bambini – Children’s House; starting a revolution in how we view and care for young children. For the first time, young children could reach out and explore the world to their heart’s content. There are now over 20,000 of these Montessori environments all over the world.
Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now & I are putting together an ebook of contributions from Montessori Mom Bloggers about their favorite Montessori activities and their recommendations for parents. Their tips about Montessori invariably advise parents to allow their children to actively participate in your family’s daily life. Dressing, food preparation, cleaning, fixing things – find ways to involve your child in all of them.
It takes a lot of patience and a willingness to set aside your ultra-efficient, multitasking, get ‘er done, get to the end approach to these activities. You have to make a decision that your child’s development is more important than a perfect looking house or accomplishing fifty tasks a day. The years before six fly by; it’s ok to do things differently during this special time. The result will be a happier child who realizes more of her potential for life – isn’t that worth it?
Check out this video of a 23 month old boy getting himself some yogurt. These skills did not just happen that day. I guarantee you his Mom observed a lot of practice and mistakes, and cleaned a lot of messes before he got to this point!
Watch when he tries to get the top off the yogurt. Mom, as we all do, immediately offers to help, but the child will not give up the yogurt and keeps trying until he gets it. That’s the activity we need to encourage in our children. Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
Photo: Training Happy Hearts
It requires no special training, a teaching degree, or a book to do these things. Just involve your child in doing what he can, teach him how to do new things, and give him the space to practice and make mistakes while you encourage his efforts!
In the words of Coedith Mess, a Mom Blogger at School In A Pink House who contributed to the upcoming book:
“My suggestion to any one just starting to incorporate Montessori into their home is to spend time observing your child and their environment. Look at everything from their point of view (I have been known to crawl to do this). Now ask yourself how you can guide them to as much independence as possible in your home. Helping them “do it myself” is more important than any materials you may want to rush out and buy.”