There is one thing parents can be sure of when raising a toddler, that wherever they turn there will be a plethora of information to wade through. Whether it’s weaning, potty training or sleeping, or montessori come to think of it. I tend more towards the downright obsessive when I get caught on a subject and following are some tidbits that I have gleaned off the internet. It kind of sums up what I’ve read about raising a toddler the montessori way, but of course many of these points are relevant for older children as well.
1. “Help me do it myself”
This has to be the most important thing when it comes to raising a toddler the montessori way. And generally toddlers are quite keen to gain as much independence as they can so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle to get them to cooperate! Not too much anyway 😉 “Help me do it myself” is a phrase you will see quite frequently around the montessori blogosphere, and it means just that, helping your toddler to do things for themselves. Things like cleaning and tidying up after themselves, putting on and removing their own shoes, coat, etc., pouring milk into their cereal, helping prepare food, and the list goes on. Its this sort of thing which can save a lot of time down the line. Independent kids able to look after themselves and help out so you don’t have to do everything is every parent’s dream, right? But to get there takes a lot of time and patience, learning all these skills can be a long game and a toddler can take a surprisingly long time to put a coat on. So, as montessori parents, we need to give our toddlers time to do these things. We also need to facilitate this indepence. So, maybe, we show our toddler the montessori coat flip and we can put that milk in a small jug so it’s easier to pour (and you won’t end up with a whole bottle of milk on the floor). Which brings me nicely onto point number two.
2. Child sized tools
Our toddlers are still pint sized people, so we need to give them pint sized tools to work with. Promoting independence is all well and good but if the tools they have are too big then that’s going to make things very difficult for your toddler. Using small jugs for pouring, a child sized mop and broom or sponges that will actually fit in their hand, for instance, will help your toddler well on her way to learning some of those really useful practical life skills.
3. The prepared environment
Having those tools in accessible drawers or shelves will also make things easier for both you and your toddler, if she can get them for herself then you won’t have to do it for her and she can be that little bit more independent. Any work you put out for your toddler should also be on easy to reach shelves (unless there are small parts and you are worried about her choking), preferably on a tray so that it’s easy for her to take out and put away again. Toys and everything else should have a place, this helps with tidying up but also helps to develop an internal sense of order. This is something I really struggle with. My mum is a collector and my dad is a hoarder, I inherited both traits! So you can imagine what my house looks like, ahem. But I’m working on it.
4. Focus on practical life and sensory experiences
Practical life activities are a huge focus in the toddler years and, as I said before, most toddlers will love gaining independence by practicing these practical skills. It is more meaningful for a toddler if these activities are incorporated into daily life (see number 1 above) as this provides a bit of context and purpose but some practical life works can go out on the shelf too. The same goes for sensory experiences, a lot can be gained by seeking these out of your day to day. Things like baking, walking in the woods and sorting out the laundry, to name just a few, can be rich sensory experiences for toddlers, who really seek out sensory input to help them make sense (no pun intended) of the world. Toddlers will also love any sensory works you put on the shelf, even some of the sensorial materials can be used with toddlers, such as the colour tablets or smelling bottles and older toddlers might enjoy the knobbed cylinders, for example.
5. Toddlers don’t need to learn the alphabet
As a montessori parent it can be a bit disconcerting when all the toddlers around you are singing the alphabet, all apart from your own toddler! But learning the alphabet is not where learning to read and write should begin, in fact it could prove unhelpful. There is so much learning that comes before, works which focus on visual discrimination, fine motor skills and vocabulary acquisition, etc. For a toddler this might look like some object to picture matching, wooden peg puzzles, tong transfer, and just a good old chit chat! Montessori sound games are also a fun and extremely important step that come before introducing letters. You can see this post from The Kavanaugh Report for a more thorough outline of language work for toddlers and this post from The Learning Ark for a great description and presentation of the montessori I Spy game (sound game).
6. Get into nature
As soon as a toddler can walk confidently we should get to exploring nature with them, maybe even before actually! As can be seen in the image above, Little Bean and I recently had a wonderful experience in a frosty wood, she is still talking about it 🙂
There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving.
Need I say anymore?!
Well, that’s it folks. If you can think of anything else then please add it in the comments below!
(P.S. The quote above was found here, along with some other beautiful quotes from Mrs M)