Dear Toddler Community families,
How can it be May already…?!?!
As I’ve taken time to observe over the past week, I’m in awe of the progression that each child has been making. I hear quite a bit of conversations going on around the room, children looking out the window and sharing their observations, independence in getting their shoes and jackets on, and the comfort that the routine brings them. We have been seeing children exploring with work choices, showing interested in the language materials, and helping one another with tasks. We have been strengthening gross motors skills by having the bike, slide, push cart, and trampoline available each morning. I’ve noticed great improvement in their ability to move their bodies and having a stronger sense of self-awareness.
I’m excited for what this month will bring as we continue on this path of development. As I think about independence and young children, the independence encouraged in Montessori often goes against what culture says about raising children. Our society tells us that children need us to do most tasks for them, and to some respect that is accurate. Although, the ways in which children need help are by allowing them the opportunity to try. Taking the moments to sit next to them as they are concentrating on their work, or being nearby to observe. Sometimes, it means laying their coat on the floor properly so they can proceed with the next steps of sticking their arms in and flipping it over their head.
From zero to six, a child goes through a formative period, constructing her personality and adapting to the world. Through interactions with the environment, the child builds up self-confidence, sense of independence, and autonomy. At the toddler community level, “independence is defined in terms of toileting, dressing and undressing, eating and food preparation, plant and animal care, washing clothes, sweeping, gardening, and putting oneself to sleep” (Orion, “Independence of the Young Child from Birth to Three,” 1).
Functional independence is a priority for children of this age. Orion speaks to how children must practice repeatedly in order to begin accomplishing tasks independently. She takes the example of dressing and undressing, specifically putting socks on and taking them off. She advocates, “That is something they need to practice over and over and over. Often we see getting undressed as getting ready to come into the environment and getting dressed as getting ready to go out or go home. But in reality, for those tiny ones, getting undressed and dressed is their work” (Orion, “Independence of the Young Child from Birth to Three,” 3). This principle applies to the child’s other early accomplishments, as she learns to eat independently, pouring and drinking from appropriately sized glasses or cups, and eating with properly sized utensils.
Children feel capable when the caring for their indoor and outdoor environments, which they accomplish through maintaining plants and animals, mopping, sweeping, cleaning windows, gardening, feeding birds, and raking leaves. Also, they feel accomplished when they can care for themselves through activities such as washing their face, brushing or combing their hair, wiping their nose, or brushing their teeth.
Dr. Montessori declared, “How does the child acquire independence? He acquires it by means of continuous activity. Independence is not static. It is a continuous conquest. And by means of continuous work, one acquires not only freedom but strength and self-perfection” (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 78). As a result, the Montessori philosophy advocates never giving more help than is necessary, for practice and repetition leads to the attainment of the developing power. The active child, who feels skillful and capable, naturally exerts maximum effort, for his own actions progress him down the road toward independence. If we interfere, we become an obstacle to this growing independence.
As you think about your family, what ways can you encourage independence at home? Here are some ideas you might be able to incorporate:
- Pouring bird seed in the bird feeder
- Using child size garden tools in your garden area
- Allowing your child to water the items in your garden or your house plants
- Helping to bring a small basket of laundry to the washer
- Allowing your child to put the laundry from the washer into the dryer
- Putting your child’s dishes in a cupboard at his level
- Allowing your child to bring his dishes to the sink/kitchen
- Having your child feed your family pet
- Having a child size broom and mop available for messes and spills
- Placing the brush or comb at your child’s level
- Hanging a mirror so a child can see himself as he is brushing his teeth, wiping his face, or caring for his hair
If you would like to explore these ideas more and need assistance in how to make these work with your specific situation, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’d love to hear how your family is joining to support the growing independence of your child.
Amanda, Sara & Natalie