home design

A Montessori at Home Toddler Morning

It can be difficult to wrap your head around creating, maintaining, and working with a Montessori-style space in your home, especially for toddlers. 

Your child is eager to do things herself, but seems to be more interested in dumping, throwing, and screaming than the calm Montessori toddler presented on your friend's facebook page.  

And concentration?  Forget it.

Don't loose hope just yet, with a little planning and consistency, you can create a Montessori space in your home too!  Here's an inside look at how I set up a space for this age, how we spend our time, and what concepts we work on.  

I've been working with K's family for a few months now as a parent home guide, and wow, what a difference!  When we started he was 20 months, and now at almost 2 he's talking in sentences, following simple directions, using the toilet successfully, and can recognize many of the letter sounds.  In addition to establishing routines and keeping a consistent, predictable schedule (critical for this age), I rotate and change activities to match his challenge level.  Here's a typical day for us: 

When I arrive, I set up 4-5 activities for the morning plus a basket of books, our song cards, an art activity, and any new or cooperative activity.  These are always set up in a similar order (books on the far right, song cards on the far left) and always on the fireplace hearth.  We spend about 2 hours inside with these things.

Activities available for the day

Some of K's favourite activities include puzzles, vocabulary cards, matching cards, shape sorters, stack-able rings, musical instruments, reusable sticker sheets, reading books, practicing letter sounds and symbols, singing, hiding and looking for things.

For art, he's practiced drawing with crayons, tearing paper, play-dough, painting with a brush, and gluing small papers to a big paper.

Around the house we do practical life activities like: washing dishes and objects, cleaning the window, sweeping and wiping the floor, walking on a line, throwing a ball into a basket, getting dressed (shoes, zippers, pants, jackets), raking the grass, scrubbing the deck, cutting bananas, peeling oranges, and spreading peanut butter on toast. 

I also make sure to weave in grace and courtesy lessons like: being kind to the dogs, gentle to flowers, asking for things, asking for a hug, asking for help, using silverware, drinking from a cup, wiping your face, waiting for something, and toilet learning.

We've even done a few larger projects like planting seeds, making bread, and making pancakes.

Around 10:45 or so, we start transitioning to going outside. This means using the toilet, washing hands, getting dressed for the weather, shoes, and sunscreen. If we plan to go for a walk, we bring his backpack with items for exploring nature, tissues, and space for treasures. If he wants to stay in his yard, I get out outdoor activities, like chalk, the watering can, bubbles, and yard tools. I try and stay outside for an hour, depending on the weather and his interest.

Around 12, we gather any things together and head back inside for lunch. Once inside, we take off our shoes, use the toilet, wash hands, and set places for lunch. K has all his table setting materials in a low drawer, and eventually will set his place by himself with no prompting. I set a place for myself, and get food out to eat. I make a point to leave most of the food I think he'll eat on a serving dish, and serve a few spoonfuls at a time, per his request. This allows him to practice good table manners, stay interested in eating, and not feel overwhelmed with so much food on the plate.

When K is finished, he wipes his hands and face if needed, and then the table (I often help) Sometimes, he helps load the dishwasher. I encourage him to use the toilet again, and then we get out his afternoon toys (the schleich animals, and some cars) before he takes a nap.  I say goodbye and the next time I'll see him (tomorrow, next week, etc).

K has learned and grown so much in the three months we've been together. By being there in his home, I'm also able to demonstrate techniques to the other adults for encouraging independence, cooperation, perseverance, managing emotions, and making requests. I check in with his mom from time to time to go over what we're focusing on and how she can continue things when I'm not there.  Now that K has an established routine, it's easy for the other adults in his life to follow along and stay consistent.  

Where to start:  

  • Choose one activity to show your toddler including where it "lives" and how to put it back.  Keep it short and simple!
  • Move your child's cup, plate, or silverware to a lower shelf, box, or cabinet.  Show her how to get her things out and set her place at the table.
  • Pack a travel backpack for walks that your child can carry.  Pack one for yourself too. 

Let me know how it goes!  

Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. 

How to design your kitchen for little helpers

"Me do it!"

Do you dread these three words?  

Imagine if you could respond by pointing to a cabinet,  your child would gather the tools she needs on her own, and you could continue making dinner.

Yes, it's possible.

Adapting your kitchen is easy with a little planning and set-up.   First, create a functional design that works for your child and everyone else in your family.  Then, consider the time you spend in the kitchen, both working on tasks like meal prep and clean-up and time available for projects.  

Here are some tips to get you started!  

Design the Space

Keep any tools and materials that can be used completely independently (without supervision) in easy reach of your child.  This may mean switching your cabinets around so a few lower drawers are free for plates, bowls, and apron, and cooking tools.  All others should be put away and available by request only.  This will ensure safety and help keep your sanity. Re-evaluate what you have available every few weeks (or sooner if you see a need to).  

This lower drawer is just the right height for a young child to easily access her place setting materials on her own.  

This lower drawer is just the right height for a young child to easily access her place setting materials on her own.  

Store all (independent) tools for your child so they are clearly organized, and arranged in a logical fashion for the task (dustpan near the trash, plates near the silverware, apron on a hook, etc)

Think through everything your child will need for the activity, including clean-up.  Can she easily reach or access these items?  Are they arranged in a logical fashion?

This drawer has a very clear place for all items needed to set a place at the table.  To make this yourself, gather all the materials to be arranged, and lay them out in a drawer, cabinet, or bin.  When you are happy with the arrangement, create a "map" or control of error for where everything goes.  In this case, the drawer was lined with shelf paper, and then all items were outlined in black marker. 

This drawer has a very clear place for all items needed to set a place at the table.  To make this yourself, gather all the materials to be arranged, and lay them out in a drawer, cabinet, or bin.  When you are happy with the arrangement, create a "map" or control of error for where everything goes.  In this case, the drawer was lined with shelf paper, and then all items were outlined in black marker. 

Do you have a work space available for table and floor activities?  Where will your child clean her hands and do these lessons?  Can she safely reach on her own? A learning tower, step-stool, or low table are helpful adaptations.

Photo courtesy of Becca Cole. 

Photo courtesy of Becca Cole. 

Plan Your Time

Create time for your child to help you make lunches, snacks, and dinners when you can.  Use this time to show new skills, build vocabulary, and encourage cooperation in completing the task.  Children who help make food are more interested in eating it!

Offer simple demonstrations of what to do and how to do it, when asked.  Be mindful of over-helping or over-suggesting how to use something which can stunt creativity and problem solving. Ask questions to help guide your child in finding a solution:  Who should stir next, What tool do we need, Where would you find it, How do we know to move to the next step, etc. 

Plan to have blocks of unstructured time, so your child can really get into a project without interruption of other events or tasks. Working in the kitchen without a looming goal of getting dinner on the table will  help your child feel more relaxed, and is a great time to practice skills.  Once your space is set up, you can simply encourage her to get out the material on her own!  

 What is one thing your child really loves to help with in your kitchen? 

 

About the Author:

Leanne Gray, M.Ed has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. 

She's on a mission to raise a generation of kind, confident, responsible children, and does this through her work with families and schools.   Read more here.