by Anne Prowant
One of the most common questions that Montessori teachers hear from parents is, “What can we do at home to support what you do here at school?” The answer is, “A lot!” But it’s not what you might think. Instead of recommending flash cards or purchasing your own set of Montessori materials, the activities that you can do at home with your child seem simple, but make a big impact.
Lesson 1: Allow for Independence
Toddlers love to do things independently, so allow for this whenever you can. Maria Montessori once said, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” While it’s much faster to do things for your child, not allowing him to take ownership over his own care robs him of a chance to practice for himself and develop his independence. Give your child the time to get himself dressed, brush his own hair, and put on his shoes. It’s OK to let him struggle a little bit. When he finally succeeds, think of the pride he’ll feel in his accomplishment!
Lesson 2: Meal Time
Preparing a meal for your family is something that your toddler would love to help with. Give her a small, toddler-appropriate utensil (see the resources list for suggestions) and let her chop up vegetables. Fill a medium-sized bowl with a little water and let her wash fruit. Measure out flour and allow her to pour it into the mixing bowl. Even letting her carry the cups or silverware to the table is a fantastic way to involve your toddler in mealtime prep.
Lesson 3: Clean
Toddlers love to mimic everything that they see you do, so why not put them to work? Give your child a small microfiber cloth (cut a large one into quarters so it’s a manageable size), and show her how to wipe off tables and shelves. Give her a scrub brush and a little water in a bucket and let her scrub the floor with you; then show her how to clean up afterwards with a sponge or towel. Let her clean windows with a small squeegee and some water. The job won’t be done perfectly, but the point is to involve your child in the everyday work in the home and allow her to feel like she is contributing to the family.
Lesson 4: Read
Reading every day with your child is the number one thing that many Montessori teachers (as well as pediatricians) recommend to parents. In fact, studies have shown that toddlers who are read to are more academically successful once they reach school age. Let your child pick the books, and use the time to cuddle and bond with him. Let him see that you love reading, and that it can be fun.
Choose beautiful books with illustrations that appeal to you. Rhymes are great for this age group, and books with real pictures are a plus. If you need some recommendations, check out Susan Boynton, Eric Carle, Cheryl Willis Hudson, and Dr. Seuss’ shortened versions (usually found in the board books).
Lesson 5: Take a Walk
Children need to spend time outdoors every day, no matter the weather, and a walk is a wonderful way to accomplish this with a toddler. Remember that at this age it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Let your child walk at his own pace and give him plenty of time to explore, pick up sticks and acorns, and point out the interesting things that he sees.
For more ideas, pick up a copy of Montessori From the Start by Paula Polk Lillard.
For Small Hands is a company that makes Montessori materials for both teachers and parents. Check out their website to purchase child-sized items mentioned in this article.