I have an early childhood education diploma, I am a trained Montessori teacher with 19 years experience working with children of all ages and I am a parent of 2 special needs children.
Parents often tell me they love the Montessori philosophy but are unsure how to incorporate it into their home on a daily basis.
I am here to help.
To think like a Montessori teacher, you need to first understand and respect that every child is a natural learner who thrives on order and structure. Children need freedom within limits and learn from the people, big and little in their lives.
This starts right at your front door and can begin as young as 18 months old.
It is very important to teach your child to be responsible for their belongings at an early age. When your toddler reaches 18 months old install a few low coat hooks at your front entrance. Make sure the hooks are low enough that your child can reach them, no higher than shoulder height.
Here is the most important step. Get down to your child’s level and show them with their own coat how to hang it on the hook, in slow deliberate movements.
You don’t need to talk, too often parents spend 90% of their time giving a lecture to their child instead of just showing them how it is done. Children learn from hands on experiences not by someone talking their ear off. Plus 10 seconds into your speech you have lost the child’s interest.
Now let them practice hanging their coat up and taking it off the hook. Children as young as 18 months can learn how to do this and as silly as it sounds they will love being independent doing this activity. They watch you hang your coat up and anyone who has spent time with a toddler knows how they love to copy the people in their lives.
If your front entrance is a safe place, let them practice as much as they want. Your child is perfecting a skill you just taught them and young children thrive on repetition.
Before you know it you will have the first toddler on the block who enters their house and hangs their own coat up unassisted!
Wait, don’t stop there! When your toddler has mastered hanging their coat up move on to another skill such as taking their coat off, unzipping a zipper, shoes on and off and so on. Allow your child to bring their coat, mittens or clean shoes into their playroom to practice, learning a life skill like getting dressed is so much more important and healthier then sitting in front of a TV.
Be sure to teach each skill one at a time and in the same way: get down to the child’s level, make slow deliberate movements and minimal or no talking.
The toddlers I have worked with have been able to get dressed independently, including snow pants, mittens, hat and boots by the age of 2-2.5 years old and they could all zip their zippers on their own by their 3rd birthday.
These skills were all taught in little lessons like I mentioned above and allowing the child tons of time to practice. Obviously when you are late for work , in a rush or the child is tired it is not the best time to teach a new skill. Teach these new skills when you have the time to teach it and when the child will have time to practice. If you child masters these skills but is pokey at getting dressed send them to get dressed before the others to allow them ample non-rushed and stress free time to get their things on independently.
Here is a Montessori video presenting how to zip and unzip a zipper. Note how slow and deliberate the movements are. I know most people don’t have a zipper dressing frame at home, simply use your child’s coat . I just wanted to show you how easy “presenting” an activity in a Montessori way can be.
Here is a video on the easiest way to teach a child 18 months and up how to put their own coat on. Just make sure there is enough clearance (walls, other people ect) around them.
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“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Maria Montessori