How do we clean? …With little toddler steps!
I love reading and learning about Montessori activities…I don’t know what the pull is for me…but I think it has to do with the fact that Maria Montessori really KNEW children and observed very well how they develop and teach themselves. They have this sense of order within themselves as well as this deep sense that they must learn and keep at so many of these learning activities till they fall asleep soundly at night. This is just an amazing drive to tap into!
Last week as we were making Potato Pancakes for our meatless friday dinner, I asked dd (19mos)…"Would you like to help Mommy in the kitchen?" She grabbed my pinky finger and marched me into the kitchen, got out the step stool, opened it up, and climbed up by the sink waiting for something to wash with wide eyes. I grabbed the bag of potatoes and opened it up a bit and put it on the pull out board as my dd was watching every movement very closely, like she was memorizing me…I took out a bowl and placed it next to her.
At this stage, my dd is working on whole hand movement and transfer. So with her whole hand she picked up each potato and handed it to me to scrub….she leaned over watching my every movement again. I then handed her back the potato and she placed it in the bowl
…I then asked her…"What do I do next?" She looked at the bag and then at me and then we proceeded to do the whole bag together.
When it came time to add the eggs she loves to carefully pick them up …again…whole hand movement….and hand them to me. She likes to re-arange the eggs on the flat (2.5 doz. eggs on a flat) and transfer the eggs from one side of the flat to the other. Once in a great while she does break one…She does NOT like that. I hear an "Oh -oh…mooom!" …I then show her how to fix it. Mommies make it all better, you know.
When we were done she sighed with a smile of satisfacion and got down from the stool…I asked her "Where does this go?" She then proceeded to close it up and put it away where it belongs even though the thing is bigger than she and awkward, she learned how to do it and loved to do it.
I use very few words when instructing, and the words I do use I make count. I make eye contact wherever I can and sometimes use where or how I am looking to direct her attention to what needs to be done.
Most of my day is spent with my 19mo glued to my side, like she is MEMORIZING everything! She NEEDS a part of what I am doing…If I am wiping the counter, I give her a washcloth to help too. If I am quick spritzing the fingerprints off the back door, she is ready…cloth in hand! I make sure the cleaning items have a permanent place for her to "help me find…" and put it AWAY…(I like that word…away ;o)
When I do the laundry, she will help push the clothing into the dryer and pull out the clothes into a basket when they are done. I am in trouble with her if I wait to bring it upstairs to fold…she pulls on me and says "Ma!…Ma!" (followed in scrambled baby code by something that sounds like.."upstairs, fold, now!"
I teach her to fold the washcloths and her older brother (3) is learning how to fold pants and shirts. We fold on the dining room table…the workplace is clean, clear and uncluttered. I very carefully and deliberately show the movements needed to complete the task. If ds makes a mistake, I ask him what he thinks about his work. Most of the time he says "it does not look like yours" and I ask him, "do you want me to show you again?" and most times he is very eager to learn. After the piles are formed, they both help with putting it away in the same place every time. There is a place for everything so they learn WHERE it goes. If T shirts are placed in drawers randomly or stacked on a dresser top, they are less likely to ever put it away where it needs to go as they grow older. Most likely it will be thrown on the floor!
When it comes to ds learning to fold clothing, with his whole self he is interested in making this his great work. How can folding a T shirt be a Magnum Opus? He is ready to learn…and I have to make sure I am ready to teach him. I find that my biggest obstacle to this is being consistent with my own chores …so working on the teacher is always a work in progress, but being AWARE that I need these precious teaching moments in my day makes me more apt to look for and find them and find time for training each of the dc. I do get rewarded for this…my ds throws his arms around my neck in a huuuge hug and with a huuuge grin states…"I DID it Mom!…I am proud"! :o)
It may be a very awkward thing for an adult to SLOW DOWN and allow the very young to have a part in things. It may take longer to get done, but they need to know NOW how to do it. Your patience will be rewarded ten fold…and you will see your little flower blossom and feel your own contented feeling because you were there every step of the way….with little toddler steps…