Before we proceed into the topic of montessori space at home, let’s do a small exercise.
Imagine, you’ve just joined (or re-joined) work. Today is the first day at work. You are excited, anxious and happy. You cannot wait to explore all there is and establish your talent and prowess. Once you enter, however, you realise that your manager is a giant, literally. The table you work at is humongous, you cannot reach your files or the regulator or coffee machine or AC remote. Every time you need to switch on or off your PC, need a coffee break, feel too hot or cold, you need to ask your manager to help you.
At one point of time, your manager gets tired of you asking, and snaps at you, ” You know what, let it be! I’ll make your coffee myself! And I’ll switch off your PC myself!”” But I want to do it”, you think. “Just help me help myself. “
“Every unnecessary help is an obstacle for the child’s development.”-Maria Montessori
As a parent, there is tremendous joy in doing little things for our kids. But are we really helping them? Would you really feel empowered every time your manager did your chores? Or more importantly, would you learn to do it independently if you weren’t given the opportunity or space to?
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.“The key word being, “feels”. The child must learn to gauge her own abilities and the task and decide if she needs help with it or not.
A child, under regular circumstances, is very much capable of doing her basic hygiene, grooming and feeding tasks with minimal help. Here are some simple ways, my top 5 ingredients, with which one can help a child help herself.
A. Stepstool (Montessori learning tower)
This is the most versatile and VFM object in a montessori-at-home setup. While one may not necessarily have the means to buy and maintain child sized furniture and bathroom fittings, the humble stepstool empowers the child to adapt to the adult sized environment.Places where one can place the stool.
1- Washbasin. Encourages the child to wash her own hands before and after meals.
2- Toilet. Child can climb onto the potty seat and do their business with minimal support.
3- Kitchen. Useful when the child helps in cooking or washing.
4- Near the entrance. Let the child sit and wear or take off her own shoes patiently. ( This would involve setting aside an extra 10 minutes )
I remember the time when V had finished her glass of milk and cleaned up. This is how our conversation went.
“Me- V, there is still some milk stuck near your mouth.
V- But I already washed ma.
Me- I know. But your face is still dirty.
V- No there is no milk on my face.
Me- Ummm. Why?
V – Because I can’t see it. So it is not there. “
So funny. But so true! How could she know her face was dirty if she couldn’t see it, no? Try to have atleast one mirror at home at child level. Or a stepstool that enables them to view the mirror while washing up.
The child can brush her teeth, wash her face or mouth and comb her hair easily.
C. Designated eating space
A child can easily feed herself on her own, if she is given the means to. A booster seat or a special seat on the dining table with the rest of the family. A plate just like the family, the same food as all the others. See where the focus is? The child is a part of the family. When she sees them eat, with no distractions, and enjoying their food; she starts imitating them.
How will she ever learn to handle cutlery and eat on her own if she isn’t given the opportunity to do so in the first place? She may explore her food in the beginning, taking in the new sights, colours, smells, textures, etc, but she will learn on her own to not just eat her food, but also the correlation between hunger cues and food.
D. Floor bed
So, we do not have the budget to get a floor bed made, so we just use a mattress on the floor. And we use it only for afternoon naps. That is the beauty of montessori. You can take as much as it suits your family.
A floor bed ensures that the child has freedom of movement and is not restricted to a crib or bed. It is also obviously fall proof. But more importantly, a floor bed enables a child to pull out the mattress whenever they want and sleep independently.
I have no idea why this did not make to point 1. This is obviously, the most important of the lot. It isn’t easy to watch your child put their pants on backwards. It is scary to think they can soap themselves or brush their teeth well on their own. You may get annoyed when you are heading out and the child insists they would wear their shoes on their own. It can be difficult to hold back when we see our child want to carry heavy boxes in their playroom on their own. But you know what, let them.
It is empowering for the child, as well as the parent. Do I mean that you let the child do what they want to and walk away? No. The montessori parent is still hovering at the back with watchful eyes. Always ready to swoop in when she asks for help or when she fails and needs support, or a look that says, “Yay!” when she does it.