Supporting Your Toddler’s Independence

Supporting Your Toddler’s Independence

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Greenspring Montessori School will earn a commission if you click through and purchase an affiliate resource. We take special care to recommend resources that worked well for us or came highly recommended. If you would like to increase the amount your purchase impacts our school, please make sure to select the Montessori Society of Central MD Inc. as the charity you are supporting when using Amazon Smile.

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If you are interested in learning more about how to support your toddler’s growing independence at home, take a moment to watch this webinar with Greenspring Montessori School Toddler Guides, Allie Alexander and Michelle Donohue. Allie and Michelle have over twenty years combined teaching experience and they both have Montessori toddlers at home. They offer practical advice that is easy to impliment, as well as suggested products to aid in your child’s independence.

For a full list of products for your child, please take a look below:

Drinkware

We recommend that you wean children off of bottles and pacifiers once they are twelve months old. Current research suggests that bottles and sippy cups can be damaging to your child’s oral development, so we recommend starting with an open mouth cup, or if you are on the go, a straw cup with a lid or a child’s water bottle.
Cups with Straws
Children’s Water Bottles
Most water bottles found in the children’s section (not the baby section) will work well.
Ikea is also a great place to find inexpensive child-sized open cups, silverware, plates, etc. for when you are eating at the table. We recommend that parents avoid plates and bowls that suction to the table after 18 months.

Footwear

Soft-soled shoes are best for children learning to walk. Once your child’s dexterity begins to improve, we recommend shoes and boots that are also easy to pull on and off.

Target, Carter’s, and Kohl’s have soft-soled booties as well.
Many of these items can be purchased used on sites like Facebook Marketplace or at your local consignment shop if you are looking for some less expensive options.

We also recommend searching the For Small Hands website if you are looking for something specific for your child. They have a variety of child-sized materials for every area of the home.

 


Take a look at our Montessori in the Home series for more tips for toddlers and infants:

Empowering and Partnering with your Child Through Adolescence

Empowering and Partnering with your Child Through Adolescence

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Greenspring Montessori School will earn a commission if you click through and purchase an affiliate resource. We take special care to recommend resources that worked well for us or came highly recommended. If you would like to increase the amount your purchase impacts our school, please make sure to select the Montessori Society of Central MD Inc. as the charity you are supporting when using Amazon Smile.

Watch on YouTube

Whether you have a five-year-old or a fifteen-year-old, you can find easy ways to create partnerships at home. During this webinar, you will learn steps to implement structures around family meetings, active listening, and allowances – all designed to support you and your child or adolescent in your partnership at home.

Resources for Empowering and Partnering with your Child

Active Listening Worksheet

Empowering and Partnering with your Child Through the Adolescent Years Powerpoint

Family Meeting Album from positivediscipline.com

Recommended Reading

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

The Opposite of Spoiled

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber

Duct Tape Parenting

Duct Tape Parenting by Vick Hoefle

Have Questions? Suggestions? Let us know!

If you have any questions about this webinar or suggestions for future topics, please let us know! You can email us at learn@greenspringmontessori.org or comment below.

A Montessori Play Area

A Montessori Play Area

Greetings from Florida! For those of you who don’t know me, I was a Lower Elementary guide and then the Director of Admissions at Greenspring before moving to Florida. I began this series on Montessori in the Home to help parents find creative ways to implement Montessori practices at home. My daughter, Lila, just turned four. Her play space has evolved since she was an infant, but the guiding principles remain the same.

Setting up a Montessori-inspired play space at home does not require a great deal of time or expense. The goal is simply to create a space that encourages independence and concentration. Here are some key components to keep in mind:

Simplify: Montessori spaces use more neutral colors and have very little (or nothing) hanging on the walls. What is displayed on the walls is carefully chosen and hanging at the child’s eye level. The goal is to reduce the visual stimulation of the environment, so that the child will be attracted to the materials (toys) and be able to concentrate on her work (play).

       
A sample play space for a young toddler                    A sample play space for a six year old

Reduce: Consider reducing the number of toys available. You may use a small shelving unit with two or three shelves and just a few items on each shelf. Putting out just a few toys at once, and rotating them regularly, allows your child to focus on what’s available. Also, rotating toys will rekindle your child’s interest in older toys that they haven’t seen for a while. When a toy has remained on the shelf for a whole week untouched, you know it’s time to put it away and put out something different.

Organize: Children have a sensitive period for order from birth through age five, peaking in early toddlerhood. You can see this through young children’s love for routine and repetition. Young children are most comfortable when their physical environments are orderly. Montessori environments support this desire for order by designating a specific spot for each material. In a play area, instead of a big toy bins full of many unrelated things, each toy has a space where it belongs on a shelf. Toys with multiple pieces, like blocks or play animals, can be organized in small baskets or trays on the shelf. You can even attach photos to each bin or shelf so that the child knows exactly where each toy belongs.

Provide varied work spaces: The furniture in Montessori classrooms is child-sized and the materials are kept on low shelves so that the child can access them independently. If you have the space at home, it’s ideal to include a child-size table and chair(s), an open space allowing for movement and large floor work, and a cozy spot for resting or recovering from an upsetting moment.  

Include nature: If possible, choose a room with natural light. House plants offer children a chance to take care of something, as well as adding natural beauty to the room. Young children also love watching fish or other pets and older children can help feed and care for them as well. You might also consider setting up an outdoor play area where your child can dig in the dirt, water plants, enjoy sand and water play, and do messy art projects.

Choose toys carefully: While there is no need to fill your home with “academic” work, you can select toys that help your child develop in different ways. You might think about including toys that develop fine motor (small muscles), gross motor (big muscles), art and music, books, and open-ended items (like blocks) for creative play. It’s also important to include toys that offer a varying degree of difficulty. You want a mix of challenging toys and things that are easy and familiar for her to play with when she needs a mental break. Open-ended toys that engage rather than entertain (such as those that light up or make noises) will encourage creativity and concentration. 

Give it a try! This might seem like a lot to think about, but you can pick and choose what works for your child and your home. I feel free to “break the rules.” I still keep all of Lila’s stuffed animals in one large bin. And though most gifts made of plastic or requiring batteries “disappear” after a few days, a few favorites have been allowed to stay. And despite my best intentions, getting Lila interested in “clean up time” is still a constant struggle. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Just have fun with it!

*By the way, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on toys, especially for young children. These have been some of Lila’s favorites over the years:

       
Scooping jingle bells into a metal muffin tin, posting poker chips into a coffee can, and posting ping pong balls through a paper towel tube.

    
As a toddler, Lila enjoyed the sound that polished stones made when dropped into a glass bowl; later she enjoyed sorting them by size and color; now she is interested in rocks and minerals.

   
Lila keeps a collection of natural treasures; recyclable materials make wonderful art supplies. Now Lila stops me on the way to the recycling bin and says, “Wait, we can make art with that!”

I have also written about setting up a Montessori kitchenMontessori bedroom and a Montessori bathroom. Questions, comments, suggestions? Email me at mjarrell@greenspringmontessori.org.

A Montessori Kitchen

A Montessori Kitchen

Greetings from Florida! For those of you who don’t know me, I was a Lower Elementary guide and then the Director of Admissions at Greenspring before moving to Florida. I have begun this series on Montessori in the Home to help parents find creative ways to implement Montessori practices into day-to-day activities at home. My daughter, Lila, is now three and a half and loves to work in the kitchen!

Getting Involved

Lila has been an active participant in the kitchen since she was very small. Early activities included stirring batter, washing and scrubbing fruits and vegetables, peeling clementines and bananas, pouring coffee beans into the grinder, and dipping bread into eggs for french toast.

                

These activities help build the essential skills of coordination, concentration, order, and independence. The work also exposes the child to tasting new foods. Lila was always more interested in eating something that she helped to prepare.

                

As her fine motor coordination increased, Lila started shucking corn, rolling dough, peeling and slicing eggs and bananas with special tools, and peeling carrots and cucumbers with a peeler and wavy chopper. Now Lila is also slicing vegetables with an acrylic knife, grating cheese, and juicing oranges. Child-size gardening gloves allow Lila to stir soup and flip pancakes without fear of touching the hot pan.

            

Involving a toddler at dinner time when everyone is tired can be challenging. If I have a few extra minutes earlier in the day, I will prepare part of the meal while Lila is still at school. This will allow me to focus more energy on her participation during the meal preparation. Sometimes I plan our joint projects for the weekends when I have more energy.

       

There are other ways besides cooking that children can help. Setting the table, sweeping up crumbs, and placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher are other ways that little ones can contribute. Montessorians know that children’s self-esteem comes from making meaningful contributions, rather than receiving compliments. So allowing children to be active participants in the family is a tremendous gift!

Learning Tower
The single most important tool you will need to allow your child to participate in the kitchen is a safe stool. We put the “Learning Tower” on our baby gift registry before Lila was born. Three and a half years later, we are still using it every day. When Lila was very small, we wrapped the sides with saran wrap so she couldn’t fall out. Soon she was able to climb in and out independently. The adjustable height allows the stool to grow with her. And you don’t need to worry about her falling off a regular stool.

      

I have seen some great “hacks” on the internet for converting an Ikea stool into a learning tower, for a much lower cost. If you’re handy, this is definitely worth a try!

Eating Independently
As much as your child will enjoy helping prepare food, she will also be highly motivated to eat independently. When Lila was very small, she sat in a Bumbo or high chair. As soon as she was able to sit in a chair without falling off, we moved her to a toddler-size table and chair. (The table was bought from Ikea with the legs chopped to make it shorter.)

                

While she still sat in a high chair for family dinner at the dining table, all other meals and snacks were eaten at her special table. Soon, Lila began rejecting the high chair. That’s when we switched to a booster seat in a regular dining chair.

Montessori Services makes child-size glass dishes that are very sturdy. While I don’t like to replicate too many Montessori lessons in the home (as I like them to remain special at school and be presented by the experts!), I did invest in two small glass pitchers so that Lila could practice pouring. I have a full list of recommended supplies below.

              

In order to further increase independence, you can make child-size dishes, utensils, kitchen tools, and cleaning supplies available at the child’s level. This can be a special shelf or just a lower kitchen cabinet that you dedicate for your child’s kitchen items.

            

You might consider creating a water and snack station on a low shelf or table. By having water and healthy snacks available at all times, your child can help herself to food when she is hungry. You can also dedicate a low shelf of the refrigerator for your child’s use and keep liquids in smaller containers that are easy to pour.

Don’t feel like you need to tackle all of this at once. Try picking just one new system to implement in your home and see how it works!

I have also written about setting up a Montessori bedroom and a Montessori bathroom. Next I will tackle the play area! Questions, comments, suggestions? Email me at mjarrell@greenspringmontessori.org.

 

Resources:

There are many wonderful tools to help young children work safely in the kitchen.

Some of my favorite resources include:

Montessori Services (child-size tools)
How We Montessori (blog)

Some of my favorite products include:

Learning tower or sturdy stool:
http://www.littlepartners.com/
http://www.littlepartners.com/growing-step-stool
https://www.etsy.com/shop/EtteTete

There are many great blogs showing a DIY learning tower, such as this one:
http://happygreylucky.com/ikea-hack-toddler-learning-tower-stool/

Child-size apron
https://www.montessoriservices.com/preparing-the-environment/aprons/baker-s-apron
https://www.montessoriservices.com/preparing-the-environment/aprons/waterproof-aprons-with-velcro

Wavy chopper
https://www.montessoriservices.com/practical-life/food-preparation/cutting-slicing/wavy-chopper

Banana slicer
https://www.montessoriservices.com/practical-life/food-preparation/cutting-slicing/banana-slicer

Apple slicer
https://www.montessoriservices.com/apple-slicer

Egg and mushroom slicer
https://www.montessoriservices.com/practical-life/food-preparation/cutting-slicing/deluxe-egg-mushroom-slicer

Citrus juicer/grater
https://www.montessoriservices.com/glass-citrus-juicer
https://www.montessoriservices.com/practical-life/food-preparation/juicing-grating-grinding/juicer-with-grater

Nylon knife
https://www.montessoriservices.com/small-nylon-knife

Peeler
https://www.amazon.com/Curious-Chef-Fruit-Vegetable-Peeler/dp/B002Q7B4BY
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001R5HEA6?tag=viglink127070-20

Non-skid cutting board
https://www.montessoriservices.com/flexible-cutting-board-set

Non-skid mixing bowl
https://www.montessoriservices.com/non-slip-mixing-bowl

Spatula, mixing spoon, scrapers, whisk
https://www.montessoriservices.com/small-turner-spatula
https://www.montessoriservices.com/wooden-mixing-spoon
https://www.montessoriservices.com/rubber-mini-scraper-set
https://www.montessoriservices.com/stainless-steel-wire-whisk

Rolling pin
https://www.montessoriservices.com/wooden-rolling-pin

Oven mitts
https://www.montessoriservices.com/oven-mitts

Child-size pitcher, glasses, plates, and utensils
https://www.montessoriservices.com/glass-pitcher-with-lid
https://www.montessoriservices.com/durable-juice-glass-set
https://www.montessoriservices.com/glass-snack-club-plates
https://www.montessoriservices.com/children-s-hammered-flatware-set-622

Spreaders
https://www.montessoriservices.com/stainless-steel-spreaders

Dishwashing station
https://www.montessoriservices.com/dishwashing-activity

Cleaning supplies
https://www.montessoriservices.com/compact-brush-dustpan-set

Continuity is the Key: Your Toddler’s Daily Routine

Continuity is the Key: Your Toddler’s Daily Routine

We all know that young children thrive on consistency and routine. Dr. Montessori discovered that children from ages one to four are actually in a “sensitive period” for order. This means that not only do they crave consistency from their environment and schedule, but that toddlers are particularly attuned to developing an internal sense of order at this age, if given opportunities to develop this skill.

For this reason, Montessori environments – both at school and in the home – are carefully prepared so that every item has a place. (I have previously posted about setting up Montessori spaces in the home – the bedroom and the bathroom – and am currently working on a piece about the kitchen.) But while it’s fairly easy to create physical places for things, creating a sense of order throughout the day is far more difficult. Young children have a strong need to feel in control and yet so much of what happens during the day is determined by others. Plus, toddlers can’t yet grasp the concept of time – today, tomorrow and yesterday – because the part of the brain that is able to plan ahead and make predictions about the future is still developing.

Creating a few simple routines at home can help your toddler practice making simple predictions, as well as understand concepts such as “before and after.” A consistent routine can (sometimes) eliminate power struggles because your child feels more control over what is happening. A routine is especially helpful during difficult times of day, such as at bedtime or when getting ready for school in the morning.

I’ve collected a few tips good from the experts:

Include preparation for transitions in the routine. For example, say, “We have 10 minutes left before we start getting ready for bed. Since toddlers can’t read a clock, try setting a timer. When the timer goes off, it’s time to start the bedtime routine.

Include opportunities for (limited) choice. Toddlers like to feel in control. You can create the illusion of choice, such as “Are you going to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?” By putting clothes where your child can access them, this also allows for greater control (aka, independence!) over the process. 

Get silly! Even with consistent routines, toddlers will still test the limits. Recently, my daughter, Lila, started to resist getting dressed in the morning. Now my husband helps her “hop” into her clothes and then challenges her to see how high she can jump on the trampoline in her “jumping pants.” Hey, whatever works! And when this stops working, we’ll have to change it up again.

Try creating a picture schedule for your child. During her transition to a Montessori toddler program, Lila began to ask every morning, “Is there school today?” So we created a photo schedule that would show what was going to happen each day of the week. It allows us to discuss the next day’s schedule and Lila can refer to the schedule when she wants to know what is going to happen next. I have found several websites that offer free printables for daily routines, such as these on pricelessparenting.com. Older children may enjoy drawing pictures for their charts.

Practice routines with activities that are fun, as well as chores. Routines aren’t only for things kids have to do. Lila enjoys making coffee with her daddy on Saturday mornings. She loves being the taskmaster: “Step 1: Grind the beans!” 

Keep your daily schedule as predictable as possible. Your child will take comfort in knowing that she goes to school in the morning, comes home for lunch and a nap, and then has playtime in the afternoon. For this reason, we chose to enroll Lila in a Montessori toddler program five mornings a week. Her adjustment to school still included separation anxiety, but thanks to the consistent schedule, Lila quickly began to learn what to expect each day, and this knowledge provided some comfort. In a matter of a few weeks, Lila began to see school as a joyful place where she belonged; now she walks through that classroom door without looking back!

Stay flexible. Of course, children do need to learn how be flexible and deal with minor changes. But that’s why we offer children a predictable routine as a foundation–so they can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when they need to. If there is an interruption to the routine, you can tell your child, “I know we usually do ___, but today we are going to do ___ because (reason). Tomorrow we will go back to our usual schedule.”

It is never too late to start a routine. You can introduce a new routine by saying, “The way that we have been doing things has not been working. We are going to try something new. Here is our new schedule.” Give the new routine some time before making adjustments. Your toddler will resist at first; consistency is key!

To read more about the benefits of setting up routines for your toddler, check out this article by Aha! Parenting.

If you would like to learn more about our Toddler program, please click here.

Montessori in the Home for Toddlers

Montessori in the Home for Toddlers

Written by Rachel Kleinman, former Toddler Guide

“To assist a child, we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

A question commonly asked by Montessori parents is, “How can we implement what you’re teaching in the classroom at home?”

While at school, your child has been busy learning practical life skills for both taking care of herself and her environment. The toddler Montessori environment at school is specifically designed to foster independent learning and exploration for your young child. However, there are many ways you can easily create a Montessori-friendly toddler environment at home.

Maria Montessori often refers to the “prepared environment,” which simply means offering an area to the child that is intended to facilitate as much independence as possible. It is important that a toddler have opportunities to exert her “will” and accomplish self-care tasks independently. The child’s unspoken plea is, “Help me to help myself!” With a few simple modifications, the home environment can provide a sense of freedom, have order, and be beautiful.

Here are some ways to foster independence in the home:

  • Create an organized space where your child can store personal items and maintain a sense of order. A great place to start is with a little basket by the front door where she can store her shoes when she comes into the house. You can also add a hook at her eye level where she can practice hanging up her backpack and coat.
  • Allow time for your child to get ready on her own – allow her to practice putting shoes on and off, and also give time for her to put on her own coat.
  • Have artwork at the child’s eye level to spark conversation and language development. This is also a fantastic opportunity to teach children to look with their eyes and hold hands behind their backs (a great lesson in self-control and care of the environment!).
  • Provide a low tables and chair as a workplace that your child knows belongs to her. The expectations are that she puts materials away when finished working, focus on only one task at a time, and push in the chair when leaving.
  • Provide real child-size utensils, tools, and glassware – we use these every day in the classroom, especially during snack time.
  • Provide cleaning materials that are accessible to your child so she can pick up after herself. A few good tools are a small dustpan and broom, a table crumber, and a small spray bottle and washcloth to wipe the tables.

It is amazing what a toddler can accomplish when given the proper tools and a sense of independence! We simply need to help them to help themselves.

Parental Challenge: Choose one (or more!) of these ways to implement the Montessori Method in your home. Observe over time to see how your child responds to the change.

Learn more about the Greenspring Montessori School Toddler Program.