Here’s some more information I received from my children’s Montessori school, put together by their lovely teachers regarding supporting independence in the home for the 0-6 year old child.
Independence in the Home; 0-3 years:
“The child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his “natural development”. In other words, if we observe natural development with sufficient care, we see that it can be defined as the gaining of successive levels of independence.” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p.76)
How can you assist your child to gain successive independence? When do you begin and what are some of the things you can do? Here are some ideas to consider for the 0-3 year old in your home:
- As parents we can find it easier to do things ourselves because it is faster, less messy or efficient, but children do pick up on the subtle message that their way is ‘not good enough’ if we do not allow them opportunities to learn or to become contributing members of the family. Allow and encourage our children to ‘act’ even if it does make a mess. Allowing our children to contribute now will ensure your child CAN and WILL contribute in years to come.
- Allow and encourage your child to make choices as soon as they are able to move, understand you and communicate their wishes, even if it is as simply as reaching out and grabbing. They can choose what to wear, what to have for a snack, what book to read, what toys they want to play with etc. You can support this by providing limited choices (no more than two or three). The child between the ages of 0-3 will struggle if given too many options. For example a choice of two different pieces of fruit for a snack or two outfits to wear for the day.
- Care of self. Encourage your child to care for themselves, such as dressing, bathing, brushing hair, toileting and cleaning up, as soon as they are mobile and able to understand your instructions. You can support this by providing a ‘lesson’, guidance and supervision (only when necessary) and prepared environment, an environment that is suited to their physical development. See our Care of Self Spaces.
- Provide an environment that suits your child’s development growth such as a low toddler sized table and chair, a low cupboard shelf or small set of shelves in the kitchen for food and utensils, a stool for the kitchen sink, child sized utensils and tools for cleaning around the house.
- A big saying at my children’s school is ‘Do NOT do for the child what they can do for themselves’. There are always exceptions though, such as illness, extreme tiredness, changes in family circumstance etc.
- Ask questions e.g. “So what do you need to do first?”, instead of making statements or giving your child orders. This assists your child to become and independent thinker, also boosting their self confidence knowing that they can solve the problem, or figure out for example, what comes next.
- Allow for natural consequences. Once your child makes a choice, allow them to experience the consequences good or bad. When your child feels the consequences of their choices, the richer the learning experience. For example, a child picks up a jug of milk with only one hand and it spills all over the floor. As an adult, we may have seen this going to happen, but the idea is not to jump in and stop it from happening. So the milk spills all over the floor, we may say “uh oh, the milk spilt. I wonder why? Once observed, we encourage our child to clean up. On another occasion (this protects your child ego and will not interfere with the desire to try again), one can demonstrate that two hands allow you to more reliably pour without spillage. I see things like this play out in the toddler classroom and it’s amazing to watch.
- It’s the process not the product. This applies to many of the activities or work a young child engages in. It is in the doing that stimulates interest and drives them. It is the process driven exploration that leads to learning. Your child is not interested in the end result. Give them the appropriate tools, but allow them to explore, make and do.
- Be careful of praise, long term praise can inhibit your child from gaining independence because they rely heavily on the praise to feel any satisfaction. Often a child needs nothing but their own self satisfaction, no need for commentary. See you post on Alternatives to saying ‘good job’
What the child can do at home (3-6 years): some info overlaps from the 0-3 years.
- Support their independence by providing your child opportunities to choose, act, think and express themselves.
- Examine the areas in your home and family activities to find ways to promote and encourage independence of even the youngest child. For example; in the play areas limit number of toys and rotate to assist in choice making. In the kitchen; child sized tools and utensils for the child to be independent in making their own snacks. Wardrobe/draws; organised at child height to assist the child in choice making. Bathroom/cleaning tools; organized space that is child appropriate so they may care for themselves. See Our Bathroom Spaces.
- The child of 6 years may appreciate some spontaneous activity like visiting a museum when they express an interest on insects for example.
- They will appreciate their social interactions being fostered through play dates with a small group.
- Give a few new responsibilities that they may like to be in charge of; setting the table, making their lunch, caring for a pet, helping with the shopping, preparing food for meals, washing the dishes or loading the dishwasher, taking out the bins etc.
- Provide your child with a little more time to process and organize their thoughts. The child may require dark time to solidify their thoughts and making meaning/mull over information from new situations.
- Use quiet time for self-reflection.
- The 5-6 year old child is still learning how to deal with set backs, conflict, exploring boundaries and their identity. A way to help is to keep up clear and good communication by making talking a priority. Set clear expectations, set limits and boundaries that are clear and fair.
Sorry for the very long post. I found all of this information so helpful when I first read it. It’s something though that I like to use as a guide and do go over as a reminder from time to time. Hope it is of some help to you as well.