One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori method is the freedom it gives children. Freedom to struggle and freedom to learn. Toddlers are not going to be perfect at everything the first time, but creating an environment for independent toddlers is a wonderful gift you can give your child.
Through the Montessori method, children are taught to do everyday activities for themselves. They are presented with a prepared environment and are encouraged to work in that environment at their own pace. For a lot of parents this can be nerve raking and often terrifying. Especially because this often means a toddler is in possession of a knife or is working with breakable dishes. Toddlers often watch older siblings or classmates and gain confidence sometimes beyond their abilities. As a parent or teacher, it is our job to observe without interceding often inevitable accidents.
Here are some things to watch out for if you have an independent toddler in your Montessori – Inspired home and some ways to guide their actions toward safer or more respectful ways to handle situations.
Watch Your Toes
Stools are a wonderful tool for children to work in the prepared home environment. Our stool is made of plastic, but is extremely sturdy. Toddlers want to help in the kitchen, or other areas of the house, and will move their stool to be able to assist. WATCH YOUR TOES! Those stools are wielded by little hands without the strength for coordinated movements.
Help you child recognize where they are moving their stool. Talk with them about how much it hurts to have a stool dropped on your toe. Bringing this fact to their attention, they can learn and grow to be a helpful part of your everyday life and learn empathy for others. And you will save yourself from a broken toe!
The more toddlers begin to practice their abilities to set the table and feed themselves there will be broken dishes. Having glass or porcelain dishes shows confidence in your child. They want to mimic what adults use and will treat their dishes more carefully if they are easily broken.
Explain to your independent toddlers that these items will break, but do not scold them for broken items. Help them to carefully pick up broken pieces or ask them to retrieve items so you may remove broken glass. They can bring you a dustpan and brush or a trash bag for throwing away broken items. Remember breaking dishes is a lesson in cause and effect. They are learning even through that sometimes dangerous lesson.
Spilling seems to be a daily occurrence in the house of a toddler, especially when they want to help cleaning the dishes. As toddlers prepare their own snacks and drinks, things will also spill. Help your toddler to know where clean up rags are stored. Ask them to clean up their own spills. This is another lesson in responsibility that is completely within the capabilities of a toddler. Slippery floors during snack prep can become 3 life lessons in one: preparing snacks, cleaning up their own mess, and responsibility.
Watching food go into the trash can be difficult for families on a budget, but it will happen in the home with independent toddlers. One meal that finds its way to the trash most often in our house is cereal and milk. Toddlers love to prepare their own food and cereal is an easy meal for them to fix on their own, but cereal can be tricky when poured from the box.
Prepare cereal, milk, and other food items in more manageable containers. We have a small pitcher in our refrigerator that we add a reasonable amount of milk for our toddler and a reusable cereal container with a reasonable amount of cereal. Using items like this is how we prepare the home environment for a toddler.
Nicks and Cuts
Toddlers working with a knife can make parents and teachers VERY nervous. Toddlers are not always as smooth with their actions and knifes can cause real injuries. But with sharp objects come responsibility and confidence. Toddlers who learn respect for sharp items will grow to be cautious with all their actions in everyday life.
A wonderful way to help toddlers to feel respected while keeping them safe is to allow them to use butter knives as an alternative to sharp kitchen knives. You may also like to buy some other cutting implements like an Apple Corer Slicer or a Nylon Knife. Guide children and demonstrate correct knife use. They learn by doing! So give monitored opportunities to practice.
I do hope you enjoy your independent toddlers! Learning happens right along with any accidents. Welcome the opportunity to show respect to your toddler and help them develop confidence in their abilities.