“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
-JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
MONTESSORI IN THE HOME
To help you prepare your home environment with the same Montessori principles of having a prepared environment, think as if you are a child. What would be important to you? Listen to you child as he is saying, “Help me do it by myself.” Your child wants to mimic all of the activities you do in your home. Think carefully about family activities and the materials used, in all areas of the home, and arrange the environment to include the child.
The following are some tips to get you started in preparing different environments in your home. Most of this requires a little planning on your part, but truly helps the child feel as though he is a contributing member of the household and will keep your child feeling well-loved and comforted as he creates a balance between his home life and his school life.
IDEAS FOR THE KITCHEN
It’s not practical to have all the countertops lowered so your child can reach, but a simple step stool will do wonders in the kitchen. It is portable, so the child can move to where you are when you are preparing food. Let your child help you as much as possible. If you’re making a salad, give him his own cutting board and chopping utensil. He can cut vegetables with you for the salad. Montessori Services/For Small Hands are great resources for child’s utensils and other child-sized cooking tools to use in the kitchen.
Have an area in both the pantry and the refrigerator where you child can reach healthy snacks on his own. For example, in the pantry a small snack basket on a low shelf filled with snacks you approve. Similarly, in the refrigerator, put snacks she can choose and reach on her own, like yogurt or fruit.
In the lower cabinets of the kitchen, place cups, plates and bowls your child can get without assistance. If you are so inclined, you can have everything ready for your child to serve himself cereal: have the cereal in a smaller more manageable container for pouring (or even single serve containers); bowls and spoons within reach; a small pitcher of milk that he can get out of the fridge and pour himself.
IDEAS FOR THE CHILD’S BEDROOM
This is a place where you can have shelving that is fit for your child’s height. Open shelving with the use of baskets for toys, puzzles, books and other items help your child create order in his own environment as well as helps with clean-up when the toys are done being used.
Choose select items at a time. A few baskets or trays holding tools or toys that are being used at the moment are sufficient. Use only a few like items in each basket. If a child has 100 Legos®, that is too many for him to manage. Start out with 10 or 15 in the basket. This way he can learn how to completely put away the Legos®. As he wants more Legos® with which to build, more, Legos® can be added to the basket. He gradually learns how to manage more and more Legos®.
It is a good idea to rotate books and toys – taking out those that have not been chosen lately and removing them to storage for a time. A monthly rotation works well. An older child can help with this. This is done after observing what the child is actually using, and removing those things which are being ignored, or which have been outgrown. Be sure to leave the favorites!
Whether it’s in the closet or on shelves with baskets, having the child’s clothing easily within reach for the child will help her be able to choose clothes and get dressed in the morning and into pajamas in the evening.
IDEAS FOR THE BATHROOM
This is another area to help your child with his independence. A step stool so he can reach not only the toilet, but the sink area and light switch. Keep his toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, towel and washcloth all within reach, so he can wash his hands, brush his teeth and wash his face without too much assistance from the adult.
HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN 3-6
Help prepare meals for the family
Set the table
Clear dishes from the table
Load the dishwasher
Unload the dishwasher
Sweep the kitchen or other areas
Laundry: sort, fold and/or put away
Mop (use a child-sized mop with a small bucket of water)
Put away own toys
Any other activities listed below
Collect mail from the mailbox
Take recycling out
Take garbage out on garbage day
Return trash receptacles when they have been emptied
Help plant flowers
Help plant a garden
Weed garden and flower beds
Water outdoor plants, flowers
Sweep porches or sidewalks
HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLER CHILDREN
Set the table
Load the dishwasher
Unload the dishwasher—start small—perhaps with just the silverware
Match and organize shoes in the laundry/mud room or a closet
Hang coat/jacket (hook needs to be at appropriate height)
Wash a table
Scrub a stool
Fold small towels
Match socks in the laundry
Wash own face
Put on own shoes
Get dressed—start with one article of clothing first, like the pants/shorts
Feed a pet
Put away groceries
Sweep patio, deck, sidewalk
Fill a bird feeder
Help carry recycling