Recently I have been doing a lot of reading about Maria Montessori and her approach to children’s development and learning. Her encouragement of independence, sensory and tactile learning and gently guidance appeal to me and put into words many of the ideas and practises we have used as parents for a number of years now. I have spent hours reading books and browsing websites and blogs to gain a broad overview of her approach and people’s interpretation of her strategies for both formal education and learning and everyday life at home.
It is not my intent in this post to recount what I have learnt, rather I wanted to share some of the ideas we have put into place at home.
Firstly, one stream of Montessori learning is Practical Life. This can be anything that we do each day such as dressing, cooking and cleaning. We have always encouraged the boys to contribute to these aspects of life. These are some of the areas around our house, many we have had for a long time, some ideas I have added recently.
In the Kitchen…
The boy’s play kitchen…I change the contents of their ‘pantry’ on the left from time to time, at the moment we have a baker’s table set up, other times it is fruit and veg for cutting, cooking, BBQing etc. A great place to ‘practice’ those cooking skills and keep busy while Mum is in the kitchen.
Self service water...they LOVE this. The placemat is for them to remember to put everything back on the mat, otherwise it was ending up on the edge with risk of being knocked off.
Children’s Fridge…so this is a quick take photo, the freezer obviously needs defrosting! But you can see the idea. Apart from storing a few extra chutney’s and bulk cheese up the back, this is designated kids area. It contains a jug with enough milk for breakfast or a drink (so the entire 3L container doesn’t get emptied into a bowl…you may have read in previous posts that we have been practising pouring technique), snacks such as homemade mueseli bars, veg sticks and yoghurt, their own butter and usually vegemite and jam. It is their responsibility to use them and put them away. Mr Me’s lunch is stored in there overnight and he puts it into his bag in the morning without having to rummage through the entire contents of a fridge to find it. They LOVE their fridge…
This kids fridge with water station and a towel for cleaning up any spills…many meltdowns have been averted with the availability of this towel for clean up. Additionally in the laundry we have dustpan and brush, paper towel and spray bottles with vinegar or lavender and water for cleaning.
Children’s cutlery drawer…we have plenty of diversity for children’s cutlery, they select what they need for each meal (and it keeps my drawer clean!!!). The boys also have a larger drawer for all of their cups, plates, bowls etc.
At the dining table Me Too and Me Now have their own special seats. Me Too was a wriggler who could not sit still for a minute let alone an entire meal. Who could blame him when he had to sit on his knees to reach the table? He has a toddler chair from Ikea which matches the stools at our bench so it doesn’t ‘stand out’. For Me Now I was fed up with lifting him in and out of the high chair yet he was nearly ready for an adult chair. He needed independence an height. The chair Me Too has was too hard for him to climb in and out of so for him we purchased the Soho from Mocka. They both love their chairs, they fit in with our decor and best of all the boys can sit still for an entire meal and reach the table!
In the Bathroom…
Shower time…this is a recent addition of travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner (once again so they don’t empty the entire contents of a large bottle!), soap and face washer hooks all at a child friendly height. The first night this was available they washed their own hair with no tears. I LOVE IT! I am also enjoying not having to pick up face washers off the shower floor.
Hand washing and teeth brushing…this photo is a bit blurry but you can get the idea. Everything is accessible with the steps. We find a tray best for tooth brush storage rather than a stand up holder which wasn’t being used (they would just leave the toothbrush sitting on the bench). You can’t see their towels in the photo but they are on hooks at child height.
In the Lounge room
Book corner...we have had this for a few years now, we made it ourselves and I swap around the books weekly. It is a nice comfy space and allows the boys to select their books and put them away easily.
Our toy storage in the lounge room…we have a very small house so every area needs to be used for storage, hence the large tubs on the bottom shelf. On the top shelf i change around activities fortnightly.
Out in the shed…hubby has no interest in finding out the ins and outs of Montessori, but this was instinctive for him. The boys LOVE making things in the shed with Dad. They have a box of off cut wood, access to nails etc and the shelf below with their own tools. Some are missing as they were in use when I took the photo! They are carefully learning to use ‘real’ tools, a great skill for life. *Note: this is only for use with Dad.
In the bedroom…each boy has their own space for clothes which is clearly labelled with the contents of each shelf or drawer. This is Me Now’s wardrobe, he has just turned 2 so is just beginning to learn about where his clothes are kept.
Bedroom book time…Me Now loves to sit here and look at his books. Ideally I would have the books displayed like in the lounge but I need to store them somewhere! And we have a lot of books! I am in the process of finding tubs to fit the shelf to make it easier to ‘flick’ through and choose a book.
Play time…a small number of toys presented on shelves, Me Now is getting better at playing with one toy and replacing it before selecting another. I have a selection of different toys and change them around fortnightly.
I present toys in baskets or trays with a limited selection as children can tend to become overwhelmed by too much. In this tray he has figurines to play with and cards to match…he likes matching the figures to the cards.
We have a huge selection of activities for outside, many which I have covered previously. In addition we have our chickens which the boys have access to. They enjoy going into their pen and spending time with them, taking them food and collecting eggs. All latches etc are child friendly.
Bag, shoe and coat organisation…
Organised, attractive and easy to use spaces make it easier for children to keep their things where they should be (and find them when they need them!)
I hope you have enjoyed the tour of our home. I would love to see and hear your ideas for making a home child friendly and encouraging children to take responsibility and be an active member of your household.