Obviously I’m a huge advocate of raising and educating children in a Montessori way. That’s why I work at a Montessori school and that is why I write this blog. But let me tell you, it isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fun. So here are the reasons why it is hard to be a Montessori parent. If you’d like to learn more about Montessori, make sure you read my post What the Heck is Montessori? and listen to the podcast at the end.
We also recorded a podcast about the downside to independence. Listen to it in the post or find it in the iTunes store by searching Quirky Parenting.
Only weirdos use Montessori for their kids, right? At least, that is what I thought initially. Several years ago, I was a nanny for two children who attended a Montessori school. I totally internally judged them, because the only things I had heard was that they didn’t have any rules so the kids ran wild and that the kids were unprepared for the “real world” of the conventional classroom.
Long story short, I was offered a position in the toddler room at the Montessori school they attended and four years later I have found my fit. I love what I do, I love the school, and I love Montessori. And I have determined that the world is sorely lacking in knowledge about Montessori. When I was an education major in school, I believe we read exactly one paragraph about the Montessori philosophy. But the world needs to know, so I am shouting it from the rooftops! (P.S. Make sure you also listen to my podcast all about Montessori. That episode is at the bottom of this post!)
Now before I go on, let me just say that I am not a trained Montessori teacher. Everything I have learned is from experience working in a Montessori school and books and articles I have read. I am in no way an expert. I am also not going to delve into everything because we could have a conversation that lasted for hours about Montessori.
After having Mac help me with some household chores the last few days, I just wanted to quickly remind everyone that a toddler helping you isn’t helpful. What I mean is that asking a toddler to help you do a chore isn’t going to speed it along and get the job done. You have a toddler help for three reasons: future practice, interest and getting things done. If you need a few ideas, read my post about Four Simple Ways Toddlers Can Help Clean Up.
Now, obviously we all want children who pitch in and help keep the house running. You live here, you take care of it. But parents tend to make the mistake of requiring children to do chores when they are older, instead of right away. Having toddlers help (or “help” as it should maybe be phrased) sets them up to doing more in the future. If you expect them to carry their dishes to the sink as a toddler, it becomes a habit. As long as you start small, you can build up as their skills increase.
In the picture above, Mac was taking the clean socks and putting them in that box. Did I really need socks in a box? No, I did not need socks in a box. (Whoa there Dr. Seuss.) But did she enjoy helping? Yes, and she even put the socks in the basket when I was filling it back up with folded laundry. As Mac grows, I’ll have her start with something easy like stacking washcloths and we will work up from there.
Toddlers can help clean. I know it seems unlikely, but toddlers love to clean! At first, they won’t exactly be helpful, but it will be good in the long run. Not only are you teaching them how to help out around the house, but you are also getting a little extra help around the house. Win-win for everyone!
There are a few things to keep in mind. It will take extra time. It won’t actually be clean when they are done. If the toddler hasn’t gone through the sensitive period for order, they may not exactly understand the process of cleaning for a while. It may be frustrating. But toddlers will love feeling included and helpful. And the more they feel that way, the more motivated they will be to continue helping you out. So here is a list of four simple ways toddlers can help clean.
Mac loves to take a wet washcloth and wipe down surfaces in our house, like bookshelves, the coffee table, or her own little table. Sometimes I will direct her to another place, which also helps her learn how to listen and follow directions. She has her own spray bottle of water, but isn’t quite able work it yet. So for now I will spray the table and she wipes it up.
While I was pregnant, I did some research on how to make a Montessori environment for an infant. I will be honest, I was a little intimidated because it sounded like a lot of work to take my already cluttered and messy living room and somehow also accommodate an infant who was supposed to have freedom of movement. We live in a 1,550 sq. ft. townhouse. I literally don’t have another room that I could revamp into a playroom. Mac even roomed in with us for almost a year, partly due to the fact that we had to go through the guest room and totally clean it out so she could sleep there. So the idea of dong Montessori at home in our living room was a little daunting.
Three Months Later: I made a few updates on things we have already changed.