One of the most well known sayings from Maria Montessori is ‘Help me to do it myself.’ That cannot be more true for my son. He loves to do anything and everything he can on his own! I love that look of satisfaction on his adorable little face as he accomplishes his tasks. Those same tasks that I find incredibly tedious, but to him, not only are they major accomplishments, but these tasks are also learning experiences. Dusting, vacuuming, loading the dishwasher at 20 months old, all give my child so much satisfaction, while being very educational!
As we’ve shifted to allowing the Toddler to do more and more himself, I’ve seen his confidence in his own skills increase, and I want to foster that as much as possible. Today, I want to share those activities with you!
Aside from the importance of allowing children to try doing things on their own, Montessori also places emphasis on a tidy and organised space. I find that this is absolutely crucial with my son. We’ve started rotating toys and keeping clutter minimal. In turn, he has started tidying up his toys and things on his own! I’m baffled at what those tiny hands can accomplish!
Here are some simple ways to help your Toddler gain independence:
- Let them help you put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and take clean ones out. If you are scared they will break them, at least have them put their own cutlery, plates, cups in there. My Toddler helps me with everything.
- Have their plates, cups, etc all accessible for the child.
- Keep a step stool so they can wash their hands on their own/with guided assistance
- Let them brush their teeth! After they have had a go, then finish off the job. My son is 20 months old and has been brushing his own teeth since about his first birthday.
- In the shower/bath, let them squeeze soap out on their own (or guide them to do it, otherwise I’d have a bottle of soap gone with each shower).
- Let them have a go at washing their hair or their bodies. I show my son how to lather his hair by taking his hands and having him do it. Hair washing is something he absolutely detested… until he got to do it himself. Same for their bodies.
- Let them try drying themselves. I give my son a small towel to try himself with and use a bigger one myself to wrap him in/dry him with.
- Toilet learning/training. That’s a big one, but what we do is keep a small potty in the bathroom, along with a cute bucket to store wipes/diapers/undies depending on what we feel like dealing with. We aren’t too far into toilet learning yet, but are just trying to expose him to it as an option.
- Let them pick out their own clothes. I emptied a small drawer in my son’s closet. I put options in there – two pants, two shirts that he can mix and match and let him pick out what he wants to wear. He also picks out his own socks. I really want to set up something like this at our new house:
- Keep a ‘self care’ area in the bedroom. A small mirror at the child’s level, a hair brush, and/or a robe all available for the child to get on their own. My son loves brushing his hair. He can’t do it well, and frequently uses the wrong side of the hair brush, but I love seeing him try and why not! After he’s done, I finish off the job.
- Put a hook in the mudroom/entry way that is at the child’s level. That way, they can get their coat when it’s time to leave and hang it back up when you come home. The hanging back up part is something we are still working on, but he does it half the time.
- Keep the child’s shoes tidy and in the same place, perhaps on some sort of a small mat. That way, they know where they are, and can get them and put them away as needed.
- Keep a child sized chair near the shoes so they can try to put them on on their own. My son can’t really do this yet, but he loves trying. If he wants to go outside, he will simply walk over to his shoes, and try getting them on. Can’t get much clearer than that!
Housekeeping and miscellaneous
- Let them help you hold the vacuum as you do it. My son won’t let me vacuum. He literally takes it from me and does it himself. Whateva child! You want to vacuum for me, go ahead, I’ll go sip my coffee! I did have to redirect him a few times, or he would have vacuumed the same spot for twenty minutes.
- If you are doing chores, let them use smaller tools that you are using. IE- if you are dusting, give them a small cloth to help you dust. My son loves, loves, loves doing whatever it is that I am doing. I love that look of concentration as he watches what it is that I did and then tries to emulate it. Priceless!
- If you enter a room, let them switch on the light. My son loves it. He knows that if we go into a room (and it’s dark!), that he gets picked up and gets to flip the light switch.
- My son also helps with laundry. He helps: close the washing machine door, take clean clothing out of the washing machine, helps hang it up on the drying rack, and helps to ‘fold it’ (ie- take a folded item, squish it in his hands, then throw into the laundry basket because obviously I did it wrong).
- Keep things tidy and keep clutter to a minimum. That way, the kiddo can help to put things away – if they know where they go.