Note: This is the final (for now) post in my Raising a Low-Media Toddler Series. It started here, where I explained why we strive to be low-media.
In my quest to find meaningful activities for my daughter, in lieu of entertainment media, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Maria Montessori and her education methods. I’m not even close to an expert — I’ve just read a couple of books and blogs, and have tried imitating a few things in my own home. But I continue to be inspired by the overall philosophy and by many of the most common practices. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve tried.
But first, a little background:
Among other things, the Montessori method emphasizes practical life skills for young children. By fostering the skills children need to care for themselves and their environment, we help to cultivate independence and self-esteem. Consequently, in most Montessori-at-home books, you’ll see activities that help children learn how to dress themselves, feed themselves, and help out around the house.
In my last post, I discussed some of the ways I try to get my two-year-old daughter involved in everyday tasks, which is a huge part of learning practical life skills.
However, Montessori educators also commonly use a number of special activities that break down the different parts of frequently-used, everyday life activities, to help develop these skills. For example, to help children learn to serve and eat food, they’ll practice transferring items with a spoon or pouring liquids from a pitcher into a cup. To help children learn to dress themselves, they’ll practice doing up buttons on a dressing frame. Things like that.
I really enjoy practicing some of these activities with my daughter. I’m amazed how much she seems to enjoy them, too, repeating the same simple steps over and over again, just for fun.
A really important value in Montessori education is the child’s concentration. It’s a foundational element in the child’s future academic and creative work.
A child who can concentrate is capable of completing a task, from beginning to end — enabling a sense of accomplishment. A toddler who can concentrate on cutting up a banana or matching cards has begun to master a fundamental skill needed to someday read an entire novel by herself or learn to play the violin.
It’s a beautiful thing to see a 20-month-old absorbed in the task of pouring herself a glass of water or stringing beads onto a pipe cleaner.
A child who is absorbed in a task just for the joy and satisfaction of doing it is too busy to whine for a DVD. She is too busy building up valuable life skills and filled with pride to throw a tantrum.
That’s one of the many reasons I feel Montessori activities are such a great fit for a low-media lifestyle.
Here are a few activities we’ve enjoyed. Some of them are practical life activities; others are meant to develop the senses and a sense of order (sorting). All of them give my child a chance to practice concentration.
You are about to see a collection of photos of my child working in silent concentration. Don’t let these photos fool you into thinking she spends the majority of her time like this, productive and quietly serene. Please don’t let them fool you into thinking I’ve got it all together or even feel like I’ve got it all together.
In fact, a goodly amount of our days involve her clinging to my leg, wailing while I drag her around, huffing impatiently, trying to get things done around the house and periodically exclaiming, “I just can’t do this anymore!”
And in spite of the confident tone in which I discuss my ideas, I spend a goodly amount of my time wondering how in the world other moms get anything done, EVER, and feeling like I’m failing at life in general.
Okay. On to the activities.
Pouring water (and cleaning up spills)
Transferring water with a sponge:
Transferring rice with a spoon:
3D animal models with corresponding photos:
(I describe how I put this together in more detail here)
Coloured buttons with corresponding plates:
(She’s using the buttons I mention in this post)
Further Reading About Montessori:
Just as with my last post on getting your child involved in everyday life, I’m still learning how to implement these kinds of activities. I’m still quite new to the Montessori method, and have never had a chance to see anyone else put it into practice.
I draw a lot of inspiration from the blog How We Montessori. Beautiful pictures, simple ideas.
One of my favourite books on the subject is Maja Pitamic’s Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child. Lots of easy activities that don’t require expensive, specialty materials.