Supporting Your Toddler’s Independence at Home

Mel1“Help me do it by myself!”  is the mantra of the Toddler.

Our Montessori Toddler classroom environment and our outdoor garden spaces are uniquely prepared to meet the needs of toddlers who are enthusiastically acquiring new levels of independence every day.

As they continually gain independence in self-care and in contributing to their communities at home and at school, it’s important for toddlers to be included in all their areas of our lives.  Here are some of Montessori-inspired ways to support your toddler’s growing independence at home:

Kitchen and Dining Space:

  • Prepare a low shelf or drawer where your toddler can easily access appropriate snacks and bowls.
  • Provide a sturdy stool to help little ones reach the counter, so they can help with food preparation, such as chopping vegetables or mixing ingredients in a bowl.  Toddlers LOVE water!  Invite your toddler to rinse fruits and veggies or rinse the dishes after dinner.
  • Provide easy access to utensils and plates for setting the table. In the classroom, children prepare the table before each meal.  Invite your child to set out placemats or silverware for the family.

Bathroom:

  • Place a sturdy step stool to help your toddler reach the toilet.
  • Provide a supply of extra underwear in a low, convenient space in the bathroom
  • Provide and hamper or other low receptacle where your toddler can easily deposit soiled underwear.
  • Place a sturdy stool near the sink so your child can see themselves in the mirror as they wash their face or hands, brush their hair or teeth.
  • Provide a low and easily accessible supply of child sized washcloths for washing faces, a child sized brush for brushing hair, and a child sized toothbrush for brushing teeth.

Be available when your little one needs help to “finish” these self-care tasks, of course, but try not to rush in too quickly with help. Your child will blossom in self-awareness, independence and confidence as they learn to care for themselves.

For a few more suggestions on bathroom independence, check out this post on Toilet Learning: http://westhills-montessori.com/2014/03/20/toilet-learning/

Bedroom:  

  • A low bed, at the child’s level, allows a tired toddler to climb into bed all on their own, when their body tells them it’s time for a rest.
  • A basket or low shelf with a few books offers the child a quiet activity they can do while resting.
  • A dresser with low drawers, stocked with a few seasonally appropriate items of clothing from which to choose – a few pairs of pants, a few shirts, a few pairs of socks – allows your toddler to gain independence in choosing clothes and dressing themselves. We highly recommend clothing with elastic waistbands for ease of use; snaps, hooks, buttons and zippers create frustrating obstacles for toddlers who are eager to do it themselves.

Living Room:  

  • Provide a child-sized table and chair where your toddler can work independently.
  • Arrange a few toys and activities on a low shelf, orderly and easily accessible to your child.  To maintain order and avoid the confusion of clutter, rotate toys from a shelf in the garage or a high shelf in the closet, out of the child’s line of sight, to the low shelf in the house.  This method provides your child with the order that serves their physical and emotional development and has the added benefit of keeping your home from becoming overrun with toys!

Outdoors:

Toddlers love to explore nature!

  • Provide appropriate outdoor clothing for the rainy Oregon weather, and make them available to on low hooks and shelves at your child’s level: a pair of rain boots, rain pants, rain jacket.
  • On a low shelf, provide a bucket, a trowel, a small watering can… the tools your child can use for exploring outdoors, for gardening, for enjoying all the seasons of the year.

In Montessori, we say “follow the child,” and they will show you what they want and need to be independent. Enjoy following your child, and welcoming them in every area of your home.

~Melissa Wilcox

 

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