When we talk about self-care in a Montessori classroom, we're not talking about kicking back with a nice glass of pinot on a Saturday night :)
For toddlers, self-care is teaching them to identify their physical needs and attend to them.
This includes wiping their own face after meals, brushing their own hair, wiping their own runny nose, washing hands independently, etc.
There's a 3 main benefits to teaching young children self-care:
It helps children become more in tune with their bodies and its needs.
It gives children a sense of satisfaction and builds confidence.
It gives children more bodily autonomy, telling them we understand they're in charge of their bodies and what happens to it.
The third is the most important in my book.
Letting children know that we, as their parents, respect their bodies and boundaries, is something they will take out into the world with them.
How To Teach Self-Care At Home
Here are 4 strategies:
Make it accessible - For children to help take care of their own bodies, the necessary materials have to be within their reach. Ensure your child has access to the things they need for self-care in a space they can easily access on their own. This could include:
Putting a basket of face clothes and a hand mirror in the kitchen so your child can wipe their own face
Giving them their own washcloth and small bottle of soap for the bath to begin washing themselves. Note it’s a good idea to put a small amount of soap from the main bottle into a smaller bottle because it’s very likely when you give them access to a bottle of soap, they will dump it all out.
Showing them how to wipe their nose when it’s runny.
Take your time- you might not always have an extra 10 minutes to allow your child to do things for themselves, but slow down and give them that space whenever possible. It’ll take longer now but it’ll be much easier in the future.
Offer the minimum amount of help- Watch your child and offer the minimum amount of help they need to succeed. The key is to walk the line between doing everything for them and letting them get so frustrated they no longer want to try.
Alert your child of a need- it’s perfectly ok to provide feedback or guidance on self-care that needs to be completed without stepping in and doing it right away. For example, you can simply say “Oh your nose is running, here, you’ll want a tissue to wipe that”.
"I DID IT"
I've swear I've only seen the show Dora The Explorer maybe five times in my life but for whatever reason that catchy earworm they sing at the end of show, "We Did It", will forever be stuck in my head.
The whole song is only 15 words (and not especially great) but I think it's taken up permanent residence in my brain because it reminds of one of the best parts of Montessori.
Hearing my child say "I did it" after mastering something new for the first time is so wonderful.
It truly never gets old.
So next time you're tempted to wipe their face after eating, try grabbing a hand mirror to hold up for them and handing over the wash cloth instead.
The joy they'll get from not only doing it themselves, but also having successfully avoided being smothered with the washcloth, will be obvious in their sweet, little smiles :)
And if you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to email me - email@example.com.
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