By far, the most common question we get from parents is, "How do I teach my child to do X?"
... put on their shoes? ... clean up their toys? ... play independently? ... help in the kitchen?
In response, the first thing we always ask is, "Is your child showing an interest in doing that?"
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Montessori - that you should always be pushing for independence.
Social media can make it seem like Montessori-raised children behave like mini adults - dressing, cleaning, and cooking for themselves.
That they just move about the house without any help from their parents.
This couldn't be further from reality.
The Montessori approach follows the child and their interest in independence. This is a very important distinction.
At two years old, one child might have mastered self-dressing while another loves chopping up fruit for snack time. A Montessori-aligned approach would simply support both of these children's interests.
Helping Your Child is OK
If your child isn't showing interest in learning a particular skill or they're struggling and asking for help, there is nothing wrong with helping them.
It's encouraged! We want our children to love the learning process, to feel supported by their caregivers, and feel welcome to join when they're ready.
Even if your child knows how to do something and they've previously done it independently, it is still ok to help when your child asks. We all have days when we need a little help :)
Independence Isn't Something You Need To Teach
Children are naturally driven towards independence. They want to do things for themselves and learn new skills.
When they do show an interest in learning a new skill, all you have to do is:
Demonstrate- use slow purposeful movements and minimize the amount of talking so your child can focus on your hands.
Prepare the Environment- Ensure the materials or items they need for success are accessible to them - at their height and appropriately sized.
Offer Help- only when they ask for help, otherwise give your child the time and space to work until they're asking for help or visibly frustrated.
For example, if you wanted to support an interest in independent dressing, you would:
Demonstrate how to remove or put on each item of clothing, teaching one article of clothing at a time until they've mastered that item. Click here for more info on teaching self-dressing.
Provide easy access to their clothes
Offer elastic waist pants they can pull up and down, pullover shirts or sweaters without buttons, velcro shoes, jacket with an easy-to-grasp zipper, etc.
The BIG Picture
It's remarkable to watch a 2 year old crack an egg or a 3 year old climb to the top of a playground.
These are amazing things that we need to step back and appreciate. Our once tiny babies are growing and learning every single day.
It's so easy to focus on the development that's not happening, rather than admiring all the wonderful things that are happening.
So this is your weekly reminder that you are doing great and your children are amazing.
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