Welcome to Part II of our three-part Montessori Parenting Series where we highlight ways you can practice Montessori methods of child development and education at home with your toddler.
As with infants, at the heart of caring for toddlers is treating the child with respect.
“The first duty of the educator, whether he is involved with the newborn infant or the older child, is to recognize the human personality of the young being and respect it.”—Dr. Maria Montessori
Engaging and speaking respectfully with your child is of paramount importance in raising independent, self-reliant and thoughtful children. Your child will model the behavior of you and others around them. That’s why it’s so essential from the outset to provide a loving, secure environment and speak to your child calmly, clearly and articulately. They will mimic what you say and do, so it is important to treat them as you would like to be treated.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children want to do for themselves. We often hear children say, “Help me do it myself.” Our role as parents and teachers is to give toddlers the freedom to make choices, participate in daily activities and chores, learn to dress and clean up, while discovering the world around them.
Here are five ways to help your child grow and act independently and responsibly in the Montessori manner:
- Create a space in your kitchen where your child can easily access cups, plates, bowls, and utensils. You can enable them to actively participate in mealtime preparations as soon as they start walking. Before long, you’ll find they enjoy the routine of setting the table for meals and learning other kitchen activities, including stirring, chopping, and making their own snacks.
- Encourage your child to dress themselves as soon as possible. Store their clothes, shoes, and jackets in accessible drawers, closets, or hooks so they can pick out what they want to wear each day. It will save you time and effort, plus they’ll start to develop their own style and preferences. My niece loves the color purple and my nephew loves bow ties.
- Help toddlers learn to make decisions. For example, if your child gets hungry before dinner, give them a choice of eating a snack now or waiting for the rest of the family. Providing just a couple of options helps empower your child to take responsibility without being overwhelmed with too many choices.
- Provide room to move about in a safe, secure environment. You can set up an area of your living room with a mat and a small number of simple toys and activities in baskets for hands-on exploration and learning. Toddlers can amuse themselves for long periods of time when their curiosity is sparked, and they are actively engaged.
- Overcome the fabled “terrible twos” by being patient and avoiding giving in to tantrums. Once you give in to a tantrum, a child will continue to have outbursts to get their own way. It’s better to give your child “time outs” to help understand and appreciate the boundaries of appropriate, respectful behavior.
At Apple Montessori Schools, our emphasis during the toddler-stage programs (18 months to 2 ½ years) is on building your child’s independence and fostering their natural curiosity. Our teachers observe each child’s behavior and guide them through purposeful activities to help develop a sense of independence. The activities employ the five senses, introducing language in a hands-on manner, and encouraging social interaction to create a long-lasting love of learning.
For Part I, Infants: Montessori Parenting Starts at the Beginning, click here.