“Even the littlest children are anxious to do something and are more anxious to exert themselves than those who are older. A good teacher will therefore look for some way in which even the tiniest child can be of help.”
—Maria Montessori, Education in Movement
A critical component of the Montessori philosophy in early childhood development and education is empowering your child to be confident, organized, productive and self-sufficient within his or her environment. One way to foster the development of these characteristics is to allow your child to participate in daily chores at an early age. There are age-appropriate chores suitable for any child, even those as young as one year old.
Order of the Day
From a very early age, an orderly environment is very important to your child. You can take the first step by creating a room for your child that is neat, clean and where everything has its place—from books and toys to clothes and laundry. Through simple daily tasks, you can help your child create and maintain a harmonious environment. Start early and encourage your child to put away toys, place clothes in a hamper, and help make their bed. A neat, comfortable space helps your child feel more secure, and gives you the opportunity to say, “Thank you for making your room a happy place.”
Purpose & Accomplishment
Children love to feel needed and purposeful. Allowing your child to consistently participate in daily chores gives them a chance to help you and feel good about their contribution. Take for example, the task of organizing your child’s bookshelves. Allow your child the freedom to organize books by subjects, characters, authors, or even book jacket colors. This exercise will give them the opportunity to engage with you and learn a love of books in an entirely new way. Your child can experience a great sense of pride in accomplishing a “job well done” when given the freedom to complete tasks successfully on their own.
Children enjoy being a part of the everyday household routine and knowing the order of what comes next by following your example. For example, the process of getting ready in the morning–washing up, brushing teeth, combing hair and getting dressed—can become an easier, more fun routine and much more rewarding when you compliment your child for “making it a great day and helping us all get out the door in time.”
Children also relate well to visuals that show the tasks they are responsible for each week. Creating and posting a colorful chart with your child’s chores for the week gives them a path they can follow independently. At the end of the week, your child will be very proud of their accomplishments.
Self-discovery and Discipline
With time, your child will focus and concentrate on different activities in and around the home that they enjoy. Watch your child at home or in school and see what activities capture interest and excitement on a regular basis. It could be making a snack, watering plants, feeding pets, or setting the table for a meal. Keeping all the materials and utensils needed to do these chores within easy reach will encourage participation in these activities on a regular basis.
One of the most important feelings your child will gain by regularly cleaning up after themselves and participating in daily chores is confidence in their abilities to accomplish tasks on their own. The more your child accomplishes, the greater confidence they will have to take on larger and more complex tasks on a regular basis. This confidence will continue to grow and last for a lifetime.
“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence” – Maria Montessori