Help Children be Helpful
In a Montessori classroom, children are taught to love and care for the environment around them. They have important jobs such as loading and emptying the dishwasher, dusting, sweeping, planning snack for a week, cleaning up their desk and area around them and taking care of classroom pets. These activities help the children to feel that they are valuable members of the classroom and raise their self esteem. It is important for children to complete these types of activities at home as well. Through giving children opportunities at home, they will feel like they are a vital and important member of the household.
To help children be helpful, you must first take the time to teach. Children absorb a great deal through observation, but many tasks will require you to show your child step by step what to do. You should teach each skill separately and with a lot of patience, confidence and love. We all have very busy schedules and may rush through the teaching of a task to a child. However, keep in mind, that if you don’t take the time to teach your child how to complete the task appropriately the first time, you will spend more time later on feeling frustrated with the quality of the work and correcting your child. Taking the time to teach your child a step by step task will not only help your child to feel like a valued member of the household , but will give you quality one on one time with your child.
There are all sorts of ways for your child to help out around the house at the Lower Elementary age. They can make their own lunches, set and clear the dinner table, fold and put away their laundry, feed and walk family pets, sweep, pull weeds in the flowerbeds/garden, clean mirrors and windows, load and unload the dishwasher, bringing in the mail/newspaper, make their own bed and vacuuming. These tasks are not just chores or housework. They are opportunities for your child to learn valuable, practical life skills that they will use for the rest of their life! As the parent, you can teach them to enjoy the process of the tasks and admiring the finished product. This time you spend with your child is quality time where you can bond, enjoy each others company and learn more about each other.
When you first walk into a Lower Elementary classroom, it may look quite chaotic. You will observe some children working in groups, some alone, others may be in lessons and there is overall quite a bit of movement happening. If you look through the surface there is a substantial amount of order in a Montessori classroom. Every single thing in the classroom has a purpose and a location. Each child has a job to do and an assignment to work on. Establishing order in the classroom or the home helps the child to develop independence. Having an orderly environment will support your child in focus and concentration. Contrary to the current state of your child’s bedroom or playroom, children have a natural affinity for order. Just like you have to take the time to teach your child to be helpful, you have to take the time to teach your child to be orderly.
Below are some tips and suggestions for your quest to establish order in your home:
• Keep Clutter to a Minimum: Set up a schedule to rotate toys and clothing in and out of storage. Set up specific times to go through these items with your child and make a donation and throw away piles.
• Have Designated Areas for All Things: Have a specific location for your child’s coat, boots, dirty clothes, toys, etc. Walk your child through the steps of putting things in these locations. In the classroom, your child is responsible for putting classroom materials and their personal items in specific locations. They can also be taught and expected to do this at home.
• Take the Time to Set up Each Room in the House: This is an imperative step. Your child should also be involved in this. You can start in your child’s bedroom by using different types of shelving, hooks, organizational supplies, storage containers. Have your child help make decisions on where things should go and how to organize their personal belongings.
• Lower or install a towel hanger in the bathroom so your child can hang up their own towel after a shower/bath.
• Hang a color chart in your child’s bedroom so that your child can see for themselves what colors go together when picking out their own clothing.
• Dresser drawers can be labeled with fun pictures of shirts, socks, underwear, pajamas and dividers so your child’ drawers can be better organized. You can also print labels of the names and place them next to the pictures (print them out in Spanish too!).
• Lower shelves in your child’s bedroom/playroom so that they can easily store their toys. However, avoid big toy boxes as they will quickly become disorganized! Have a small bin/box for specific toys and label them on the front.