1. Prepare every room of your home so your child can participate fully in family life.
Yesterday, after helping me make the batter for pancakes, as I was cooking it up into the kids’ requested “bunny-shapes”, Luke and Nina surprised me by setting our higher adult table and lower kids’ table out on the deck for breakfast. The fact that the set them came as no surprise, since they often do at my request. The fact that first Luke asked, “May I set the table?” before I had a chance to suggest it and, then, upon receiving my “Yes, that would be very helpful!” went about doing so with no direction, enlisting his sister for help. They did a beautiful job collecting dishes, silverware, maple syrup, glasses, even our morning reading basket. I love how independent and helpful my 4 and 3 year old can be and attribute much of it to my sporadic attempts at being a more Montessorian Mom. Incorporating a prepared environment and practical life really pay off!
2. Differentiate carefully between age-appropriate and age-inappropriate participation in family life.
We have very little screen-time in our home. Video/TV time is quite limited for all and the kids really do not know much about inappropriate TV/video content as we simply do not have it on when they are around and awake, if we have it at all. Likewise, although Mommy and Daddy are online maybe more than they should be on some days, we try to grab snippets of computer time around the kids’ needs and schedules and the kids only use the computer with us for appropriate activities, such as looking at photos, playing educational games or researching things they are interested in. The benefit of this was made clear to me the other day when Luke requested that we play a game on the computer and Nina chimed in that Mommy was doing “adult” work now, but could help them in a minute. (Oh, how they echo Mommy’s words at times!) I quickly finished what I was doing and headed over to TVOKids for Choo Choo Choices, by their request, and, then to Starfall and The Puppet Game. While I am not a big fan of mindless computer games, all of these support things I am trying to instill in the children: Choo Choo puts emotions and choices to be kind right at the kids’ level in a way that opens up conversation between us, with the kids often asking “Why did he cry? I want to make him smile”, etc. Starfall is a well-known wonder for phonics and early reading. And the Puppet Game helps Luke and Nina learn social/emotional cues and expression. All, when not overdone, are a fun, age-appropriate treat that the kids enjoy (and really fill some SPD diet needs!) And, since we agree before turning any of the games on how much time we will spend together online with the games or how many games they can choose in one sitting, limits are usually understood and adhered to with little (but, of course some – they are kids!) whining.
3. Include the child in plans if you don’t want a bored child on your hands.
We are trying to stick to a rather strict family food budget. We are also aiming at having more pleasant, manageable shopping experiences, even with out two who sometimes prefer to be runners and whiners than helpers. Thus, I have been really working on strategies to help us meet both of these goals. For the first, of course, lists are key! And, lately, instead of making the lists all on my own, I have been sometimes having the kids help me with them and sometimes simply sharing them with the kids. Then, when we are at the store, the kids try to help me spot things on the list. I know this is working because I recently heard Luke say to Nina, who was trying to sneak something in her bag, “Nina, that is not on the list.” Hoorah!
Likewise, to combat the runner syndrome, and prepare for Baby to be, when the cart would be too full with Baby, Luke and Nina to include groceries if I continued to employ my easy-out Mommy corralling technique of simply putting both Luke and Nina in the cart so they cannot run away from me, I have been giving the kids the choice of riding in the cart, pushing it with me or carrying a shopping bag. They often choose the latter two, so proud to help. But, just as often ask to go into the cart when they get tired. (And, admittedly, if I have a lot of shopping to do, for my sanity alone, I let them make the choice only for the last couple aisles, keeping them in the cart of the first few, since they are still very much learning to stay near me in the store, not tempted to run ahead, grab things off shelves, etc.) The choice that they make that I particularly love is when they choose to carry their own shopping bags. (Can we say great SPD heavy work?!?) They take turns picking out items on our list and putting them in their bags to carry, telling me when their bags are getting too heavy and asking me to transfer some of the things in them to my cart before continuing on… Observing their pride in helping and their honest judgment about their limitations unfold is a delight…
And, now I pause, because this Montessori Mom is realizing that I need to limit my own computer time at the moment to do some other tasks, so I will pick up the rest of this list of ten on another day later this week. Stop by again to check it out.. And, in the meantime, please leave me comments or links about how you are attempting to make the three things listed above part of your daily home life and how your children are evidencing that they are. Thanks!
This post is being shared at One Hook Wonder’s Montessori Monday and at Mommy Moments Mondays Montessori Moment.