Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Montessori Hat and Mitten Tree

Last week, on “K” day of our Advent Alphabet, our key word was “kindness”  Well, lo and behold, not long after the kids and I talked about how we might extend kindness to others, Grampy stopped by to extend some unexpected kindness to us.

He was on his way to an appointment in our area, so he took the time to drop off some hand-me-down clothes, toys and books, as well as a handy little gift that Grammy had picked up for us:

Jack concentrates on "mitten work" with our new gift.
A hat and mitten tree!  But, more than a hat and mitten tree, it was a possible solution to my yearly quandary at this time of year: what simple tool or system can we use to keep the kids’ mittens both accessible and dry, while also encouraging independence?  

Over the years, I have tried a number of things, but have not been satisfied with any of them.  Grammy may have hit the mark!

Luke had the tree figured out in no time at all.
Before I had a chance to help, Luke set to work putting the hat and mitten tree together.  (Independence!)

Nina enjoys putting things in their new home.
Then, without any prompting, Nina and Jack began practicing how to decorate the tree with their gloves and mittens.  (Structure, order and practical life skills!) 

The kids’ “mitten work” later made getting out the door to a homeschool skate day that much easier.  Their hats and mittens were right there waiting for them.

And when we got home?  They knew just what to do with their wet gear.

So, it seems that Grammy’s simple bargain-store find might just prove a perfect solution to our yearly winter gear question.  Our new hat and mitten tree is child-sized, encourages independence and – bonus – can be disassembled easily to be stored during warmer weather.

A Caveat:  Mom and Dad Have New Work, Too

Of course, since our home is anything but ideally Montessori, the reality of our new hat and mitten tree is not either.

You see, instead of leaving the tree in the living room when we first got it, Luke carried it into his room and, for some reason known only to him, put it on his bed.  Jack saw Luke do this, and, has since followed suit.  For days now, we have been finding the tree in different spots around our home – in the hallway, on the table, on a bench, on the couch, on an ottoman next to the Christmas tree...  

It appears that the hat and mitten tree is perfectly "Jack-sized" and that Jack is in some sort of sensitive period of home redecoration.  And, while Mike and I are all for Jack exploring his strength and creativity as he experiments with decorating skills, we do not relish him doing so with the hat and mitten tree.  That simply does not bode well for keeping dry mittens and hats together conveniently by the front door.

So it is that Jack is testing limits and Mike and I are practicing (and, admittedly, sometimes fail at) offering consistent, firm, yet peaceful responses every time we discover our youngest's chubby little hands around the trunk of our new hat and mitten tree.

"Mitten work" is fine – even encouraged by us.  Jack's current choice of "redecorating work" is not.  Thus, our “perfect” hat and mitten solution has also become an opportunity for Mike and me to confirm some “limits” within which Jack can enjoy his “freedom”.  Ah, the timeless dance of parenting, whether Montessori-inspired or not!

Oh, for the work to remain just intently hanging and removing mittens.
We are thankful to my folks for gifting us our new hat and mitten tree, and on "K for Kindness" day, no less.  We are also trying to remember kindness (as opposed to frustration) as we guide Jack in how best to use the tree.

What bargain-store finds have helped you improve the prepared environment of your home?  What unexpected lessons have they brought you and your children?

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Miss Courtney said...

We have a shoe rack by the front door that is a life-saver for finding little shoes. Bobo is old enough to put his shoes up, now, and it saves my sanity!

Deb Chitwood said...

Your hat and mitten tree sounds like a great idea, Martianne! I loved reading about Jack's sensitive period for home redecoration, too! ;) I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:


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