This week for my update I thought I would answer a question I have been asked, I hope you find the answer useful!
I am trying to put together a 'little practical life package' for my daughter. She is currently 16 months old so it might be a little early just yet, but I would be keen to have things around that's ready for her to have a go at when she is ready. She has already taken an interest in raking the leaves and watering the plants (enthusiastically but with no accuracy). Can you recommend what things I might want to start with?
Firstly, congratulations in being so forward thinking! I found that my children started to become interested in practical life activities at around eighteen months so this the perfect time to start getting prepared. Secondly, it's important that the practical life activities presented or available to the child are a reflection of their home and their culture. So think about the activities your daughter observes in her home and perhaps the activities she has already shown an interest in.
In our home practical life is really the focus of the morning. Washing and hanging the clothes on the line, sweeping the floors, washing dishes and preparing snack. It's the same almost every morning. Child size versions (not toys but real, small, materials) will allow your daughter to work along side of you. So I suggest starting with the basics.
1. Child's Bucket. A child's bucket is versatile. For a child who loves transporting this will be a fun way to carry things around, perhaps outside fill with water or to help with gardening - digging/collecting stones. With a small dishcloth and a bucket full of water (and perhaps some mild detergent) a child can clean almost anything from wiping tables, washing windows, to cleaning their trike or helping to wash the car.
2. Dustpan and Brush. Most children just love using the dustpan and brush. Leave it where it is accessible, a low hook where the child can reach it and they will start finding reasons to sweep. It will take a while for them to have the coordination to actually sweep things up but in the mean time they will love trying.
3. Apron. This is something really unique about Montessori. Wearing an apron is more about how it makes a child feel than it is about keeping clothes clean. A small child sized apron that they can reach (keep on a low hook) and learn to put on themselves will teach independence and sense of purpose.
4. Small tray. Much like the bucket, the small tray is so versatile. For carrying snack to storing materials on the shelves, it will always be useful. For a toddler a small tray with handles is a great starting point.
5. Broom. If your child likes to watch you sweep chances are they would like a broom of their own. This broom is so small and light it really is suitable for a child once they start walking. Much like the dustpan, it will take a while for them to learn to sweep productively however the learning process is really valuable.
6. Dishwashing brush or Vegetable brush. Children and in particular toddlers are attracted to water activities. The very first practical life activity my children enjoyed in the kitchen was washing (scrubbing) vegetables and washing dishes. Children will enjoy using small dishcloth or one of these small brushes.
7. Clothes line. This is a very small and very cute clothes line. Toddlers will start by simply folding/placing the clothes on the line and over time move to using pegs. You can give your child their own clothes to hang or start with simple items such as napkins or socks.
8. & 9. Small pitcher and toddler tumbler. If you are going to give your child real glassware this is the time to move to the small pitcher and toddler tumbler. Remember the spills are part of the learning process. Even if you decide to go with a plastic pitcher and cups, for a child, learning to pour their own drink is empowering.
10. & 11. Small Napkins and Montessori Placemat. Sixteen months is a great time for the child to start setting their own table. Small napkins (it's easy to make your own) and a placemat with outlines makes this fun and teaches etiquette.
It's also really important to keep in mind what you do with the materials and how you present them. It's important to correctly demonstrate how to use each item, activities like sweeping may need to be demonstrated many times and often children will learn best by working along side us. It's also important that the child isn't forced into using the materials and they do the activity by choice, when they show the interest.
Also, as we know, at eighteen months children will love nothing better than being present with us, walking along side us and talking to us. They will also show a strong interest for order and will love demonstrating independence. This is the age (if not before) to show them how to correctly put their toys and belongings away, how to dress themselves and how to care for others and their environment.
Other happenings in the shop this week include a new shipment of trays. We have a good supply of small and medium trays and the small and new medium trays with handles. This coming week we expect many of our kitchen items to come back in stock. We also expect our new Gobbi mobiles to be available. Keep an eye out for them if you are expecting or setting up a nursery. They are simply beautiful.