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How we Encourage Practical Life Care of Self Activities

Practical Life - Care of Self at Three

Otis blowing his nose - care of self, Montessori at three years

This week we made two new additions to the bathroom. A box of tissues and a bin. Although Otis has been here before a lesson on blowing and wiping his nose and a discussion on the importance of hygiene was required. Otis isn't currently coughing or sneezing however are these are good grace and courtesy lessons. The children have access to tissues in the cupboard but when a cold strikes it's best we put them in a more visible location.

Without a bin prominently displayed my children tend to 'pile' the tissues on the counter, so a bin near the mirror helps. The mirror is key, Otis needs to be able to see himself clearly in order to effectively wipe his nose. He also need access to fresh face towels to clean his face. It's kind of working, let's say his nose blowing and wiping still needs improvement. This is a cute nose blowing post from Itty Bitty Love. I cringe when I see parents restrain their child to wipe their nose (totally disempowering) -  this article has more on the Montessori approach. My main tips to Otis are to fold the tissue in half (most often in Montessori they are already folded in quarters), blow and wipe in the centre of the tissue, put tissue in the bin and wash hands. Otis has previously used folding cloths to practice folding which helps a lot. 

So what are some other key care of self lessons/activities for this age group? Otis has some of these mastered however in most areas there is still work to be done/reinforcement required. For example Otis can completely dress himself however occasionally he will wear elastic waisted pants that also have a button - he is still learning to do the button. 

Dressing and Undressing - I include in this selecting appropriate clothing (occasion and weather), buttoning as mentioned, putting on shoes (Otis is still using velcro shoes and hasn't attempted laces yet), putting away clean laundry (in the basket or on a clothes hanger) and putting dirty/worn clothes in the right way and in the dirty-clothes basket. It's also worth mentioning Otis now recognises when he needs to wear a hat and about sun protection - even at home plays in the shade unless he has a hat on. We are also working on recognising when we need to pack a rain coat.

Toileting - Complete use of the toilet including dressing and washing hands when finished. Replacing finished toilet rolls (yes - this too!). 

Applying sunscreen/lotion - Using bottles, applying, rubbing in and determining when required. 

Brushing teeth - This also includes applying toothpaste to the toothbrush, rinsing and Otis has just started learning about flossing. 

Brushing/combing and washing hair - Otis has been able to wash his own hair in the shower however in the bath he has only just started washing his hair himself including pouring water over his head to rinse his hair himself. 

Bathing - This includes washing and drying. Washing face and wiping eyes and ears, cleaning in-between toes and all the tricky parts. Also preparing the bath (putting the plug in, with supervision turning on the tap and putting in bath salts/bubblebath) and hanging up robes and towels.

Hand-washing - Thorough hand-washing with soap including under nails (using a nail brush) and completely drying the hands. 

Feeding - This includes self feeding, using a napkin to clean hands/face, getting snack and pouring a drink. Packing and preparing snack or lunch box and filling water bottle for school or outings. Setting the table and putting away dirty dishes. This also including selecting the right food for their body (recognising which foods to eat at snack time, lunch time and which foods are treats) and acting on thirst (water is best). 

Managing injury/applying band-aids - Including removal and disposal of band-aids. For a long time we had to keep the pack out of reach and just leave one or two in the children's bathroom however Otis can now be trusted/lost interest in band-aids and will only use them when necessary, now we keep an entire packet accessible. 

Self awareness - This includes the child recognising and acting on pain, tiredness, sadness, anger includes staying calm and being aware of their emotions and feelings. 

Managing belongings/Preparing and packing school bag - Otis doesn't do this independently but each morning together we check he has all he needs for school (change of clothes, water bottle, snack box and fruit, sunscreen, hat). 

Exercise and rest - This is a bit of an odd one to include here however I believe it's important for children to know about exercise/physical activity and rest. This includes introducing physical activity every day as a habit (after school my children throw or kick a ball, hit a tennis ball on a string, ride bikes, go swimming, practice soccer with a goal net, use a swing) and also know that they need rest (feeling their body is tired) and to go to bed, sit down.  We try to incorporate meditation (guided) and a little yoga into this. 

It's also worth mentioning cutting hair and nails. Before cutting Otis' nails I will ask him if his nails need cutting. This brings it to his attention. Leading up to having a hair cut we will have a similar discussion about his hair getting in his eyes and needing a trim.

Otis collecting his shoes at three years

I know most Montessori parents will already be convinced however the importance of care of self activities cannot be overstated. They prepare the child for life long good habits, they empower the child and build self confidence and self worth. The care of self activities the child can be involved in changes through stages of development but we cannot deny the child the opportunity to be as involved as possible.  

Please feel free to add or discuss care of self activities that you may be working on with your child or children. 

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