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Notes to a Montessori Parent - When Actions Mean More Than Words...

Otto putting shoes on at 12 months at How we Montessori-2"Shoes"

Now that we almost have a toddler in the house I am reminded about the importance of our actions and how distracting our words can often be! I've heard it over and over again but it's time for a refresh. "Show, don't tell!".

"Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves." - Maria Montessori.

What is the issue with using words to describe what we are doing, while we are doing it? When we are showing the child something, perhaps a lesson, presentation or something so simple as brushing their teeth, we want 100% of their attention to be on the materials and most often on our hands. We want the child to watch and absorb what we are doing, how we are holding the materials, how we are moving them. If we add language or verbal descriptions, the focus often becomes on the words, the child will often stop looking at our hands, perhaps breaking their concentration to focus on our mouth. The tip is to use the fewest number of words possible during a lesson or presentation and allow the focus to be on the materials. 

The Montessori Toddler has two tips that I've found useful!

SHOW - Show Hands Omit Words - "...a useful reminder to adults to use slow hands and omit words when we are showing our children something new. This helps the child pick things up more easily."

Use One Word - "Sometimes we use too many words to give instructions to our children. "We are going to the park. We'll need to get our shoes. Our shoes protect our feet. It's good to put them on. Where are your shoes? Did you put them on yet?" And on and on it goes. Try using just one word. "Shoes". Again the child needs to work out themselves what they need to do, giving them control over the situation."

It's not just about using less or fewer words our body language is important too. "Remember most communication is non-verbal. Body language 55%, Words 7% and Tone 36%." - Cardiff Montessori, Positive Language and Behaviour Management, A Montessori Approach. Our body language can communicate our approval or dissatisfaction with the child or their actions and so much more.

"Communicating the Montessori way involves more than words and tone. It also involves attitude, body language and actions responsive to the children and their needs." - Montessori Training, Communicating with Young Children the Montessori Way

"So it is often easier to show a toddler, than explain; often easier to work alongside, than give instructions from afar; and more fun to explore the world together!" - The Montessori Notebook. 

Sometimes we forget how much effort and concentration goes into simple tasks like putting on shoes, especially if it is a newly acquired skill. It's best that we show them, then get out of their way! 

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