One of the most important skills for a toddler to develop is concentration. I believe it is easier for some children than for others. But we have to nurture the toddler and provide the right conditions to support their developing concentration. Otto is definitely my wildest, craziest, noisiest toddler. When he is running amok with his brothers it is difficult to believe that he is also capable of intense focus and concentration. This is the dichotomy of the toddler.
We can support the child's need for concentration by allowing for and supporting repetition. I see Otto pouring a milk drink from his pitcher to his glass. Then he tips the milk back into the pitcher and pours it into his glass again. He is wanting to master this action through repetition. While pouring rice between two pitchers may seem pointless, it also allows for this repetition, it allows for mastery of the action, allows for concentration and allows for self-satisfaction. So my wild, crazy and noisy toddler sits quietly for many minutes, pouring rice over and over again.
Then he learns he can pour the rice without spilling a grain. If you haven't tried this with your toddler I recommend giving it a go. Not just once but often, you can demonstrate then observe. I find it remarkable just how quickly the child learns the pouring actions and goes from spilling all the rice, to spilling none at all. Their ability to focus and concentrate then flows on to other areas of their life. I believe a child who concentrates is calmer and more settled.
One of the disappointing things about not having a Montessori toddler class nearby is that I can't see which activities Otto is attracted to. This means that I'm likely to present more activities to him at home to see what he likes to do. I know that he loves pouring, he is in the transporting schema, so I thought we would also try transferring with rice and a spoon.
This has also been well used by Otto although he cannot carry the tray without assistance. So I watch for when he wants to do the activity and help him carry the tray to the table. Again, the controlled and precise movements of the toddler's hands is an achievement and wonderful to watch. With their wild movements, we must know that toddlers are also capable of slow, controlled and precise movements. This also gives the child confidence! He is also amazed by his work.
Just a note on materials. We can be a little obsessive about finding the right materials for our child. I believe the materials for these activities can be found in the home. Try the activity yourself and see if your spoon is easy to grasp and easy to scoop. Dried beans are easier to start off with but if you don't have them see what you have. Consider the way in which you present the activity. When I first presented this, so slowly and with actions, not words, Otto's face lit up when I slowly poured the rice into the bowl with a little tinkling sound. He loves the sound of the rice pouring into the bowl and then tried to replicate it ever so gently.
My children are on their fourth week of Spring break. It's such a busy time, we are currently in France and later this week we will visit Belgium. So this week I will only have a couple of posts for you and will be back here regularly next week. I hope you have a wonderful Spring break.