Nichole from Radicle Beginnings recently published a series of videos from her toddler class that I found very interesting. It was such a wake up call, a reminder for me about what is possible. The video was of a young child scooping pumpkin seeds out of a pumpkin, the child then washed the seeds, dried them, baked them and served them to friends for snack, this involved six or seven (perhaps more) opportunities for transferring. The video is no longer available but you see how the child could have her need for transferring fulfilled in a real life and relevant (not work on a tray/transferring bowl to bowl) way. The child can feel a great amount of pride and satisfaction in this work while still using lots of fine motor skills, concentration, coordination and problem solving. While we still have transferring work on the shelves we look for real life, practical, useful, contributing ways for the child to do the same work.
My toddler loves transferring work so I usually have out at least one tray with transferring work on it. I also try to include him in any work that includes transferring usually in the kitchen, however this is often very short lived such as a once or twice transferring food before/after cooking. I found Nichole's example really useful. Real practical life activities (not just those presented on a tray) can meet the child's developmental and emotional needs.
It's really easy and straight forward to put out 'wooden fruit chopping' or have a water table (I love our water table). It's easy to put out a transferring tray. It's easy to allow our child to chop one banana and believe 'that's it you've done your chopping' or practical life for the day. What is harder is to be present, to observe, to meet the child's needs in a practical and meaningful way.
It is easier if you are a Montessori teacher, with years of training and experience with access to many materials - BUT it is something that we as parents, can learn from.
Some Montessori classrooms (I've seen them in 3-6yrs) have water tables for open ended play and exploration. Although many more Montessori practical life activities are 'real' - think watering plants, washing a table, washing clothes. When I think of washing I also think of washing something that really needs cleaning. Not just window washing for the sake of it (which all of my children have loved) but washing a dirty window, washing dirty clothes, washing a dirty table. It's meaningful, it's productive, it's contributing.
Rather than only allowing Otto (25 months) to 'help' me with my daily activities such as cleaning and cooking, I've been observing him and tailoring real practical life activities to meet his needs. Rather than help me with the washing, he has his own washing to do. He can spend 40 minutes washing one shirt, then rinsing and rewashing it. He doesn't hold me up or prevent me from getting my washing done.
Real pegging rather than (or in addition to) a pegging activity on the shelves or on a tray. These are real clothes that need drying on a real drying rack.
Rather than 'help' me bake bread he can bake his own bread - and spend 40 minutes kneading on his own rather than me trying to get the job done or worried about how my bread will turn out, and how many times the dough ends up on the floor.
When washing with his own washing and rinse bowl, with his own child-size drying rack and pegs, Otto reaches a level of flow, of deep concentration. I eventually get more clothes for him to wash, and another drying rack. This level of work and concentration results in a happy and satisfied toddler!