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Please Don't 'Fix' Me!

How we Montessori Otto pencil grip at 34 months 2020 Sydney

As I've show pictures of my toddler drawing and tightly grasping a pencil, I've been asked a lot about pencil grip. For a child in the first plane of development, especially in the child under three I would never correct pencil grip. Another one I'm asked about is how the child holds their scissors, unless it is a safety issue don't fix them. Role model and work along side them, surround them by peers of all ages (who can also role model), give clear and precise demonstrations but don't fix them, they are learning from the experience, and will learn far more from being 'wrong' (having a tight, awkward or uncomfortable grip) than from us fixing them.

It can work against us, requesting a child change the way they hold their pencil, hold a paint brush, tongs or scissors can have a negative effect, it can and most likely will discourage the child from using them again. I've done this exact thing with a puzzle and offering too much verbal assistance in trying to fix what my toddler is doing, my verbal prompts have left the child feeling frustrated and so annoyed they have pushed the puzzle away and not gone back to it. Same goes for a toddler learning to ride a scooter or balance bike or learning to sweep or use a dust pan! Don't fix them.  

By fixing a child we can take away the learning experience, they will find out for themselves what position/grasp is most effective for them, through this process they may also learn problem solving skills and develop persistence, and secondly we can severely damage the child's ego, sense of self and confidence.

To fix a child in the period of the absorbent mind, is communicating that they are not doing it the 'right' way, that they were doing it wrong and should change. In this period children can only learn from experience, in this period there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to hold a pencil or to whisk eggs, it's all about exploratory play, learning how to use and to coordinate their own body, it's about feeling and working it out for themselves.

When I consider fixing my toddler and all three of my children, these quotes from Maria Montessori come to mind. The first quote applies also if we tell or imply to the child that they are doing something the wrong or the incorrect way, it "does not improve him".

"To tell a child he is naughty or stupid just humiliates him; it offends and insults, but does not improve him. For if a child is to stop making mistakes, he must become skillful, and how can he do this if he is already below standard, he is also discouraged." 

"Many errors correct themselves as we go through life. The tiny child starts toddling uncertainly on his feet, wobbles and falls, but ends by walking easily. He corrects his errors by growth and experience. We deceive ourselves if we imagine we are always following life's highway towards perfection. The truth is that we make mistake after mistake, and do not correct ourselves."

- The Absorbent Mind: A Classic in Education and Child Development for Educators and Parents by Maria Montessori. 

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