Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting him started early on chores

Now that Donovan's a good 18 months old, I've been thinking more about "Practical Life" activities to incorporate into our days. Practical Life is arguably the most important area of Montessori education, at least for these younger (toddler & preschool) ages. Basically, it's activities to teach the child to take care of himself and his environment, which at the same time are also aimed at helping him develop better coordination and motor skills. In my training, aimed at kids 3-6 years of age, these included things like learning how to button clothes, tie laces, use a zipper, put on a jacket; sweep the floor, wash dishes, set a table for meals and snacks, polish metal objects or your shoes; learning how to wash your hands, comb your hair, blow your nose. Very specific items are used for twaching these skills, with defined steps to follow, and in practicing them the child leanrs not only how to do the process itself but also is practicing using his body, hands, fingers, etc, in more defined ways.

The exercises I learned for the preschooler, though, are still a bit advanced for an 18 month old. But, the idea of Practical Life is to use things and activities that are part of everyday life, and teach him how to do them so he can be a bit more independent. So I've been figuring out what kinds of things to set out for him to try. We're working on drinking from a cup instead of sippy cups. I'm about to order some small toddler-sized pitchers so he can also learn to pour water into his own cup, along with a toddler-sized broom to he can help "sweep" the patio.

Today I had a spur-of-the-moment idea-- why not let him help me unload the dishwasher? I wad a dishwasher full of clean dishes. He can only reach the bottom rack, so no glass for him to handle (though eventually we'll build up to that), and our plates are all the cheap-o (and easily replaceable) Ikea variety so even if he drops one it's not a big deal. I always found it so cool to watch 3 year olds at my old school use real glass plates and cups to set the tables for lunch, and figured D might just be up for a similar task.

He immediately loved it, of course. I showed him first how to grab one plate out of the rack, and then he walked a foot or 2 to hand it over to me so I could put it away. He then went on and brought me each plate, one by one, untill the only few left were ones he coudln't reach anymore, and then I helped him get them out and let him then hand them back to me. He remembered to hold the plates with both hands most of the time, and over time we'll work on stressing how to hold the plate (horizontal to the ground with one hand on each side, not hilding it by the top and letting the bottom droop) but for a first time he did awesome and didn't drop a thing. And, again, he loved it. He then kept wanting to load things into and out of the dishwasher. And this is perhaps my favorite part of Practical Life exercises, that you take things that most of us view as boring or dull and you give it to a child and they just think it's the coolest thing they've ever done. =)


  1. omg, i need a kid so i can get my chores done! :)
    but seriously, this is so awesome!

  2. loved the post! i love how teaching your children to help you can be a double plus: helping them with their motor skills, etc.



  3. Though I don't really know that much about Montessori I think this is a great way to build healthy life habits in a fun way. My 2.5 year old helps me pick up toys, water the plants and feed the dog.

  4. Would he enjoy laundry? I could ship mine over to be folded... ;-P

  5. Andrew9:51 PM

    I'm concerned about this kid's "chore avoidance" ability. When I come out there I'll try to teach him some of my tricks.

  6. Hi there, I'm slowly entering blog world again, and getting caught up ... this is my favorite part of Montessori theory, and it amazes me the things Finn is able to do and to help with. And he really seems to enjoy it as much as any of his toys. We have found inexpensive, child-size, "real" dishes and pitchers, etc., in the Japanese stores here. Also, a shot glass is perfect for Finn to hold in his hands and drink from!



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