Monday, June 27, 2011

Montessori & Toddlers: No to "No!"

The toddler years can be rough. Our little ones scamper around enjoying the new independence of walking and running as they climb up on everything to explore the world around themselves.

Our job is to nurture this independence and excitement for learning while providing safety. It is relatively easy to do this at home, but what about the outside environment? Cars, public spaces, and other challenges await.

First, start at home. Once your home environment is safe for toddler exploration with the appropriate facilities in child size (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and so forth), your toddler can develop good habits to take outside the home.

One key to safety that is easy to overlook is what you say to your child. Make sure you do not give commands such as "No!" as part of your usual interaction with your child. You need to save this command and this tone of voice (we all know that tone of voice, right?!) for an emergency. Your "no!" should stop your child in his or her tracks. Just before he or she darts in front of a car, pulls a pot of boiling water down from the stove, or sticks a knife into an electrical socket.

Practice at home. Now let's try outside.

Here are some tips to start:

1. Let your child walk and explore independently, but when you stop at a crosswalk, you and your child hold hands to cross the street. If your child does not want to hold hands, the street does not get crossed.
2. Say, "We look left, right, and left. And we cross the street." Keep it short and simple. And demonstrate by saying the words as you do the actions. No whining or talking as you two cross the street.
3. Develop a routine for getting into the car and ready to go. Create a checklist and say it aloud with your child. For example, "Sit in the carseat, buckle up, Mommy puts on her seatbelt, and off we go." Sitting in the carseat and buckling up are part of the routine and your child learns that the car doesn't start without these two things.

In between times, try to allow your child the freedom to explore and look around. For example, if he or she is crouching on the ground looking at something, don't let yourself admonish him or her for crouching on the ground. Either join your child or let him or her enjoy the exploration unhindered.

One easy thing to do is to develop the habit of not interrupting your child. It is easy to wonder what your child is doing and call him or her to see what's up. Don't do this. If you must, quietly walk to the room your child is in and take a peek. If all is well, leave without saying anything if you have been unobserved (and especially if your child is absorbed in something).

These simple steps help develop concentration and discipline. More shortly!


Charissa Jacobson said...

I am so thoroughly stumped by these toddler years. Our 14 month old daughter is beginning to walk and in the last month our home has become not safe for her. She can now reach table tops and she climbs on everything. She loves climbing. There are some wonderful things on the Lord Company's website that would help her do these activities safely but alas our budget is too tight. I hear that fancy furniture isn't necessary but I haven't heard how to help her. I have confidence with the infant stage now and I have experience with 3 and up but I could use a life line for this toddler phase. So could our daughter. We say "no" out of reflex because we don't know what else to do. We've tried so many things like laying stacks of pillows on the floor for her to climb over, we got her a rocking horse from the consignment shop for $8, I take her to the park every day. Still she'd rather climb on things that are dangerous, or at the park sit and put sand or bark in her mouth. Your article is so very relevant. I don't see a readiness in my daughter for practical life work. I have offered her folding towels and other activities that don't require walking and she throws them around a scurries away. I would love to help her at this age but unfortunately "no" keeps slipping out of our lips.

Montessori House said...

My first thought was that you might try to get an older playmate for her -- someone who is just old enough to know how to be safe (perhaps pre-teen). This would provide you a bit of a break, too. How does she do with a playmate? With two or three children?

It might comfort you to know that when Montessori teachers try to integrate toddlers into their classes of 3-6 year olds, the toddlers sort of make everyone crazy because they get into everything. What we do in the classroom is to make a toddler zone in which everything can be touched or climbed upon safely. We include low shelves with one or two things per child because toddlers are too young to see multiple things on shelves and just pick one, so we winnow down the selection beforehand.

If you have space to make her room and perhaps one other room completely safe for exploration, it might help.

Yup, the only thing that seems to interest many toddlers at this stage is enjoying moving their bodies and seeing what they can climb, taste, tug, or bite. You're in good company!

Charissa Jacobson said...

Thank you for the response. Your idea of an older playmate is great. She does do well with that. She enjoys being in the nursery at church and gets on well with our two teenage (18 and 19) babysitters that rotate shifts throughout the week. When I go to work one of them comes in to watch her. Last weekend we went to the beach and a lovely 5th grader who was sitting nearby with her mom came over to play with Eva. She brought over her shovel and gave Eva a lesson on how to use it in the sand. It was great, I wanted to take her home. I had another bright spot in my week this week, yesterday Eva sat through a demonstration of me matching plastic food items. Up till now we've used that as a nomenclature basket because she hasn't had the attention span or interest in learning how to pair the items up. In our living room we have 3 low bookshelves that are dedicated to her works. Also her bedroom. The rest of the home is nearly nonfunctional for us adults because of this childproofing. I have plans for shelving and cupboards but it's not likely to happen till next winter when our tax refund comes in.

Shoshana said...

We take my 13 month out for walks and he goes straight to the rocks that have been sprayed with weed killers etc and tries to put them in his mouth. NO?!