Practical Activites

Toddler activity of the week- spooning beans

A satisfying toddler activity

Transferring objects from one place to another is a favourite activity of most young children. 

It seems like they're just moving things about but, like much of what children do, it is so much more than it appears.

The child is:

  • perfecting their grip

  • exploring textures

  • gaining an understanding of weight and distance

  • developing their fine motor skills and their hand eye coordination

  • adding strength and flexibility to their wrist and arm movements

  • while at the same time learning a skill useful in their quest for independence.

If you’d like to learn more about the purpose behind many Montessori activities

Setting up a spooning activity

Setting up a spooning activity, is is easy and practical as you probably already have everything you need in your cupboards.

To start you need:

  • A tray

  • two bowls of equal size

  • beans or similar objects to be transferred

  • a child's height place to work

Setting up the activity on a tray makes it more practical as any objects which are spilt fall onto the tray and are more easily retrieved.

When introducing any new activity to your toddler first show it to them while sitting beside them so they can clearly see the actions required and then, if practical, store the tray on a shelf where it is possible for the child to choose and use independently.

If your child is not yet ready for using a spoon the activity can be set up in the same way with things like pom poms or shells which the child transfers from bowl to bowl by hand.

There are many ways this activity can be developed and refined as your child develops

For children, real beats pretend every time.

Montessori knew that kids love purposeful work

Our homes are awash with toys for children which replicate the activities of daily life.

What the child really desires is the real activity.

Pretend play will satisfy the child to some extent but never to the level they really desire.

The Montessori approach aims to create the possibility for the child to  participate wherever possible in the world around them. So instead of a wooden 'sink' where the child pretends to wash dishes how can you enable  your little one what they really want to do, which is to wash real dishes, which need washing.

Involving your child in kitchen-based work is relatively easy if a suitable piece of furniture such as a  learning tower is made or purchased.

Washing the dishes is a great example of a simple everyday activity which provides within that one task so much the young child both wants and needs.

In addition to the satisfaction of mastering the task washing the dishes is an activity which provides a mechanism for:

  • refining of motor skills
  • hand-eye co-ordination
  • understanding of cause and effect (e.g. you need to place the dish in the water and rub it with a brush to clean it)
  • understanding consequences (if you don't hold the dish tightly it may fall from your grasp and may even break)

Perhaps most importantly your child will experience a sense of satisfaction as they meet their inner drive to participate in real 'work' and are involved in contributing to the family well-being.

Here are just a few examples of other easily available daily household activities loved by small children: 

  • Sorting 
    • cutlery
    • socks
    • washing
  • Cutting (easy examples to start)
    • bananas
    • pears
    • mushrooms
    • zucchini
    • eggs
    • berries
  • Spooning (the amount required for a family meal into a pot or bowl)
    • pasta 
    • rice
    • beans
    • oats

Children understand that the tasks they see everyday are vital to the well being of the family and allowing your small child to participate in as many of those real tasks as possible will, along with the development of the skills discussed above, provide the child with a strong positive message about their capabilities and their importance within the family unit.

If you adjust your expectations, your children will be happier - and so will you.

Are you expecting too much from your child, or too little?

Do you expect them to adjust to (your) adult values and time scales?

It doesn't, and shouldn't, matter to your young child that their parent will be late for work or if spilling juice will ‘ruin’ the carpet, the child is driven by their innate quest for independence, to put their shoes on themselves and to pour their own drink.

From birth the child is powered by their internal timetable, each step along the way a step toward the goal of independence and self direction. 

Your child is absolutely desperate to do things for themselves almost as soon as they grasp the idea of what it is that needs doing.

As adults it's our job to create an environment where the child can, wherever possible, succeed in their ever-growing quest for independence.

"Help me to do it myself" is the plea of the small child and is a phrase often used by Montessorians as a short-hand way to describe the Montessori approach to child rearing/education.

Parents can use this approach to meet the developmental needs of their child.

look around the home and find ways to create a pathway toward independence the child craves, what can parents do to make this easier?

As the young child starts to want to do things themselves there are changes you can easily make, simple things like: 

  1. Open shelves at child height with activities categorised and organised with all components needed. These activities are age appropriate.

  2. A sturdy child sized table and chair or a Tripp Trapp chair (google it, they're fantastic) so the child can use the dining table.

  3. A step to allow access to the hand-basin / toilet. A hand-towel at the right height.

  4. A learning tower in the kitchen to provide safe access to kitchen benches for easy involvement in the preparation of food.

  5. Child safe kitchen utensils and a child sized chopping board, plus a place to work.

  6. Practical storage so the child can access their clothing and shoes.

  7. Purchasing clothes and shoes which make it easy for the child to dress themselves and go to the toilet.

  8. Walk at a pace that allows the young child to explore their surroundings.

The more activities the young child can do by themselves (once they have been taught the skill) the happier the child will be and conversely, the parent too will be happier as there will be fewer battles.

What the child cannot do is understand or appreciate adult values and time frames - that's not their job, that's yours. 

Their job is to strive for independence and ever increasing control, so help them to do that and you'll all be much happier.

The joy of rain!

Wet weather fun!

I'd like to make the case for the joy to be had outdoors in the rain and lately we've had plenty of it.

Playing in the rain is fun on wet days, on wet and windy days and even wet and cold days. Children love it!

The key to enjoyable outside play is good, comfortable weather-proof clothing. Such clothing is easily available online. For smaller children a pair of overalls and a jacket probably gives you the most flexibility with combinations, plus of course, a pair of comfortable gum boots. Older kids usually like separate pants, and jacket plus boots.

Having spent some time working in Scandinavia I observed first hand the fun to be had outdoors in all weathers and saw the sense in the saying “ There's no bad weather only bad clothing”.

Comfortably kitted out children love to be outdoors, running, jumping, dancing, splashing in the puddles, watching rain fill small and large containers, seeing raindrops dripping off leaves and roof lines, trying to catch one little raindrop drop in their mouths....

Look after yourself as well, if you too are comfortably dressed a trip to the playground or the park will be great fun, and a source of great delight for you and your child. Perhaps you may even like to take a warm drink with you, a flask of warm chocolate – so special and such fun.

If you live somewhere where it's wet and the temperature is warm enough, go one step further, strip off your little one's clothing and let them run naked in the rain, what joy, what delight!

If that's a step too far, start with bare feet.