Practical Activites

The weekend is here and you have an active toddler

Have you noticed how toddlers LOVE big work!

The bigger and heavier the better, the greater the stretch, the steeper the slope the greater the attraction. Small children love testing their strength.

The weekend is here and you have an active toddler

I remembered reading, ages ago, about ways for toddlers to use their developing bodies and abundant energy, so decided to write a short list to get you started.

Ways toddlers can exert maximum effort 

Here are a few to begin with:

  1. Carrying round a large bag or backpack

  2. Using large foam blocks (the Melbourne Museum Children's Gallery has fantastic large blocks)

  3. Carrying wood

  4. Walking over pillows

  5. Move a bucket or watering can of water

  6. Pushing or carrying a loaded laundry basket

  7. Lift a large(ish) suitcase with some weight in it

  8. Move a piece of furniture

  9. Taking the largest steps possible (stepping stones)

  10. Carrying a large box

  11. Digging and filling a bucket with sand then moving that to a new location .....

I hope you find several ideas which help to make the weekend even more enjoyable for you and your toddler.

I’d love to see your ideas and photos, inspire others by posting them on my Facebook page

What does it mean when Montessori talks about the work of the child?

"Play Is The Work of the Child” Maria Montessori

Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth, most of it in the early preschool years.

Early experiences and relationships are vital as they stimulate and influence the development of your child's brain. These experiences influence the development of motor skills, language, socialisation, emotional well-being, creativity, problem-solving and learning ability.

To be positive the activities available to the child must meet the developmental needs of the child. If the activity is too hard or if it is too easy the child becomes either bored or frustrated.

It's important to regularly review your child's toys and activities to see that they are still appropriate, do they still provide enough challenge? If they don't then and they’re too easy, remove them.

Likewise, at times like birthdays and Christmas children often get lots of toys some of which will be too difficult. Put the too difficult ones away and use them later to replace those that have been outgrown.

If you take your lead from the child, especially with things they are desperate to 'help' with or to do by themselves you will see where they (and you) need to go.

Clothing is a good example. You can select some pieces of clothing which are easy to get on and off and put them in a practise basket so the child can choose to practise putting them on and off as often as they wish.

Giving your child a low stool to sit on when putting on clothing, slippers, shoes and such like makes it much more likely the child will be successful. 

Washing dishes may be a chore to we adults, to the young child, it is a deeply satisfying achievement. If a child is given the choice between pretend play and real tasks, real wins every time.

Find as many opportunities as you can for your child to participate in the real everyday activities of the family, if you can do this you'll all be much happier.  Things like: helping unpack or stack the dishwasher, sorting cutlery into the drawer, helping hang out the washing (on their own lower line) pairing socks, folding facewashers, wiping their own little table or chair, getting ingredients from the cupboard or fridge, and dozens more.

Also, by looking objectively at the toys your child uses and the ones they don't, and which activities they most enjoy and which they don't even when encouraged, you can begin to understand which are the elements of each. This valuable knowledge will help you to plan positive, meaningful activities and life will be more fun for everyone!

Enjoy these wonderful early years where each day the miracle of developing life unfolds before you. 

Your child is hard at work every day, working to construct the adult they will become.

A beautiful video of a child at work

This delightful video demonstrates the capabilities of young children and the satisfaction they experience when engaged in real work.  Yes it's shot at a Montessori centre in Sweden however that's really irrelevant, the activity can be replicated anywhere.

Even more  importantly the principle of real work is easily established at home. Real work, like setting the table for a meal, watering plants, washing and cutting fruit and vegetables, washing socks, hanging out washing or cleaning and a million other things, is exactly what your child wants (and needs) to do.

If these activities are set up for the child in a way which gives the greatest possibility for success your child will gain valuable skills, experience immense satisfaction and an understanding of their own capabilities which in turn builds confidence and self-esteem.

Getting the right equipment and an appropriate work space along with a clear demonstration of the activity is necessary to enable your child to experience success. If you are able do this the rewards for your little one (and for you) will be immense.

Here's one example of how to set up an activity. If your child is  interested in helping prepare dinner you can easily set up a vegetable peeling and cutting activity.

Here are the basics which require consideration:

  • Where is the child to work? In the kitchen with you or at their table?  If it's in the kitchen what will the child stand on to work safely at bench height?

  • What will you use to designate the child's work space? A vinyl mat works well for both the kitchen and the child's table. Differentiate between mats for food prep and other activities such as craft. 

  • Buy a peeler which is a suitable size for the hand of your child and make sure it peels efficiently.

  • Choose a knife or a chopper (one which uses 2 hands is often preferred by parents, available on line), make sure it is effective.

  • A chopping board, a bowl for scraps and a bowl for prepared vegetables.

  • A sponge to clean the bench or the table after finishing the task. Colour code your sponges so ones used in food preparation are a different colour to those used for craft.

  • An apron if you want your child to wear one.

  • A tray to store all of these things on and a designated place to store the tray. This can be in a particular cupboard in the kitchen or on a shelf in the child's work area.

  • If practical, colour code all items for one particular activity.

  • Break the activity into steps (e.g.don't introduce both peeling and cutting at the same time, wait until one is mastered then introduce the next) and teach each step by demonstrating, this includes cleaning up and when ready washing up and putting things back in their designated place.

This seems like a lot but once you get the things you need, trays, sponges, child-sized utensils (available on line) and think out your storage system you will be able to set up several activities in a short-space of time.

Always make sure you have enough time to demonstrate the activity before putting it on the shelf.

If I can be of help, give me a call on 0403 226 733.

Good luck, let me know how you get on.


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. 

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.