Marie Kondo and Maria Montessori have a lot in common

The day I read this Domain article I was immediately struck by the similarities between the KonMari method and Montessori principles and practises.

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Montessori advocated for children to be surrounded by beauty.
The beauty of good, simple design in an attractive, ordered environment.

That doesn’t mean expensive.

Most of what you need is easily available in Op shops (Thrift, Goodwill) or on second-hand sites.

Dr. Montessori believed such an environment important for young children to fully experience inner peace and engagement.

We also know through an increasing body of research that children do better with fewer rather than more toys.

The best environment for our children:

With that information in mind how can we provide the best possible environment for our children in the important early years?

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My favourite Montessori slogan is "Help me to do it myself" and as adults that's precisely our job, to help the child in their quest for independence. 

We do this through the creation of an environment which supports their developing needs.

Sounds simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The toddler years can be very testing parents.
Children are driven by their strong desire for independence to do things for themselves, by themselves and at their own pace, a pace which is not always practical or convenient! 

When a toddler can’t satisfy these inner drives they become frustrated and distressed and the whole world will hear about it!

So what can be done and what does this have to do with decluttering?

Supporting the development of independence:

What we can do is support the child’s innate drive for independence through an ordered play-area and through organised age-appropriate tools and toys.

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Let’s say, your child has (for example) a desire to do some drawing.

If your little one

they are freed from dependence on an adult and can do this themselves even when adults are busy with other tasks.

When a child is overwhelmed by clutter, can’t find what they need and are frustrated in their quest is it any wonder they can become cranky?

Life so much calmer and more enjoyable for the whole family when the parents and the child are partners on the child's journey to independence.

Physical changes really make a huge difference

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Creating order in your child's play-area/bedroom and developing a streamlined, practical storage system is a great place to start, as an investment it will pay dividends.

I can only agree with the final paragraph in the Domain article:

  • "There’s a real sense of calm in an ordered home and it transmits to everyone living there (sounds woo-woo, but it’s true.)

  • Getting a professional in is always worth it!"

I'm a professional, an early childhood Montessori specialist, with decades of experience creating beautiful, practical spaces for pre-school children.

If you'd like some guidance and support to create calm beautiful order in your home contact me here, I'd love to help you.

The results will be truly remarkable.

Choose to avoid conflict

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Choices and children can be an explosive combination, one that is often fraught with traps.

So why bother with choices for young children, why not just tell children what to wear, what to eat, and so on?

Why is it important for children to choose? 

Important life skill  

Learning to make choices is an important part of your child's ongoing quest for independence.


The quest for independence is a strong innate drive within every child, as a parent this evolving drive can be frustrating and is often a source of conflict.  


Like many things which appear simple, giving a child choice is not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

Informed choice requires knowledge and understanding

If we agree that learning to make choices is an important life skill how can you go about it?

How can you maximise the positive outcomes and minimise conflict?

An important starting point is to remember that your small child has little experience of the world and therefore little understanding of the implications of any particular choice or action.

Understanding the consequences

To make an informed choice an understanding of the consequences is required.

You know (for example) why eating a nutritionally balanced diet, getting enough sleep, or taking medicine are important for well being, the child has no such understanding.

You know the impact of serious head injury, the child does not and can not.


What happens when you give your child an open-ended choice?

Usually, it goes something like this…. you ask your child what they would like for breakfast.

You probably do so thinking of all the usual breakfast choices, then when the child answers “ice-cream” you are surprised and then, unsurprisingly, you say “no”.

The result is that the child is confused and understandably really annoyed. You asked what they would like and they would like ice-cream and you said “no”.

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A tearful argument is the most likely outcome and the result is that everyone is unhappy.

Here’s the thing, your young child does not know when you said “what would you like for breakfast?” what you actually meant was “which of our usual breakfast foods what would you prefer this morning?”

They thought you actually meant “what would you like for breakfast?” and they would like ice-cream.

Clear communication

Clear communication is so important to family harmony that I devote one module of my Montessori Parenting - raising calm contented kids course to it.

It makes such a difference to the happiness of everyone in the family.

Limited choices

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Giving the child a limited choice, asking 'would you like porridge or yoghurt and fruit for breakfast?' makes it clear to everyone what's on offer.

If the child then answers “ice-cream” your response is much easier and far less confusing to the child.
”I understand you would like ice-cream however the choices for breakfast today are porridge or yoghurt and fruit, so which would you prefer?”.

The same principle applies to all choices 

As you are the adult you understand the consequences, avoid a negative outcome by limiting the choices to appropriate alternatives. 

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Clothing

Clothing is a common source of stress.
 Asking a young child what they'd like to wear often results in conflict as the young child wants to wear the sparkly party dress to play outside in the sandpit, new bathers on a winter day or a coat in the middle fo summer. 

Offering the child a choice between appropriate examples gives the child a degree of independence and helps develop an understanding of appropriate choices for particular situations.  

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Food

Just like the other examples when offering food choices always list the options or display the suitable options and allow the child to choose.

Honing the choice skill

As the child matures and develops a greater understanding of the world so the parameters of the available choices are widened.


This way choosing becomes a positive interaction between parent and child and at the same time furthers the child's understanding of the world. 

Play is 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 years.

Early experiences and relationships are vital as they both 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.

Play, both structured and unstructured, has a vital role in this.

Children get the most enjoyment out of an activity (or toy) when it matches their developmental needs and interests.

If you’re considering showing your child a new activity or teaching them a new skill or buying a toy a handy way of evaluating its suitability is to use the Goldilocks Principle ‘not to hard, not too easy, just right’.

When an activity is too hard or too easy the child becomes either bored or frustrated and neither is ideal for the child.

Hold back the praise

Tasks that are just right result in the child experiencing great pleasure and satisfaction with their efforts.

The joy comes from within and they don’t need praise, sometimes praise can take away some of the joy of achievement from the child.
I know it’s hard to hold back as praise is entrenched in our culture (that’s an article for another day), wherever possible in place of praise remark on the effort, the involvement, the joy.

We all make mistakes

Of course as adults it’s impossible to get it right every time and sometimes we introduce an activity that we soon see is too hard.
When that happens, do what you can to salvage the situation, put it away and make a mental note to reintroduce it again later.
It’s important to remove things the child can’t do as if they just fiddle around with it when the time is right the task will have lost its appeal.

The child may be attracted by the colours or textures so you can introduce these in a different, developmentally appropriate, form.

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It's helpful to go through your child's toys on a regular basis to check that they are still appropriate. 
Also, you don’t need to put everything out at once.

If they’re not using something put it away for a while and bring it out again in a couple of weeks.

Take your lead from the child by stepping back and observing their skills and interests, especially those things they’re desperate to 'help' with or to do by themselves.

Tailor the job

A word of caution here, it’s important to tailor the job to your child’s developmental skills so your little one is likely, with a little practise and effort, to experience success and build a sense of competence.
It’s important to look at tasks with the knowledge of an adult and not be too swayed by enthusiasm.

Some tasks or toys may be way to complex for your little one even when they are very keen.
They may however be ready for part of the task.
Think carefully about the steps involved and make a judgement based on your knowledge of both the child and the task.

Look objectively and observe

By looking objectively and observing which toys are used and which ones are not, at which activities they most enjoy and which they don't, you will begin to get a deeper understand their interests, skills and developmental stages. If you have a good understanding of the Sensitive Periods that too will help.

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. 

Get answers to your most pressing questions with a free 30 minute Montessori Essentials Consult.

You set the agenda and ask the questions.
Together we unpack what’s bothering you most and I’ll show you how to implement more Montessori into your family life.

It’s free, online, it lasts 30 minutes and it’ll be incredibly helpful

Families do well when there is consistency, order and security.

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The choices we make for our young children lay the foundation for all that is to follow in their lives, the way we talk to them becomes their inner voice.

Raising children is like building a house from the foundations up. However we interact with our child, we are building their future,

Support

You'll be relieved to know it's not a matter of doing more but of developing a clear idea of what sort of parent you want to be and understanding your child’s needs.

A great way to start is by allocating a block of time to discuss and decide what type of parenting you want to practise.

Alone or with help?

Deciding on your parenting priorities can be done with or without the help of a supportive parenting mentor. 

If you want things to be different it's really important for you to get the support you need.

Families thrive when there is consistency, order and security.

There's a maze of parenting information out there and lots of people offering any number of quick fixes. Instead of a quick fix (which is almost never quick nor a fix), developing knowledge gives you a compass to guide you on your parenting journey.

Instead of random quick fixes, I advocate a thoughtful, considered approach inspired by the philosophy of Maria Montessori. Having an underlying philosophy they can refer to is a a great support to many parents.

Even if you've never head of Maria Montessori or know nothing at all about Montessori education it doesn't matter. 

Montessori-inspired parenting takes a respectful and very very practical approach based on understanding the developmental needs and stages of the child.

With their developmental needs are met your child will be happier, your home calmer and there'll be a lot less stress and tension all round.

Using a modern Montessori-inspired approach gives you wonderfully practical tools to encourage independence, build skills and develop resilience, resulting in greater happiness and harmony for parents and children alike.