Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Importance of Practical Life

Since I started chucking my to-do list during Henry's awake times, I've noticed that he's become more needy, demanding, and clingy. Of course it's partly due to his age (8 months) and his developmental trajectory.

However, when I read this post and this post by Stephanie, a Montessori mom, I decided to try a different strategy. I decided to make myself busy around Henry. I started doing my own work around the house during his awake time. In her posts, she specifically said to stay off the computer and the cell phone during this time, since it's a distraction to the child's own work.

I decided to start by doing more chores around the house. Instead of doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking in the evenings when Matt gets home, I started doing these things while Henry is awake. It gives me something to do while Henry is busy doing his work (crawling around the house, pulling himself up on the coffee table or books shelves, cruising along the couch, practicing his pincer grip on crumbs he finds on the floor, watching the chickens out the back door, taking his toys off the shelf, etc.).

So far, it's working like a charm. I keep an eye on Henry's safety out of the corner of my eye, but I try not to distract him by obviously checking on him. If he cries or tries to pull up on me, I pick him up and carry him around for a few minutes while describing what I'm doing. Then I try to set him down and engage him in a new activity.

He is back to being more independent. However, I also find that he wants to do what I'm doing. Many children are ready to actually help with chores around 15 months of age, but it's never too young to get myself in that frame of mind. For example, when he followed me to the washing machine, I tried to model for him how to pick an item out of the dirty clothes basket and place it in the washing machine. In classic Montessori style, I didn't use many words. Instead, I just modeled it with exaggerated actions. Henry watched me repeat the demonstration several times, although he was not ready to mimic my actions.

I also try to model for him how we restore the environment when he's done playing. For example, instead of just picking up his balls and throwing them into the basket (which I'm tempted to do because it's more efficient), I model how to pick them up one at a time and place them back in the basket.

I'm also giving a lot of thought to how we prepare our home, so Henry is encouraged to participate in our family life as much as possible. I've been revising a list about how to set up each room in our house. I plan to purchase child-size items (like a broom, dust pan, dirty clothes basket, aprons, etc.) from the sites below:
In Montessori from the Start, Lillard writes: "[Maria Montessori] suggested making the child the adult's daily companion in these simple activities of home and family for one reason only: out of respect for the possibilities of human life as found in the small child." Instead of providing play kitchens with play food, for example, we teach children how to cook alongside us. Instead of setting up separate areas where they "play house," we provide them with real brooms and let them sweep. I'm excited to see how it goes as Henry gets older and older!

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Jill said...

Thanks for this post, Sara. You inspire me to be a better parent! I always refer to my sixth month old as a velcro baby, but maybe he just needs more nudging to establish independence.

Kelsey said...

Great post! I love the idea of incorporating kids into daily household activities. Also, I LOVE the clothes that you put Henry in.

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