Part Seventeen of Many: The Montessori Life: Let the Toddler Play

Toddlers play to learn. Period. This morning, Bri used her words and pointing to indicate that she wanted a rag out of my rag drawer. I gave her one and she promptly walked over to her little table and wiped a spot on the floor in front of it. I’m not totally sure why she picked that specific spot, since there are plenty of dirty spots all over the kitchen floor, but that spot evidently needed to be wiped, so she wiped it. Then she gave me back the rag and insisted I put it back in the rag drawer. I used the opportunity to show her that we put rags that have been used for the floor in the basket in the laundry room to be washed instead. At first, this upset her because she wanted to put it away. Then she accepted it as part of how life works. It was an awesome opportunity to watch her practice a skill she understood and then learn something new about it. This was just one of those every day moments that toddlers will cultivate themselves if they have a good environment for it. This is the basis behind the practical life works section in a Montessori classroom. You don’t need a classroom to help your child learn these things though. Place your practical life objects (safe, unbreakable and usually smaller versions of them) on lower shelves so your toddler can reach them and watch their minds go to work. At first, the things won’t be used for their intended use. That is OK. It is exploration on your toddler’s part. Frequently they won’t get put away when they’re done, either. A lot of that is just repetition with you to remind them where they go. Then just watch the magic happen when your toddler shows you how to use your baking pans, or how to set the table. A little broom and dustpan can be a good investment. Just generally, let your toddler play. I know I don’t witness a lot of these moments, because I have my home set up in a way that she can meander and explore in every room except those with closed doors (like the bathrooms) and I let her. I don’t watch her for a good chunk of the day because I know she’s in a place safe to explore and learn without hovering supervision, but I was privileged to see her do this this morning, and I feel so blessed to have gotten to watch her mind at work.

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