Two simple phrases “no” and “I do it myself” are the mantra of the two year old child. This child has a strong inner drive to become independent. She wants to explore and experience the world around her, usually while in perpetual motion.
After learning to crawl, walk, and run, the child has mastered physical separation and now wants to become independent in self-care – dressing and undressing, washing hands, brushing hair, and toileting. She also wants to imitate the actions of parents and older siblings by taking on household chores.
This is the ideal time to involve little ones in such household tasks as folding laundry, washing dishes, wiping the table after a meal, gardening, or watering plants. The child involved in this way not only enjoys great happiness by helping the family, but also builds fine and gross motor skills and begins to develop internal discipline.
The internal discipline and independence developed at this young age can progress to a five year old who has confidence in her abilities, to a 16 year old who can think for herself and make her own choices and decisions, to a high school graduate who is ready to take on the greater world, whether through studies, travel, or work.
In the Montessori classroom, young students practice the development of independence, concentration, coordination, and order in the Practical Life area. Children are given lessons with activities such as: grain exploration, folding cloths, scooping and spooning grains, dressing frames, art activities, and the use of a sponge to wipe up drips.
They can then choose from a selection of activities to work on. Materials are kept on open shelves, which allow children freedom of choice. It is wonderful to see 2 ½ to 3 year olds selecting what they want to use, completing the activity, tidying up so it is “ready for the next person,” and placing it on the shelf exactly where it was found. These activities build the child’s visual memory.
While practicing skills such as: pouring water, zipping, painting, scooping, and sorting, children refine fine motor skills in preparation for writing, practice eye tracking from left to right in preparation for reading, listen to sounds of seeds as they are pouring from one glass pitcher to another, which builds listening skills.
The young child is then prepared for and excited to work with Sensorial materials. Materials in the Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom refine sensory awareness and build on the child’s natural interest in Math. I will write more about this area next week.