The Montessori approach has 5 basic principles:
1. Respect for the child - this is shown through allowing kids to do things and learn for themselves. Children should have choices so that they "are able to develop the skills and abilities necessary for effective learning autonomy, and positive self-esteem" (Pearson)
2. Absorbent Mind - Children are constantly learning and learn through their environment. They can't help but learn from the environment around them.
3. Sensitive Periods - Times in a child's life where they are more sensitive to learning.
4. Prepared Environment - A place where a child is able to do things for themselves. Learning materials must be accessible to the child.
5. Auto-Education - Children are capable of educating themselves.
In action, Montessori method includes practical life or motor education, sensory materials to learn the different senses, and academic materials for reading, writing and math.
When observing my own children, I definitely agree that they learn through their environment. Their pretend play is largely based on what they know and see us do on a daily basis, such as cleaning and cooking. Today, I want to focus on 3 cleaning type activities that are simple to introduce to young children that will help with their fine motor skills, and their ability to learn important life skills. These activities also foster independence, coordination, concentration, and specific movements needed to manipulate an object in a specific way.
1. Folding Cloths/dish towels/towels
After washing all our kitchen cloths, we put them in a basket and give them to our kids to fold. I originally did not think my 3 year old son would be able to fold the towels the way my husband wanted him to - in three parts one way and then another three parts, but after showing him once, he was a pro at them, plus he thought it was so much fun. My 2 year old daughter can even do it (even if it's not perfect), I don't have to follow dish towels anymore!
This broom set pictured below is from Melissa and Doug, but you can purchase a small dustpan and duster from the Dollar Store as well. You can put some beans, rocks, stones, or beads in the tray and let your child practice sweeping into a squared of section or into a dustpan. My kids can literally spend hours sweeping. We have also given them swiffers of their own to sweep the house with. While they usually spread out the dust, that's okay. Practice makes perfect! Haha!
3. Window Squeegee
This set pictured below is also from Melissa and Doug and the water sprayer actually works. You can also purchase a water sprayer from the Dollar store too, nothing fancy required. I fill it with water and let the kids spray the windows and squeegee it. Sometimes they like to use a cloth to wipe the window or tables too. Sometimes it makes a mess, but it's just water, so it's easy to clean.
Helping around the house gives our children a sense of pride and accomplishment that they are able to help in the household. Teaching these skills at a young age also shows kids that they are a responsible member of the household and prepares them for real life as they get older.
Books about Cleaning
1. Chores, Chores, Chores by Salina Yoon - A little girl finds fun in dusting and doing laundry.
2. How do Dinosaurs Clean their Room? by Jane Yolen - Dinosaurs clean their room with dusters and brooms in a fun way
3. Red Wagon by Renata Liwska - This book is different from the two above but involves a little girl using her imagination when doing her chores - I love it when kids use their imaginations!