This blog post is a courtesy of Guidepost Montessori, a global network of Montessori schools serving over 3,000 families across North America, Asia and Europe. Visit their website to learn more.
Organizing your home to support your child’s independence while you are working from home is time well-invested. A little bit of forethought can bring a LOT more peace, concentration, and cooperation to your daily life!
Children who participate in the day to day life of the family in real and purposeful ways are calmer and more focused, and they are building functional independence skills that will serve them for years to come. Once your child has some basic habits in place, you will be able to work much more effectively together.
Young children have a powerful need for order. Here’s how to meet that need in a way that inspires independent work and cooperation from your child.
Set Your Child Up for Success
Make Materials Accessible
The key to your child’s independence is making it easy for him to choose from amongst available options.
- Designate easily accessible storage in each central area of your home. Prepare the bottom shelf of a bookshelf, unhinge a cabinet door and use the shelves inside, or clear the bottom shelf of a coffee table, for example. Baskets lined up neatly on the ground can also work. Place your child’s materials at or below your child’s eye level.
- Prepare areas near where other members of your family will be spending most of their time. Your child will learn to work independently while also being close to the family.
- For the youngest infants, place one or two rattles, grasping toys, or other materials on their blanket in their reach or line of sight.
Have a Place for Everything
External order creates internal order. Order will calm your child, build trust, and encourage him to try new things independently. Establishing order and routine with your infant will set them up for an easier transition into toddlerhood.
- Have only 6-8 materials or activities on your child’s shelf at a time. This will reduce overwhelm, inspiring independent choices and extended periods of independent work.
- If necessary, reduce to 4 items on the shelf until your child can handle more options.
- Always make sure your child (with your help, if necessary) puts one material away before taking out another. Establishing this habit will take some effort, but it is key to independent work at home.
- Place things in the same spot every day. Your child will learn where things “live” in the home and will want things to be in their spots. Over time and with support, they’ll learn to tidy up after themselves!
Choose Purposeful Work and Activities
Less is more! The toys, games, and activities your child has access to should ignite curiosity, engage the senses, and provide opportunities to practice fine & gross motor coordination. When evaluating toys and books, look for those that are beautiful, meaningful, and intelligent, reflecting your child’s own potential and inspiring calmness and creativity.
- Choose toys that are inherently passive and that invite your child to activate them. These toys allow your child to work through challenge, refine fine & gross motor skills, practice trial and error, build concentration, and solidify new skills and knowledge.
- Avoid toys that are themselves active: bright, flashy, and noisy. When your child plays with these toys, he is simply being entertained.
- If you do have some active toys at home, store these away from your child’s work areas so that your child can concentrate.
- For toddlers especially, practical life activities done around the home are very interesting! Store the materials they need to do these tasks on a tray on the relevant shelf. Your child can feed pets, help sort the laundry, water household plants, prepare their own snack, wash, rinse, dry or put away smaller dishes, and more.
Allow for Freedom of Movement
Infants and toddlers need lots of movement throughout the day to build their muscles, regulate their energy, and boost their ability to concentrate.
- Start each day with a walk, outdoor play time, or a movement challenge indoors.
- Create spaces for gross motor movement and provide simple challenges appropriate to the space. (run back and forth three times, crawl to the door, touch your knees, etc.)
- For infants, a mat or a rug beside a low mirror inspires enthusiastic movement.
- For infants who are not yet crawling, provide visual and tactile mobiles.
- For infants beginning to pull up to stand, install a low bar along the wall, or place them near a low, rounded-edged coffee table, a heavy ottoman, or other to use for pulling up.
- As you and your child adjust to being home more, you’ll have a better understanding of how much space works best for your child. Your child will do best with consistent limits that are adjusted as he gains self-control.
Create a Clear Workspace
Having a clearly limited workspace for each person working helps your child see where they fit into the structure at home and keeps their work organized and contained.
- Use a table, placemat, floormat, rug, towel, or blanket to delineate a clear workspace for your child.
- Show your child where each person’s workspace is, and specifically demonstrate how to show respect for their work. “This desk is my workspace. You can watch me work if you like. Stand like this (hands behind back) when you want to watch.”
Repetition and Consistency
Once the environment is prepared to meet your child’s needs, routine, repetition and consistency are key! The more consistent you are each day, the more easily your child will adjust to the new routine.
- Consistently model how to take an activity from the shelf to the mat or table and how to put things away when they are done.
- Verbally repeat cues that can indicate the daily routine. “Now it’s time to put our work away and prepare lunch.”
Suggested Reading and Blogs
Continued Reading Resources
- Age Appropriate Chores for Children
- Setting up Your Home for Montessori
- Montessori at Home: Small Spaces
Posted by Guidepost Montessori
Global network of Montessori schools serving over 3,000 families across North America, Asia and Europe. Visit their website to learn more.