It’s easy to focus on the importance of helping your preschooler by answering your child’s questions or reading to your child. But one of the best ways to help your preschooler is too often overlooked. Take a tip from Montessori education and help your child learn how to do things for him- or herself.
Maria Montessori said:
The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be.
Similarly, Montessori said:
These words reveal the child’s inner needs: ‘Help me to do it alone.’
You will find the time spent teaching your child how to do something independently will improve your child’s initiative, self-confidence, concentration, and coordination. Teaching your child to be independent will also save time for you and make your family happier in the long run. Montessori education uses a few principles that you can use to help your child do things him- or herself.
Montessori principles for parents:
1. Demonstrate how to do a task, breaking the task down into distinct steps.
2. Find points of interest.
3. Have a control of error (a way of providing instant feedback).
4. Let your child practice the task.
This method can be used to teach anything from tying shoes to peeling carrots to loading the dishwasher.
Using Montessori Principles for a Lesson on Nose Blowing
For example, you see that your preschooler’s nose is runny. Rather than taking a tissue and wiping your child’s nose, you could use this as a time to improve your child’s independence and self-respect. Simply say: “Let me show you how to blow your nose.” Then, while your child watches . . .
1. Get a tissue.
2. Fold the tissue in half.
3. Cover your nose with the tissue.
4. Demonstrate how to blow your nose. You could say, “See how I blow my nose gently.”
5. Wipe your nose carefully to be sure your nose and face are clean.
6. Throw the tissue in the waste basket.
7. Invite your child to practice blowing his or her nose.
As a parent, it’s fine to think only of the steps involved. Still, it helps to be aware of extensions, points of interest, and control of error.
Extensions: Have your child wash his or her hands thoroughly after nose blowing.
Points of Interest: Getting a tissue; blowing nose gently; making sure the face is clean; throwing away the tissue.
Control of Error: The nose blowing is too loud; the child’s face and nose aren’t clean; the tissue falls on the floor.
You simply need to think through and demonstrate the steps of anything you’d like to teach your child. “Teach me to do it myself” is an important need of the preschooler, and you as a parent are the best person to meet that need. So, help your preschooler meet the need for independence—and help yourself along the way.
Photo of Girl by GraÃ§a Victoria