Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a Montessori tutorial in any way, shape or form; but rather, this is intended to share how we attempt to incorporate our understanding of Montessori principles in a DIY-minimalist-eco-friendly-raggamuslim-kinda way. Proceed, if you wish.
As Lil’ Z approached two years old, there was a noticeable consciousness of herself as an able-bodied member of our family. She was a full-time walker, no longer bound by the vicissitudes of the sling she no longer needed. Daily, she was keen to know what we’re doing and where we’re going. Any outing for her was rightfully named “an adventure” and that’s the same eager curiosity with which we approached our everyday occurrences. In this regard, simplicity is very important. With an added stretch of time, every experience can be layered with language, the senses, and an opportunity to make your growing toddler an active part of it. As Lil’ Z’s cognitive awareness grew, these were some of the Montessori concepts we found useful for incorporation into our home life.
Having a small mat or rug available for your child to play on helps to condition the boundaries of the activity at hand. Instead of blocks or toys spreading all over the place, the play mat helps to localize where things belong. The mat can be introduced much earlier when demonstrating how to use an activity or game but, for us, we found that Lil’ Z was able to independently retrieve and put away her mat at this age–with constant reminding.
There’s a classical Montessori activity known as the Pink Tower, where wooden blocks of graduated sizes are stacked to form a tower. Because the blocks are uniform in design, the child can focus on the varied sizes and their assembly position. Finding the Pink Tower locally wasn’t an option for us but a visiting relative brought along a much lighter, space-friendly equivalent that Lil’ Z got plenty of use out of. Available in both cardboard or wooden material, we opted for the lighter cardboard, though wood clearly lasts longer and is more sensually appealing.
Wooden puzzles, blocks, and geometric shape sorters also are helpful for conceptualizing how to organize objects in space and understand how pieces fit together.
It’s really important to start looking at meaningful tasks to be done around the home that can be undertaken by toddler hands. Something as basic as dropping ice into a cup or as useful as watering a plant are great ways to communicate to your little person their value to your family and collective share in responsibility. Another very relevant task is setting the table before meals. Though our communal meals are usually eaten on a floor mat, Lil’ Z eats her breakfast and lunch at a coffee table-turned-toddler dining table in the kitchen. Cloth place mats and utensils can be stored on a low shelf, and if you’re ready, so can small drinking glasses, bowls, and plates.
For us, it was time to pack up the cloth diapers indefinitely. As we mentioned in the last entry, we bypassed training pants and went straight for the underwear which Lil’ Z was thrilled about wearing. Of course, we explained that wearing “big girl panties” means using the potty, not soiling yourself. There were a few accidents in the beginning but slowly she began to realize that soiling herself meant an instant mess, not a damp cloth sitting unnoticed on your bottom. We helped her out by not asking, just taking her to the restroom before leaving the home or our destination. It also helped to be prepared for roadside toileting with a bottle of water and baby wipes for easy cleaning.
Getting dressed is not every toddler’s priority but peeling off clothes and running around nude almost always is. To give Lil’ Z some sense of agency about her appearance, we offered her limited clothing selections. Picking between two shirts or what color panties she wanted to wear helped to transition her from “Should I get dressed or not?” to “Which one will I wear?”
Your little person is continually growing into their very own. Lil’ Z weaned just shy of two years old and with the cloth diapers and sling packed away, we had to reacquaint ourselves with not just a toddler but an emerging little girl. In a very slow and steady way, your child is becoming a partner. At this time, we really started to not just enjoy Lil’ Z but enjoy her company. Even at two years old, her own personality, interests, and humor came shining through, and seeing her blossom really affirmed for us how important it is to step aside and do the pruning while Lil’ Z does all the growing. Very gratefully, we’re glad to assist her in her flowering childhood.