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Last week we introduced a variety of ways to set up your home to make it easy for toddlers and young children to successfully engage in practical life tasks at home (read it again here).  

We shared tips for the kitchen, bathroom and living areas. We were reminded that engaging in simple household tasks not only helps young children develop skills, it nurtures their growing sense of agency, the value of contribution and personal accomplishment. 

This week, we turn our approach toward the child’s own environment and belongings, beginning with toys.   

Toys are an integral part of play for children and should be a source of fun and learning. Sometimes, however, the number, type and condition of toys can be overwhelming for the child – and for the home! 

Engaging in the care and appropriate use of their own toys provides opportunities for children to practice responsibility, self-constraint and respect for property and environment.  

Here are some purposeful practices around toys that you and your child can implement at home (and elsewhere!):  

Putting away toys

Putting toys away is a habit that should be encouraged from an early age.  Ask your child to replace each toy on the shelf after they have used it. Sometimes children take out so much so fast that they become frantic, overwhelmed, or frustrated.  If this happens, the adult should help put away the toys in a friendly manner and say nothing. 

Safe use of toys

Toys should challenge your child’s interest and imagination without being too difficult or too easy.  If your child plays poorly or destroys a toy, it is either too simple, too difficult, or is in such deteriorated condition that it is impossible for the child to use it with a sense of joy, wonder, or fulfillment.  

We recommend regularly checking in with your child’s toys. What do they play well with? What interests them most? What condition are the toys in? You may need to put some toys away until your child is developmentally ready for them or pass toys on if your child has developed beyond. Toys that are broken or no longer functional should be discarded mindfully. 

Rotating toys 

Toy rotation results in better use of toys. With rotation, children always feel that some of their toys are “new”.  Only 8-9 toys need be on the toy shelves at one time.  The others should be stored accessibly.  As your child tires of some toys, they can be replaced by stored toys.  Of course, if a child asks for a “stored toy” they should be able to have it.  

Storing and caring for toys 

We recommend neutral colored toy shelves because they offer the possibility of displaying a toy in such a way that it attracts and lures the child to it.  Each toy should be washed often and have all of its parts.  If a toy is difficult to store, or keep neatly on the shelf, make an attractive box for it.  Each toy that has removable parts should have a beautiful small box or bag for the storage of those parts. 

When children participate in the care, presentation and storage of their toys they develop a  sense of order, sequence, self-control and self-respect. It’s a brilliant way to promote these aspects of personality and gives children a sense of responsibility and respect for their belongings and environments. 

Beyond toys you can extend practical life tasks to caring for other items and spaces around the home. 

Here are some other care-based activities you can practice with your child:

  • folding and sorting clothes or linens 
  • storing clothes / linens 
  • decorating the home for holidays 
  • helping to wash a car 
  • helping to wrap gifts
  • sorting clothes for a wash
  • watering indoor and outdoor plants  

As your child learns new tasks, they will go through three main stages.   

  1. First, they will perform an activity for themselves and their inner needs.   
  2. Later, they will perform the task/s occasionally when asked.  At this point, the child begins to control their will.  
  3. Finally, (about 1 to 1-1/2 years later) they will perform the task anytime asked or whenever they see a practical need. 

When your child performs an activity to help care for him/herself or the home environment, praise them regardless of the result.  Do not redo any part of their project in front of them, and if possible, do not correct any part of it at all.  As your child gets more practice and becomes able to perform more of the activity with ease, they will begin long cycles of repetition.  These cycles of repetition are often annoying to adults but enable the child to work with interest and concentration. 

The joy of having a task, of being involved, being purposeful and finally of accomplishment is endlessly rewarding for your children.   

From these practical life tasks, the child derives the joyfulness of learning through discovery. The result in a capable person who will enjoy the lifelong benefits of independence and self-respect, caring for themselves, for others and for their environments. 

This is the power of Montessori at Home.

Please share your own ideas with our community below. To learn more or join our community, reach out here.

Denice Scala

Author Denice Scala

B.A, M.Ed, Dip ED, Dip RSA, Cert. Neuroscience. Principal, Forestville Montessori School. Denice Scala is an executive leader with extensive experience in key strategic roles requiring business transformation and innovation. As a passionate advocate for the power of education to enrich lives, Denice moved from classroom teaching to leadership positions in 1992 and since then has held international in roles in Scotland and Australia as Principal, Head of Junior School, and Head of Learning Support. She has an impressive working knowledge of early learning, primary, middle, and secondary schooling including gifted education and special needs. Her Masters in Gifted Education led her to work extensively to find ways to cater for gifted students. This led to providing professional development opportunities for educators to assist in their understanding of the characteristics of gifted children and the complexities of growing up gifted. Denice’s unparalleled grasp of current educational realities is equally matched by her big picture thinking combined with practical solutions to navigate change. Denice’s passion for Montessori education led her to undertake the AMI Introduction to Adolescents Course, to audit the AMI 6-12 Diploma, and to also currently undertake the AMI School Administration Certificate Course.

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