Key to the child’s independence lies in the prepared environment – part 1

Every parent has, at least once, encountered a resistance from the child towards brushing hair, brushing tooth, dressing up, etc. And exactly then – the moment when your child starts feeling annoyed with your assistance in every day self-care – it is the time you need to take a step back and allow your child to grow up and develop its independence. It will not be a fast process, but it will bring incredible satisfaction to your child and to you as a parent.

In order for this process to start, you will need to prepare the environment. For the crucial self-care, such as brushing hair and washing teeth, we have made a DIY shelf and placed it in our tiny bathroom on such a height that Natalia can reach everything from it without a problem.

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On the shelf Natalia has her hair brush, toothpaste, toothbrush and hair bands. Before installing this shelf, tooth brushing presented a nightmare. Now, when we just remind her it is toothbrush time, she goes to the bathroom and takes her toothbrush with a huge smile on her face. Since she is still too small to properly wash her teeth, we allow her as long as she wants to wash her teeth and then she can choose who she wants to help her to finish washing the teeth – mommy or daddy:)

Natalia is an expert in brushing her hair (sometimes she does it better than me;). She is not yet able to make ponytail by herself – but every morning she can make a decision does she want hair bands in the hair, how many of them, etc.

Lets allow our children to grow and fully bloom, and as Maria said:

Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.

Sometimes in the everyday life – when you have to hurry to go to work – it will be difficult and present a big challenge to let your children always take the lead and do all the tasks independently. You will not always be able to wake up early enough, to give your toddler enough time to dress-up completely independently, but that is ok:) We are all just humans, and not superheroes. Anyways what our children need the most to grow is our love:)

Of all things love is the most potent.” – M.M.

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Toddler’s tantrums and how to avoid most of them by applying Montessori philosophy to your daily life

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Most of you probably remember the condom commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYvLahRzabs) in which a child is experiencing a tantrum (uncontrollable burst of emotions). And the truth behind this commercial is that indeed, the only way to completely avoid experiencing toddler’s tantrums is to use condoms. Since meltdowns are inevitable, every parent experiences it at least once. This particular tantrum described in the commercial could have been avoided if the child wasn’t hungry and if the father would have explained to the child what are they going to do in the shop and included him in the decision-making about the grocery shopping list.

Are the children the only ones experiencing tantrums? Not at all – we as grownups experience them as well. Since our brains are “wired” better we are often able to control our bursts of emotions in a better way than a toddler whose cognitive abilities are still developing.

What is the cause of tantrums?

Hungertiredness and lack of independence are the main tantrum causes in toddlers. Maria Montessori would say “Follow your child“. So even if your child still hasn’t developed sufficient language skills to express his hunger or tiredness you can look for the cues. For example if your child is rubbing his ears and eyes – you are the one who has to name this feeling and say “You are feeling sleepy. Shall we go to your room, read a book and take a nap?”. Since we travel a lot, our kids are used to sleep a lot in the car seat, baby carriers, wherever – but it is important we notice in time they are tired and provide them with the environment in which they can sleep (e.g. not close to the playground since it brings too much excitement). Also if you notice that the tantrum is just about to begin (lifting an eyebrow, making a specific grimace) don’t worry you are still in time to prevent it;)

In case of hunger – you can also look for the cues – rubbing tummy, putting finger into the mouth, opening the fridge or various drawers in the kitchen – name the feeling and provide with a choice of food. Another Montessori inspired way which leads to more independence – even in a small toddler (from 14 months on) is that you have a healthy snack station in the kitchen (and/or car) which is always reachable to him/her. In that way you can avoid hunger tantrums in 98% of situations;)

Another cause of tantrums especially in two-year olds – are adults, who are trying to do everything instead of the child (e.g. brush their hair, dress them..). In this way  they present a huge obstacle in their child’s development – obstacle to independence. Let me cite Maria here:

“But in acting thus an adult, instead of assisting a child in his psychic needs, substitutes himself in all the actions which the child would like to carry out by himself. He prevents the child from acting freely and thus makes himself the greatest obstacle to the child’s natural development. The desperate cries of the “capricious” child who does not want to be washed, dressed or combed reveal the dramatic struggle  that engages a child in his efforts to grow up. Who would ever imagine that the needless assistance given to a child is the first of various repressions which he will experience and one which can have serious consequences in later life?

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That is why it is important to provide in your home environment in which your kids can practice the practical skills:)

Of course, the first time your child will try to sweep up the floor might result in more mess than order – but neither did you master driving a car after the first driving lesson. Important is that your child is on the path to the independence.

One of the first practical skills that Natalia has mastered with 14 months was throwing away the trash into the trash can. With 16 months old she was helping me to put the clothes into the washing machine, as well as putting clothes out of the washing machine. With 18 months she was able to sort the trash (paper, plastic and rest). Now with 25 months she is even more involved in the housework and food preparation, about which I will write in the future posts.

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Useful packing tips for the preparation of a joyful family adventure

Going on a trip with kids requires some additional preparation in order to make it enjoyable and fun. I remember before we had kids packing for a weekend trip would last no longer than fifteen minutes, but now packing for a family trip  requires some more preparation and presents a bigger challenge (almost never shorter than 1 hour).

Whether you are planning a family weekend trip to a destination reachable within a 3 hour car drive or a month long adventure in an exotic place, preparation for all of the trips will have to include following:

1) Check the PASSPORTS’ expiration dates at least two weeks before your flight or a car journey abroad. You do not want to reach the security control and realize only then that you are not allowed to travel further because one of the passports is expired. Also, take in account, when traveling to countries where you obtain visa upon arrival (e.g. Mexico, Peru), that your passports usually needs to be valid for 6 months after arrival date. Always have your passports with you when travelling abroad- e.g. border controls in Europe are getting stricter so even though you will be travelling within EU there will be still places with strict passport control (e.g. entering France, Croatia, etc.)

2) Never leave home hungry! Hunger leads to feeling hangry – which you definitely want to avoid before starting any journey. Even if you do not feel hungry eat some small breakfast/brunch/lunch 30 minutes before leaving home – it will make your journey much more fun:)

3) Pack some food and water for the journey with a car and/or plane. You definitely want to avoid that your kids get hungry and you are in the middle of nowhere;) Therefore, we as a family always have a kilo of bananas with us, which makes us a happy “monkey family”;)

4) Have a cosmetic bag devoted for your family journeys – since we travel quite often we have one cosmetic bag which is always filled with : toothbrushes, kid toothpaste, our toothpaste (both in smaller packages to fit airport requirements for hand luggage), a small shampoo, nail scissors and a hair brush. It makes packing faster and much more enjoyable;)

5) Wherever, whenever always have some paracetamol with you. Especially the one for small kids. You don’t want to risk that your kid gets high fever in the middle of the night, when you are miles away from an open pharmacy.

6) Diapers, diapers and some more diapers! Especially when you are travelling with a baby under 5 months old have some extra diapers with you. In Europe, so far, I have never encountered a gas station or an airport duty shop selling diapers, so pack enough of them. Put always at least 5 more than you think you might need – you might get stuck in a traffic jam and drastically prolongue your journey, or your flight might be delayed for 6 hours. And since the pooping pattern of your sweet baby is unpredictable, it’s better to be well prepared.

7) Never ever underestimate the pooping powers of your baby! In general there are 3 types of poo your baby makes – one which can wait 15 min or more for a diaper change, the bigger one that can wait no longer than 3 minutes and the impressive one which usually can’t wait more than a minute. And the impressive one will usually happen when you expect (and want) it the least: during a flight turbulence or the landing.  That is the reason why you always need to have packed somewhere close to you some clothes to change yourself and your dear baby:)

8) Check the weather forecast for your trip destination a day before – so you can pack better and avoid unpleasant surprises;)

9) Take baby carriers and/or a stroller depending on your destination. In our experience baby carriers are a must in big cities with underground transport, unless the latter is stroller friendly. The metro in London or Barcelona has too many underground stations withouts elevators.

10) Pack some fun materials for your kids that will amuse them in case it is raining outside or you are standing in a long traffic jam and they can’t observe well the nature around them. Since we are against screen time for our kids, we don’t have tablets in our car. In line with the Montessori philosophy, we prefer that they observe the world around themselves (sometimes thanks to Natalia we see something we would not notice otherwise), enjoy the nature, our company, and learn to deal with boredom. In order to be prepared for long traffic jams – which are inevitable on the long run – we have always something special prepared. For Natalia: one size larger pair of socks (she is already  an expert in taking them on and off), additional shoes (she enjoys it and puts quite an effort in taking them on and off), a  magnetic board for drawing (which has an attached “pencil”, so it cannot get lost in the car) and two of her favorite books. For Miro till one month ago we didn’t have anything special, but now we take a ball with a rattle inside it, so it makes sounds when he shakes it, and a quiet baby book.newblog11.jpg

Why did I choose to incorporate Maria Montessori’s philosophy into our family’s daily life?

You might wonder, when there are so many educational philosophy’s out there nowadays, why did I opt for Montessori?

After doing a small literature research upon educational methods in various publications and books I have stumbled upon a book from Maria Montessori: The Secret of Childhood. It was a “love at first sight”.;)

By reading this book, one becomes aware how Maria was an excellent observer and a revolutionary scientist. Various topics are covered in this book : importance of the moment of birth and how important is that a mother stays with a newborn (have in mind that till very recently babies were taken from mothers immediately after the birth, and scientific publications demonstrating how important this contact after birth is, and not to cut the umbilical cord immediately after birth are available only since recently), importance of prepared environment, importance of freedom of movement for a newborn, importance of free choice during work, importance of respectful adult-child relationship, instinct to work in children, sensitive periods during psychic development of a child and much more.

I find freedom in education and in life in general being crucial – and Maria was one of the first ones to write about it which made me extremely interested for her educational methodology.  As a parent you are responsible for providing an environment that will encourage growth and interest in your child and incorporate your child in every day work (e.g. preparing breakfast). You need to follow your child’s needs – you can say yeah easy to say, but worry not I will give a lot of practical examples in future posts. For now I would like to post the beautiful Maria’s paragraph about importance of sensitive periods in analogy to bees (from The Secret of the Childhood):

” We know that the larvae of bees pass through a stage during which every female could become a queen. But the swarm chooses only one. The workers prepare for her a special food known as “bee bread”. Fed on this royal diet, the chosen larva becomes the queen bee of the community. If the worker bees had chosen her when she was a trifle older she could not have become a queen, since she would have lost her fierce appetite and her body could not have developed into that of a queen.”

Main reason I chose Montessori is cause our children learn independence and it is beautiful to see how happy they are choosing their own “work” and  choosing different challenges on daily bases. They can obtain important practical skills (dressing up independently, putting toys and books in its place, etc.) and in that way meltdowns can be avoided (more about it in some of the future posts). As well it is easier to keep home ordered;)

In the picture below I put my favorite  books about Montessori at home:)

Have a nice weekend 🙂

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What can you expect from this blog?

The best description of our family would be – always on the move. There has been barely a weekend in this year that we have stayed at home. We love and need travelling – just like air to breathe. So the major topic that will be covered will include  travelling : how to travel with two small kids only with the hand luggage, about transport and eating on budget, enjoyable long flights etc.

Title of the blog’s domain mentions Montessori – I will explain how we incorporate Montessori philosophy in our every day life, how we use long journeys in car to teach our kids practical skills (putting on socks, shoes, etc.), how our kids are aware of geography and to which extent. As well when finished I will also put how i made some DIY Montessori materials. Every day of parenting brings new challenges so many will be discussed – like how does toilet learning process look like when you travel so much? How do our kids deal with being surrounded with 4 languages on daily base?

Enjoy:)

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