Yannis loves the bus and the train. Now that we’re here in Japan, he requests that we travel by bus and not by car, saying, “catch the Bus, no car!”
We try to indulge him and take the bus whenever we can. In this way, we adhere to the guideline Montessori set, which says “follow the child.” Why did Montessori say that? Shouldn’t the teacher and parent tell the child what to do (and not the other way around)?
Montessori based her philosophy on following the scientific method. She watched how children chose to spend their time carefully. In addition, she experimented with offering children different learning materials and activities. She discovered that children naturally choose activities that help them learn. For example, toddlers might enjoy pouring water because they’re learning about how water behaves. Montessori even called children “little scientists” when she saw them engaging in these sorts of activities.
So, how can you follow your toddler?
Provide Activities Relevant to Their Interests
Notice what your child is interested in. For example, Yannis loves to play with rains, trucks, and buses. So, he has a basket of these toys he can play with. We also try to give him the chance to interact with real buses and trains whenever we can.
Yannis also loves to play outdoors. When we lived in California, I made sure to provide him with activities to do outdoors every day. For example, we gardened or he played in his sandbox. If you don’t have space outdoors, you could take your child to a nearby park or even for a walk around your neighborhood.
Many toddlers also love to spend time playing with water. Why not allow your child to wash dishes in a basin or schedule some extra bath time with a few pouring toys?
Try to notice what your child enjoys and then allow them to do activities related to their interests.
Anticipate Their Interests
Montessori also believed that a great environment for children would include enticing activities that children would love to do.
For toddlers, there are some natural areas of interest that most children that age have in common. Here are some ideas:
- Inserting activities.Kids love putting balls into tubes or large coins into boxes. When they do these activities, they practice their fine motor skills.
- Reading books.Build your child’s concentration and discover more interests by reading books together. Yannis insists on reading several books every day. So, I provide a basket of books for him to choose from.
- Gross motor activities. Toddlers are often busy and on the move trying out their new walking, running, and climbing skills! You can buy some climbing equipment to use at home or go to a local park. Then, allow your child to climb.
- Maximum Effort. Toddlers often love to carry around heavy items just for the joy of it. They’re building their muscles and developing control over their movements. So, allow your child to carry half gallons of milk (or you can fill some empty jugs with water). You might even offer your child a basket to fill with heavy items so that they can practice carrying it.
Then, notice which activities your child picks and offer more, similar activities. By allowing your child to lead, you make sure they learn what they’re ready to learn!