Why is it when kids come along our once beautifully styled home ends up looking like Toys R Us on steroids? And it’s funny that with the first child we tend to fuss over the child’s environment, making sure the nursery is “just so”. It’s a big event and of course, we want our newest member of the family to have everything perfect but what happens next?
We often plan out the nursery but then after that, we just play it by ear.
Need somewhere for all those books, buy a bookshelf.
Loads of toys, get a toy storage system – job done. Or is it?
In a Montessori setting, the child’s environment is as important as the lessons and equipment. And from a mom point of view, having the environment set up with the kids in mind helps keep the home tidy and takes a load of extra work off your plate.
3 Ways To Improve Your Child’s Envionment
In A Child’s Environment, Less Is More.
I have talked about this many times before, when I was studying Montessori my mentor told me to put out 3 toys/activities for my son and a small selection of books. We lived in a small apartment and didn’t have much in the way of toys anyway but THREE things, THREE? I thought she was bonkers.
BUT… I tried it anyway and guess what, it was AMAZING!
My son, who was a toddler at the time, stopped pulling everything off the shelves and creating a toy mine-field in the living room and instead would sit and play for extended lengths of time with one toy.
It was also MUCH easier to teach him to put one toy away before he got the next one out and tidying up at the end of the day was so easy! And yes, it is really worth the effort when they are little. He’s a teen now and I rarely have to ask his to clean up.
Back then, what I would do is have 3 toys out, such as his train set, a sorting activity and his dinosaurs plus a selection of about 10 books. Then every other day I would swap things around, swap the trains for the cars or swap the sorting for something else.
Occasionally he would ask for something specific to play with, so I would get that out but most of the time he was happy with whatever was out.
From Infant Behaviour and Development, Carly Dauch stated:
When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.
This is exactly what happened for us and I have had several clients say the same thing. I hear the complaint that the child will get bored, so what if they do? Boredom ignites creativity, something that is sadly underappreciated in the world today.
ACTION STEP – Remove the bulk of the toys (good time to declutter!) and have 3-5 things out on the shelf. Introduce the work cycle (putting things away before moving on to the next thing)
In a Child’s Environment Make Sure Everything Is At Child Height.
This one is so easy to overlook but if you can set things up so your child can reach by themselves you instantly create a more independent environment for them. Making their life easier and your own!
No more “MOM… can you get my…” or excuses why they couldn’t put something away because they can’t reach. We go into more depth about this in The Wonder Mom Success Club. Because I know that having independent kids helps immensly when you are trying to build your business around your family.
If your child is walking then you can start implementing this. It may mean lowing hooks or setting up a new system but it is worth it in the long run.
ACTION STEP – Walk around your home and check that your child can reach everything they need to. Clothes, coat, shoes, bag, toys, books, the sink to wash their hands, the toilet, etc.
A Child’s Environment Should Be Beautiful
If you have ever seen a Montessori classroom, the set up is beautiful. It is believed that a child’s environment has an impact not only on learning but on their behaviour. In a typical classroom they have low shelves with uncluttered items, activities and objects for the kids to study. They use real glasses and plates and children learn how to look after their environment.
The same can be introduced into the home. We have been taught that we need to child-proof our homes. Yes, anything that might be dangerous should, of course, be addressed, like covering electric outlets. But kids also need to learn to take care of what is around them.
And what to do if they have an accident and break something, which is often the worry when you have “nice things” out.
Breakages Are Part Of The lesson
Caring and looking after things of value, are important life lessons this is why real glass and plates are used in the Montessori classroom. Breaking a plate the child understands that they need to be more careful in the future.
Cleaning up the broken plate is also a lesson. First, they should call for an adult. This is where the child learns that having an accident isn’t going to get them in trouble. The adult needs to know what happened and teach the child how to clean up safely.
You don’t have to get out the best china for dinner but using real tableware kids learn that they have to be careful. If in the child’s environment all they encounter is ‘safe’ plastic, how will they ever learn about things that break? Knocking a plastic plate on the floor will make a mess but ultimately they only learn that plastic bounces. It doesn’t teach them consequences or how to handle their belongings with care.
Talk about the beautiful objects you have at home, they might not be Ming vases but they mean something to you. Share that love with your kids. Set up space where they can display their treasure.
ACTION STEP – If switching from plastic to real plates and glasses worries you too much, start off with baby-steps. You can find cheap small plates and glasses in the dollar store and thrift shops. IKEA also sells great child sized pieces. Introduce one thing at a time, such as drinking from a real glass. Talk about how we need to be careful, how it feels different from plastic. That it’s heavier and will break easier.
There are a lot more ways that you can prepare your child’s environment for better learning and a calmer, less messy home. I believe if you start with these 3 you will be setting a great foundation.
- Less is more, removing clutter, reducing the number of toys available for longer spells of concentration, deeper learning. And less mess for mom to clean up.
- Having everything at child height & helping your child become independent will free up more of your time. Making sure that they are able to do what they need to do. Even when living in a home designed for adults use.
- Creating a beautiful environment. Giving them the responsibility of using real plates and glasses teaches them how to care for their possessions.
If you want to get more done whilst you are working around your kids at home, check out the Wonder Mom Success Club.
Looking to use Montessori at home but feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start then watch the free Montessori Demystified Workshop