Math on the Go!

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You already know that reading aloud to your child daily can have a huge impact on their literacy development.  Did you know that doing math together at home is also important?  By integrating math into your daily lives at home, you as parents are teaching your child not only that math really is applicable to our daily lives, but that you value it as an area of study.  Finding a variety of ways to work through problems together prevents children from developing the self-narrative of “I’m not good at math” before it ever starts.  

Looking for tips to get started?

In the Kitchen

While there are likely nights you need to whip up a quick dinner, get everyone fed and off to bed, it can be nice to find ways to invite your children to cook with you sometimes.  Doing so has a host of benefits, including the development of practical life skills, confidence building, and family bonding, but there are also plenty of opportunities to learn about and practice math skills.

Consider what it takes to make a meal.  From reading a recipe, to combining ingredients, thinking about cooking temperatures, and even how long to cook a meal, there are a wide variety of skills your child can experience first-hand: 

  • Reading written fractions in recipes

  • Comparing differences in volume while adding measured ingredients

  • Adding fractions or utilizing fraction equivalencies

  • Using multiplication or division when halving or doubling a recipe

  • Calculating elapsed time while waiting for a treat to bake

  • Understanding units of measurement concerning temperature

At the Store

Shopping is one of those frequent life necessities, and we often have our children in tow.  Turn this family chore into a fun learning experience by incorporating math.  Here are some ideas for a variety of ages:

  • Counting specific items

  • Identifying numbers on signs

  • Estimating costs of items

  • Rounding costs of items to the nearest dollar and adding mentally

  • Identifying coins and their values

  • Comparing price and quantity to determine product value

  • Weigh produce on the scale

  • Use addition or multiplication to determine cost when buying multiples on an item

  • Determine how much change will be received from the cashier

In the Car

Whether you’re making the quick drive to school in the morning or settling in for a lengthy family road trip, it’s possible to incorporate math skills along the journey.  The key is to make it fun and not work!

  • Notice numbers on signs.  Talk about place value.

  • Similar to the alphabet game, play the number game.  Look for numbers outside and call them out in order.  “I see a 1 on that sign!’  “I spotted a 2 on that license plate!”

  • Play a shape-finding game.

  • Clue kids into mileage information.  Have them figure out how far you’ve traveled or how much further you have to go.

  • Keep track of time.  Solve problems similar to the mileage ones.

  • Make your real-life word problems multi-step: ask your child how their answers might change if you need to drive a certain number of miles or minutes out of the way to make a stop.

  • Estimate fuel costs, both before you arrive at the pump, and guessing how much the tank will need to fill.

  • Skip count together in silly voices.  Count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and more!

The Backyard

Believe it or not, your own backyard is likely full of real-life math opportunities.  Whether you’re gardening, making repairs, or building something together, keep an eye out for things like:

  • Size comparisons: which tree is taller? Wider?

  • Notice the temperature.  If you’re really motivated, keep track over a week and make a graph.

  • Measure everything!  Younger children can stick to non-standard units.  “How many ‘mommy feet’ long do you think this piece of wood is?  Now let’s try your feet!”

  • Kids love to use adult tools, so show them the correct way to use a measuring tape.  Start with length, and explore perimeter and area with older children.

  • Kids always seem to be collecting small objects.  Use these rocks, acorns, or sticks to count, add, or subtract.

  • With older children, use seeds for math before planting.  Show them an array and how it relates to multiplication and division.

  • Estimation opportunities are everywhere.  How many leaves are on that branch?  How many insects might we find under this log?  How many dandelions are blooming right now

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, your children love just spending time with you.  Finding simple ways to incorporate mathematical thinking can be a fun way to squeeze a little bit of learning out of an already enjoyable experience

Remember to ask your child lots of questions, but don’t feel like you need to give them the answers right away.  When we discover something for ourselves, the information is so much more powerful.  Of course, if they seem confused or ask for help, it’s okay to model and teach!

Let us know what you learn together!

Chores: They’re Good for Your Kids!

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Chores: the word has such a negative connotation.  But does it need to be that way?

Do you remember doing chores when you were growing up?  For some of us, we remember them as a negative consequence.  For others, we never had them and it took us a while to learn how to do them as adults.  Still others remember helping out around the house but not thinking it was a big deal.

It’s all in how we, as parents, frame it for children.

How we present the concepts of chores makes all the difference.  Having kids pitch in isn’t just helpful for us (because, let’s face it, it’s often more work for us on the front end), it’s really good for them, too!

What are the benefits?

There are so many important reasons to incorporate regular chores into your children’s routines at home.  Here are just a few:

Developing independence

As Montessorians, we see great value in teaching kids to do things for themselves.  It feels incredibly empowering to master a task and be able to complete it by oneself.  Young children are at the perfect age to begin this work, as they are constantly looking for ways to do things independently.  

Fostering a sense of belonging

By giving children ways to contribute to maintaining the home environment, you are effectively letting them know they are a valued, important member of the family.  Besides, working side by side to tidy up is bonus time spent together, and couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Learning practical life skills

We all need to learn how to do our laundry, wash our dishes, and pick up after ourselves.  Just like children need guidance when learning how to read or add, they need the same with basic life skills.  When we get down to their level and show them how to do the job, we are setting them up for a future of success as adults.

Options for all ages!

Well, we can let the infants take a pass here.  Even young toddlers, however, are perfectly capable of learning some basic chores.  The following is a collection of suggestions.  It would likely be far too much to implement all at once, or even for one child to be wholly responsible for an entire list.  Think of it as potential inspiration, or guidelines to help you determine what your child is developmentally capable of.  

Toddlers (yes, toddlers!)

Even little ones have a lot to offer around the house.  Start small and offer child-sized tools.

  • On the floor beside where your child eats, use painter’s tape to create a small square.  Using a small dustpan and brush, show your child how to sweep the crumbs into the square, then into the dustpan.  It can be fun to keep the dustpan available on a nearby hook, beside a small container of colorful pom poms or the like.  Your toddler will love practicing!

  • Teach your child how to fold napkins.  Keep a small basket with napkins in it available for them to practice.

  • Let them help set the table.  Watch their tiny face light up at being given such an important task.  Resist the urge to straighten things out when they’re done!

  • Teach them to put their own toys away and be consistent about having them clean up as soon as they are finished playing.  They may need some help, but they are capable of putting toys back into a bin or on a shelf.

Preschoolers

This is a great age for children to learn chores. They are able to do more than we often think they can, and they are so excited to help! 

  • Clear the table.  They will probably need to make multiple trips to avoid breaking dishes, but they will delight in collecting plates and cutlery to bring to the kitchen.

  • Teach them to wash the table.  First, show them how to carefully brush crumbs off into their hands (you can also buy a special crumb set here if it’s easier: https://www.forsmallhands.com/small-crumb-set ).  Next, show them how to wash the table with whatever method you prefer.  It can help to have a small bucket of soapy water with a sponge and dry cloth.  They will need lots of modeling (remember to emphasize wringing out that sponge!).

  • All that sweeping practice they had when they are toddlers?  It can continue now, and they can also learn to mop.  Remember that child sized tools make it easier for them to get the job done.

  • Kids this age can feed pets, although they may need you nearby.

  • Give preschoolers the task of choosing and laying out their own clothing.  In the beginning they will need guidance as to what is weather-appropriate.  Be prepared for some outfits you will perceive as wacky but take that moment to appreciate their blossoming independence and sense of personal style.

  • Show them how to care for plants.  Chances are, they’re already doing this in their classrooms at school to some extent.  Teach them how to water and talk about how we know when plants need water.

Young children

As the child gets older they are capable of so much more.  Children ages 5 through about 8 are very competent, though they may be a bit less enthusiastic than they once were.  Building chores into the family routine will make this easier for everyone.

  • Children at this age can fold and put away laundry.  Start small: a full load of laundry to put away by themselves the first time will only set them up for frustration.  Sit together and teach them how to fold various items.  Sort through clothes and let them choose a category the first few times.  For example, they may fold all the shirts while you work on the rest.  Slowly increase their responsibilities as they gain the skills necessary to complete the task.

  • Kids who are eating lunch at school can help pack it themselves.  Teach them how to make a sandwich, chop vegetables, and even how to select a balanced variety of foods.  Remember that choice and independence are very empowering.

  • Let them empty the dishwasher.  If they can’t reach a particular shelf, keep a step stool nearby.

  • Chores that are tedious for adults, like dusting or washing the baseboards, are great fun for kids.  If it gives them the sense that you trust them with an ‘adult’ task, they will likely be thrilled to give new tasks a try.

  • Depending on their size, let them vacuum rugs.  

Older children

Again, as certain children get older you may be met with initial resistance whenever introducing a new chore.  Try to keep it light and fun, and present it as a positive: as we get older we may have more responsibilities, but we gain new freedom and privileges.

  • Weeding the garden is a great task for older children, but they’ll likely enjoy it more if you’re weeding alongside them.

  • They are now old enough to do the laundry.  Start small and set the expectation that they do their own laundry.  They will need reminders, but having a system (a basket of their own and perhaps a sticky note with how-to reminders) will help get the job done.

  • Again, depending upon the child’s size, they are likely able to take out the trash and recyclables.  

  • You may consider increasing their responsibilities in regards to pet care.  They may be able to walk the dog, clean dirty cages, and do some basic grooming.

  • If they haven’t already learned, now is a great time to teach them how to make their own bed.  This includes learning how to change the sheets.

  • If your child has been attending a Montessori school, they’ve been learning how to prepare their own food since they were 3 years old.  Take advantage of that knowledge base and let them make lunch for the family once in a while.  They may even want to try more cooking or baking on their own (but with supervision).

Teenagers

Teenagers are able to do most, if not all, of the chores we do as adults.  Remember, we are not suggesting they do all of these chores all the time, but reinforcing the idea that they are capable of any of them will help set them up for success.  Sitting down together and agreeing on a schedule or rotation might be a good starting point.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Let them mow the lawn or rake the leaves.

  • Have them wash the dishes.

  • Give them a chance to watch younger siblings while you run errands or go to an appointment.

  • Teenagers can do some more thorough cleaning, like wiping down counters or washing the bathroom.

  • Let them cook dinner.  Instead of viewing this as a chore, they may enjoy the opportunity to choose the recipe and help shop for the ingredients themselves.

When giving a child of any age chores to do, the key is to find balance.  Chores are so important for their development, but so are things like play, reading, time together as a family, and time with friends.  Be aware that children can often do more than we think they can, but also be aware of the big picture that is their life.  

Looking for more ways to cultivate independence?  Montessori may be the answer.  Call us today to learn more.

How to Build a Better Lunch

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Lunch.  It’s something we enjoy every day, and if your child is at school you’re likely helping your child pack one.  We’re here to help you turn this often mundane chore into a fun, healthy, eco-friendly, Montessori-style part of your child’s day.

Pack it up!

As you likely know, Montessori schools rely on the use of natural materials.  In our classrooms we tend to use materials made of wood, glass, and natural fibers.  Although it’s not always possible, we think it’s great when families find ways to incorporate the same approach into lunches.

Let’s start with the lunch bag itself.  You can pick one of these up almost anywhere, and it’s a great idea to have your child reuse the same one from year to year.  Find something durable.  Some families pack the types of lunches that would benefit from having an insulated bag, so consider that as well.

Are you crafty?  Want to create something really unique?  Check out this tutorial that will teach you how to sew a paper bag-inspired reusable lunch bag:

Whatever bag you choose, it’s helpful to have some reusable containers that fit inside.  Many families find stainless steel to be an ideal option for their children, as it’s more eco-friendly than plastic, but a lot less likely to break than glass!  Here are some models that have worked great:

  • LunchBots offer a wide array of shapes, sizes, and configurations.  Choosing a couple different boxes to pack together allows you space for a sandwich on one box, and fruits, veggies, and whatever else in another.

  • PlanetBox provides an all-in-one solution.  The stainless container opens to reveal multiple compartments for different foods.  They come in various sizes, and kids love choosing the customizable magnets that decorate the outside.

  • Multi-tiered bento boxes, like this one, are another great option.  The metal clamps pull off to release 2-3 layers.  This makes it easy to pack different types of food in a small space without everything getting mixed up.

What’s inside?

The actual contents of the lunch are the most important part.  Involve your child in the planning process as much as possible and you will find them much more likely to eat what you pack.  Keep these tips in mind when you get ready to shop:

  • Ask your child what vegetables they would like for the week.

  • Chop vegetables up on Sunday night so you can grab a handful daily.

  • Always keep favorites on hand.  Does your child love peanut butter and jelly?  Make it your go-to and have plenty of everything you need.

  • Use leftovers: dinner can become lunch!

  • Buy lots of fruit.  Kids love it!

  • Think about extra protein options that will keep your child’s energy up throughout the afternoon.

These lists may be helpful if you’re looking for inspiration.

Note: It is very important to know about allergy policies for your child’s classroom.  Some of the items on this list may not be safe for every child.

 

Fruits

Banana

Apple

Pear

Grape

Melon

Pineapple

Kiwi

Berries

Mango

Orange

Apricots

Peaches

Plums

Pomegranate

Guava

Papaya

Cherries

Vegetables

Cucumbers

Bell peppers

Celery

Carrots 

Fennel

String beans

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Salad greens

Tomatoes

Pumpkin

Seaweed

Squash

Asparagus

Sweet potato

Jicama

 

Proteins

Meats 

Fish

Dairy 

  • Yogurt

  • Cheese

  • Milk

Eggs

Legumes

  • Chickpeas

  • Beans

  • Peas

  • Lentils

  • Lupins

Tofu

Seeds

  • Pumpkin (pepitas)

  • Sunflower

  • Sesame 

Nuts (*Be aware of classroom allergies*)

  • Almond

  • Cashew

  • Macadamia

  • Pistachio

  • Walnut

Grains

Quinoa

Rice

Oats

Corn 

Pasta

Cereals

Bread 

  • Whole wheat

  • Tortilla

  • Bagel

  • English muffin

  • Baguette

  • Pita

  • Naan

  • Pizza dough

  • Biscuit

  • Corn bread

  • Lavash

  • Pretzels

  • Croutons

  • Challah

 

Don’t forget…

Please pack a small cloth napkin and placemat for your child to use.  It’s okay to pack two cloth napkins with the intention that one will be used as a placemat.  When groups of children sit together at lunch, there isn’t room for a full-sized placemat.  You can use whatever you already have at home or find them just about anywhere.  

If the food you pack requires cutlery, please pack some of the reusable variety.  You can use what you already have at home, but if you are looking for a nice child-sized option, these are lovely: 

https://www.forsmallhands.com/cooking/serving-clean-up/children-s-hammered-flatware-set

Some classrooms have cups for children to drink from, but it can be nice to pack them a reusable water bottle for lunch as well.  

Most lunches won’t require an ice pack, but in case you include something that may spoil it doesn’t hurt to have one or two small ones in the freezer.

Do you have any lunch tips or ideas to share with us?  Let us know!

Montessori Basics: What is Grace and Courtesy?

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If you are just beginning to learn about Montessori education, you’ve probably heard the phrase grace and courtesy.  You may be wondering what that means in a Montessori classroom, and why we go out of our way to identify it as something special.

Simply put, grace and courtesy is all about helping children to understand polite social norms.  

As a Montessori school, we understand that even very young children are capable of much more than is traditionally expected of them.  For example, you might picture a preschool classroom in which children are running around or shouting loudly if they are excited.  After all, children of 3 or 4 years of age can’t be expected to have mastered such behaviors yet, right?  

If you were to observe children of the same age in a Montessori classroom, this would not be the case.  Just as with any other skill, Montessori children are taught how to behave appropriately.  This is not to say that they are never allowed to run around and be loud; outdoor playtime is a perfectly suitable environment for those behaviors.  They have simply learned that the classroom is an environment dedicated to learning and concentration, and they must do their part.

Modeling

Grace and courtesy starts with intentional modeling.  Guides, as well as other adults in the building, are very careful about how they behave in front of the children.  When interacting with one another, or when interacting with a child, they are always thinking about showing the children what they hope to see mirrored.  

For example, when a guide sees a child as they arrive at school in the morning, the guide will crouch down to be at the child’s level, look the child in the eye, and say, “Good morning (child),” with a pleasant smile.  

If the guide expects the children not to shout across the classroom, she will not do so herself.  When managing a classroom full of children this can be challenging at times, but we understand that the children are always watching us and learning from our behaviors.

Adults in a Montessori school are always very careful not to interrupt a child’s work.  They have a deep respect for the child’s autonomy, but they are also aware of the power of their modeling.  When adults refuse to interrupt a child’s work, the children learn the importance of doing the same.

Lessons

Aside from modeling, Montessori guides give lessons to explicitly teach grace and courtesy.  They will show the child step by step how a certain behavior or activity is done.  Here are just a few of these types of lessons a child might receive:

  • How to greet one another

  • How to welcome a visitor

  • How to get a teacher’s attention without interrupting

  • How to participate in a group discussion without interrupting

  • How to listen in a conversation

  • How to walk carefully around the classroom

  • How to follow directions

  • How to resolve a social conflict

  • How to unobtrusively observe another’s work

  • How to hold a door for someone

  • How to use polite words such as please, thank you, excuse me, etc.

Older children

As children get older, they may have mastered many of the basics of polite behavior, but they still have plenty more to learn.  There are two main differences as children move into the elementary years:

  1. Most (but certainly not all) of the grace and courtesy needs are related to friendships and social interactions.

  2. They have developed a sense of humor and tend to respond well when guides teach what not to do in a silly manner.

For example, a guide may notice children entering the classroom for lunch in a manner that is less than ideal.  One day during a class meeting, she will address the issue by wondering aloud how we might enter the class for lunch.  She may then act out a variety of scenarios, asking the children if she is going about the task in the right way, including:

  • Running breathlessly through the door to grab the desired seat.

  • Flinging a lunch bag across the room to the desired table.

  • Weaving in and out of other children to get where she wants more quickly.

This is sure to bring on the laughter, because the children likely already know these are not the correct behaviors.  Before the conclusion of the lesson, the children will contribute their ideas and tips for the teacher to try, who will then model the ideal behaviors.  Ideally this exercise would be done just before lunch, giving the children a chance to practice right away.

Throughout the course of the school year, a guide at any level may notice certain behaviors that the children seem not to have learned yet.  Guides consider these teachable opportunities and take the time to give the children lessons.  We find that children are eager to copy our behaviors and follow our lead, we need only to give them the opportunity.

Curious to learn more?  Want to see grace and courtesy in action?  Call us today to schedule a tour.

5 Ways Montessori Appeals to the Senses

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Learning with all our senses involved allows us to have a fuller, richer experience.  Montessori classrooms strive to provide multi-layered sensory opportunities for children.  The result?  Children who have a strong ability to distinguish the variances in the environments around them.

1. Montessori digs deeper than the classic five senses.

Growing up, you undoubtedly learned about sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.  Of course, these are the five basic senses we tend to think about, but Montessori education has a more extensively defined list all its own: 

  • Visual - our ability to differentiate objects by form, color, and size

  • Tactile - just another name for the sense of touch, or how something feels on our body

  • Baric - differentiation based on weight and/or pressure

  • Thermic - the ability to sense various temperatures

  • Auditory - another name to describe the sense of sound

  • Olfactory - our sense of smell

  • Gustatory - the sense of taste

  • Stereognostic - a muscular sense, or the ability to distinguish an object without seeing it, hearing it, or smelling it, but relying of touch and muscle memory alone

2. Montessori developed materials to help children refine their senses.

Using what she knew about the above senses, Dr. Montessori developed a series of sensorial materials to be used in the classrooms of young children.  These materials were designed to isolate one skill and to be self-correcting.  This allows the child to concentrate their efforts and to be independent in their learning.   Just a small selection of the more famous sensorial materials include: 

  • Knobbed Cylinders - small wooden cylinders with knobs that are to be inserted into holes of the corresponding size

  • Pink Tower - a series of pink wooden cubes ranging in size from 10 cm cubed to 1 cm cubed are meant to be stacked in decreasing succession

  • Brown Stair - ten brown, wooden rectangular prisms in a range of sizes are meant to be arranged in order

  • Color Tablets - a material that allows children to differentiate not just by color, but by shades of colors

  • Mystery Bag - children are meant to reach their hand inside the bag without looking to determine the contents

  • Geometric Solids - a physical representation of an often abstractly-taught concept, these solids allow children to identify their attributes

3. Food is prepared and celebrated regularly in Montessori classrooms.

Beginning when they are just toddlers, Montessori children are directly involved in the preparation and purposeful enjoyment of food.  Toddler classrooms have regular tastings, in which they try new and interesting foods.  Guides will offer a wide variety of textures, colors, smells, and tastes for the children to explore.  These little ones help set the table and learn grace and courtesy through table manners.

During the primary grades (ages 3-5), children participate in food preparation.  They are given lessons and chances to practice slicing, spreading, mixing, blending, and multi-step food preparation.  Sometimes they enjoy their work as a snack for themselves; other times they prepare food to serve to others.

Guides in older levels find ways to continue this important work.  Food preparation may be connected to a cultural study, birthday celebration, or school lunch program.  As they get older, children are able to complete more complex and interesting recipes. 

4. The classroom environment keeps a focus on the natural world.

Montessori guides are taught to make nature an integral part of the classroom environment, and this often means lots of beautiful indoor plants.  Studies have shown that proximity to plants benefits us a variety of ways.  They are visually beautiful, but did you know that scientists believe that houseplants can improve our attention?  They may also be helpful in reducing sick days and keeping us more productive overall. *See links at the end for more information. 

Aside from having live plants in our classrooms, Montessori schools favor natural materials over synthetic.  This means that whenever possible, we choose wood, glass, and natural baskets over plastic.  We believe that the color and texture of natural materials is more appealing and calming to our senses.  While many conventional classrooms favor bright colors, we opt for more muted, natural ones.  This allows children to feel calm, safe, and able to focus on their work.

Whenever possible, Montessori schools believe in the importance of taking children into nature on a regular basis.  Whether to a local pond, for a walk in the woods, or even a nearby city park, being in green spaces is an important part of learning and growing.

5. Montessori honors children’s developing vestibular and proprioceptive systems.

A couple quick definitions- 

The vestibular system is responsible for balance and is closely connected to the inner ear. 

The proprioceptive system is important when having awareness of where one’s body parts are in relation to the rest of one’s body and the space/objects around it.

These systems typically develop early in childhood.  It’s our job as adults to make sure children have opportunities to refine them.  It is especially important that we provide opportunities to children with sensory related disorders.

Although many schools around the country are decreasing or doing away with recess altogether, Montessori schools hold that time in high regard.  All the climbing, swinging, spinning, and other types of play are natural ways for children to develop their vestibular and proprioceptive systems.

There are activities built into Montessori classrooms that assist this work as well.  Carrying heavier materials, painting, and using playdough are connected to the proprioceptive system.  The traditional ‘walking the line’ in Montessori primary classrooms provides excellent vestibular input; children must slowly walk while staying on a taped or painted line.  Extensions include walking with a bell in hand and trying not to ring it or balancing something on top of their head.

Interested in seeing the sensory classroom in action?  Whether you are a current or prospective parent, we encourage you to give us a call and set up a time to observe.  

Sources:

Benefits of Indoor Plants… https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272494410001027?via%3Dihub

Psychological Benefits of Indoor Plants…

http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/42/3/581.full

How to Handle Challenging Behaviors

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This post goes out to the frustrated parents.  (So, likely all of us at some point.)

Challenging behavior is an unfortunate part of growing up and parenting.  We know that it’s normal, we know our children need to experience it to grow and learn, but that does not make it any easier in the moment.  If you are anything like us, you might pause from time to time and ask yourself, “What would Montessori do?”

There are no perfect answers, and Dr. Montessori would have recognized that what works for one child will not necessarily work for the next.  We can, however, rely on our knowledge of human development and typical child behavior to help guide us.  We hope this post will provide you with some helpful tips!

As Montessorians, we tend to follow a hierarchy when we address issues with children.  We look at:

  1. The environment

  2. Ourselves

  3. The child 

The Environment

Environment affects us all, and as adults we can carefully craft an environment that suits the needs of our children.  This is why Montessori guides meticulously create classrooms with a specific order and flow to them, and why they are constantly observing and analyzing what should remain the same and what should change.

We feel confident in saying that most of the time, a change in the environment can change the behavior.  Some examples:

  • Does your toddler enjoy dumping the contents of whatever they can find?  While this is a very normal stage for them to go through, it can cause a lot of extra work for us as adults.  Limit their options!  Keep dumpable baskets and boxes up higher where your child cannot reach them and rotate them on a regular basis to keep their interest going.

  • Have you noticed your three-year-old spilling their snack and frequently leaving crumbs behind?  Leave a small dustpan and brush in a space where the child can access it.  You will likely need to show them how to use it many times, but they will get it!  When they do, the joy they will feel from sweeping will be adorable.

  • Are mornings with your seven-year-old rushed and chaotic?  Make a list and post it where they will see it (perhaps the bathroom mirror).  What do you expect the child to do independently in the morning?  The list may contain items like: brush teeth, get dressed, brush hair, eat breakfast, and so on.  Make sure everything they need to get ready is in one centralized space.  Have the child prepare as much as they can the night before to ease the pressure when they are tired.  They can pack their own lunch and lay out their own clothes.

  • Is your teenager having a hard time focusing on their homework?  Create a distraction-free zone.  Have a clutter-free desk in a quiet area of the house.  Make sure devices like cell phones are left to charge in a completely different area of the house.

Ourselves

This is perhaps the hardest part for many of us, but sometimes children’s undesirable behavior is tangled up in our own actions and/or perceptions.  Some questions you may want to ask yourself and reflect on when you feel frustrated include:

  • Is this behavior truly a problem?

  • Are my expectations appropriate for the child’s age and developmental stage?

  • How might my reactions be contributing to the behavior?

  • Am I well rested/fed/de-stressed/fully able to work with my child without letting my own problems be a factor?  

  • Are my reactions based on my own experiences as a child?

We realize that these can be some pretty deep questions.  Our jobs as parents are hard enough and there is no need to be judgmental, especially of ourselves, but reflection can be helpful.  We also know that it’s not always possible to deal with a child’s behavior while being completely stress-free, well-rested, etc., but it can be helpful to recognize when we might be playing a role in what is going on.

The Child

Sometimes there really is something going on within the child that needs to be addressed, and it can be a simpler explanation than we might expect!  Some possibilities to consider:

  • Is the child getting enough sleep?

  • Is the child hungry?

  • Is the child getting sick (coming down with a cold or the like)?

  • Is the child entering a growth spurt or new developmental phase?

  • Has there been a recent change in the child’s routine?

  • Are there changes occurring in the family?

Sometimes a child might be upset about one area of their life and behaviors manifest in a completely different way.  For example, an eight year old may be facing friendship challenges at school.  Instead of talking about the problem, they may unintentionally take their frustration out on the parents.  This is a common occurrence when a child has not fully understood why they are upset, are unable to articulate the issue, and yet feel safe to be themselves fully at home.  Of course we must set expectations that our children are to be kind, but having this insight may help get to the root of many issues.

Regularly talking to our children, especially as they get older, can be very helpful in helping them navigate through the common (yet sometimes painful) experiences of growing up.  Many families find that bedtime tends to be when their children speak freely about what’s bothering them.  Even as your child gets older, set aside time in the evening to be together.  This can be time together reading, cuddling, or talking about the day.  

Final thoughts

Two last bits of advice that are perhaps the most important: do not expect perfection and find yourself a supportive group of parents to talk to.

We know our children will not always be perfect, and neither will we.  Children will push boundaries and make mistakes - lots of them - and as parents we won’t always know the best way to handle things.  We will learn together.

Having a group of parents that you can vent to and celebrate with is so helpful.  Whether you meet up for coffee, chat on the phone, trade tips on Facebook, or sit on the sidelines together at soccer games, remember to reach out to others.  We are all in this together.