A key point in the Montessori method of schooling is to foster a child’s independence. Montessori is all about children taking on responsibility and learning to be as independent as possible; “give me as much help as I need but as little help as possible”.
Independence is something that modern children are chronically lacking, and modern schooling doesn’t help. It is a beautifully simple idea that gives children confidence, self-esteem, and skills for their future.
Here are some tips that work well to foster independence in children of all ages.
Babies (0-18 months)
Independence in the early years is something that is often overlooked.
When the child is so young they aren’t really aware of what they are doing, or how important it is to them, we can easily find ways to help them accomplish things independently, or even slightly dependent on us we might think that this isn’t going to help build confidence.
What it all boils down to, though, is opportunities for success and choices for your baby with as little ‘parenting’ as possible.
Babies are always doing something, and they love to explore their environment. If we sit down on the floor with them and play, they will be happy, but let’s try to give them some interesting toys that they can hold and manipulate.
A great example is a simple wooden shape sorter. A child can easily put different shapes into the holes and feel successful each time one goes in correctly. They have independence, even though you are sitting with them and encouraging. The same concept applies to other toys such as a rattle or stress ball (for when the baby is older, of course).
The 6 Month Milestone
After about 6 months, some babies will begin to learn how to stand or take a few steps unassisted. The time is ripe for slipping their shoes on their feet and taking them for a walk around the block. If you are going to take them out of the home, it may be a good idea to have a walker or stroller; it’s more secure than just holding them around the neighborhood.
Allowing your baby to feel that independence as soon as possible is something that will pay off dividends in years to come.
Toddlers (18 months – 3 years)
The toddler years are all about learning independence. It should be your goal to make life as easy as possible for these little people while giving them enough challenges so they are growing and developing new skills regularly.
Also, give them plenty of room to move around; open areas are the best and would include things like a fenced-in backyard or a big playroom with lots of toys and huge bean bags to sit on.
The best thing you can do for a toddler is to let them explore the world around them. This means that playgroups and organized activities should be kept to an absolute minimum; this is something they will learn better on their own anyway!
By letting your toddler explore, they will need protection from the danger that they would never consider if you didn’t ‘baby’ them.