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One of the things we’ve done this past week, besides implementing Positive Parenting strategies, is give our toddlers a stronger sense of independence by increasing the tasks they can do by themselves.
I have always known that my kids love to do things by themselves. My daughter insists on velcroing her own shoes and putting on her own coat, which is fine by me. My son thrives on “work” tasks, such as putting groceries away, helping me vaccuum, and emptying the dishwasher. A fit is never thrown while he is independently completing a task. Not only that, but he’s not a fan of choices. Given the opportunity, he’ll make a good choice on his own without limits from me.
In addition to this, I’ve been reading up on Montessori for a while now. I’m a huge Montessori fan. I love it the way I love Positive Parenting – I believe the skills children learn in a Montessori environment are absolutely crucial to higher order thinking, problem solving, responsibility and more. I didn’t go to Montessori school and don’t know anyone who did, so this newfound love of this program is only recently developed. But I really, really love it. I could go on about it, but perhaps for a later post. Regardless, my toddlers aren’t in preschool yet. And with a new baby coming this summer, financially it made the most sense to keep them home another year with our nanny. So the twins will go to preschool when they’re four, not three. And when that day does come, I truly hope we can afford Montessori preschool, but you never know.
Because the twins are at home for another year and a half, I’ve decided to bring some basic Montessori concepts into my home. With B craving independence and responsibility, I turned to one of Montessori’s key aspects as a place to begin: Self-care. Montessori is big into children taking care of their bodies and recognizing the importance of doing so. As adults, if we can provide the opportunities, the children will learn all the necessary tasks of self-care, from getting dressed independently to going to the bathroom on their own.
Here are 5 simple ways we’ve implemented self-care (and independence) into our home:
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Picking Out Clothes
This was the first change I made, and it was a really easy one. I have to admit, I paused a moment on the fact that my children were guaranteed to pick out clothes that didn’t match, but that comes with the territory. When I buy them their spring/summer wardrobe, I’ll choose knowing that they’ll be mixing and matching.
I put their shirts in one drawer and their pants in another, and every morning since we’ve started, they are super excited to get out of their cribs and choose their clothes for the day. This has completely eliminated any fussing about clothes I’ve picked that they didn’t want.
The twins had been washing their hands for a while with help, and then B started fighting it and I gave in and used wipes instead, which looking back, was pretty ridiculous. I realized – not only do the twins need to wash their hands before meals, but they need to learn to do it on their own, including finding a comfortable water temperature.
I purchased a few brightly colored washcloths and set them out on the bathroom counter. In addition, long ago I bought this fabulous faucet extender, which is crucial in allowing the twins to wash their own hands. C would never be able to reach the water otherwise!
C loves to scrub her hands, and we sing this hand-washing song (to the tune of “Are You Sleeping”):
“Top and bottom, top and bottom, in between, in between….rub them both together, rub them both together, ’til their clean, ’til their clean.”
A bit blurry, but B did very well with the “open” choice of four towels to dry his hands.
While neither of my twins minded having their teeth brushed, I was having issues with them. They were fidgety and not taking an active role in the process, which led to some meltdowns from B. Now, I have a teeth-brushing “station”, consisting of a makeup mirror, their toothbrushes, toothpaste, and another washcloth, so that they can not only see what they’re doing (and what I’m doing) but they can take more active role in the process. And wow – what a difference!
I suppose it’s crazy that I never thought of putting a mirror in front of them – fighting them to close their mouths so I can get all their teeth is long gone! And they’re doing it on their own!
The washcloth was a really nice addition – they always have sticky mouths and would fidget as I tried to wipe them. It’s all on them now to clean their own faces! And they do!
Coats and Shoes at Their Level
Another easy one. We’ve always had coats and sweatshirts on hooks up high on a wall, and shoes were previously in a bucket also out of the twins’ reach. Why not give these items a “home” and put them at the kids’ reach? That way they can gather their things themselves and learn to put them on themselves. And, they can put them back where they go when they’re done.
Just some lowered hooks and a mat in our mudroom, and this self-care concept took off. When it’s time to go outside, they grab their sweatshirts off the hook, get their shoes and work on the process of putting them on. It’s not there yet, but with shoes at their reach, they’ll get in a lot more practice.
Finally, my daughter is going through a tissue stage. With every tear, she fusses, “I need a tissue!!!” and we’d have to bring her the box, where she’d pick one herself, dry her eyes (or not) and throw the tissue to the ground or leave it on the couch. Now, we have a simple system.
I slapped some clip art on the side of a cheap trash can and it’s working wonderfully. No more tissues lying around the house, and I’m not blowing their nose for them (unless they miss a spot!).
Letting my two year olds become more independent has worked wonders for both of them. I have a few more ideas, thanks to some Montessori self-care posts I found, that I hope to implement soon!