Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old


So March kind of came and went way too quickly. I guess for us, we are still majorly adjusting to my leg being broken and guys, we still don't even know if I need surgery. Nice and suspenseful, huh? 

Anyway, I'm a little bit taken aback that it's actually already time for another 12 Months of Montessori blog article! I am really enjoying being a part of this series and reading everyone's fantastic articles. 

Today, I am super excited to share what practical life activities look like in my home now that my son is four and a half years old. This is a very important aspect actually of how my family functions, how we see each other, and something that I am beyond grateful for having Montessori in our lives. 

What in the world am I talking about? At four and a half, Y has shifted away from needing to do practical life activities on a shelf. He no longer is interested in spooning, lacing, pouring on a tray. 

Instead, my husband and I are witnessing Y take a general interest in the functioning of our home. We see him taking on responsibilities without being asked. We see him taking an interest in helping us to run things smoothly and asking to help with chores that must be completed. He doesn't get rewarded for these tasks (besides of course a thank you). He does them at times spontaneously, at times because we ask, but he does them. 

It's been such a beautiful process to watch. While I know that some part of this has to do with his character - he's a bit like me in the sense of there is a specific order to certain things and I get a little anxious if certain things are not how they should be. I guess one can say my sensitive period for order never truly left, huh? 

Anyway, I see that little bit of me in him, but I also see the impact that Montessori has had on him. Since he has started drinking from a cup, whenever he spilled, we would give him a cloth to help clean up. This comes automatically to him now. He spills something, he cleans it up. Beyond that, if I spill something, he will frequently bring me a cloth and will help me to clean it up. 

I love seeing compassion and helpfulness in his character. However, I do attribute so much of this attitude of responsibility towards his environment due to the way that we raised him in a Montessori setting where he was treated as a capable individual and where this behaviour was modeled. 

When it comes to 'chores', Y has many tasks around the home that he likes to participate in. Aside from keeping his spaces tidy and taking care of his own body, we do not really have specific expectations or chores in the traditional sense. The way we have our home set up, Y is free to participate in home management tasks and we like for him to clean up after himself. 

Materials are available to him at his level, or we have step stools where items are higher up. Y likes to take initiative and care for his environment, which we encourage in this way. Below, I am sharing a deeper look into specific tasks that he enjoys doing. 

These are in a sense practical life activities that have moved from the "shelves" where practiced these skills to becoming a deeper part of our rhythm. I love that Y had a while to practice these skills, and can now independently carry out such tasks without needing (necessarily) reminders or nagging because they have become a part of our daily structure. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Practical life activities at four and a half 



1. Cook together

Y has only recently started taking an interest in cooking. He is eager to help me, but only when he feels like it. When I go to cook, I try to invite him to help me. If he wants to, he does. If he doesn't, I let it go. 


Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

We have many lovely kitchen tools that he enjoys using. I can share this in another article. 


Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

For now, I do want to say that it is very important to have specifically child sized materials in your home if your children will be helping in the kitchen. This is the safest way to have them involved. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Y helps me in the kitchen, and will sometimes take tasks to his table. Either way is fine with me, but if he uses a sharp knife like in this photo, I prefer to be next to him. I have to admit even though I know he is capable, it still makes me nervous to see him doing this. 

He also likes to help make pancakes, healthy home-made ice cream, and whatever it is we are preparing for dinner. But ice cream is his favourite, mostly because ice cream is his favourite to eat, too. 

Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

2. Wash table

Y helps with household chores and cleaning tasks. He is particularly responsible for taking care of spaces that are specifically designed for him, including his work table. He sometimes chooses to eat meals here, as well. 

After messy works, meals, or generally when we are cleaning, Y cleans his table. For us, we do not set this up as a work for practice or a shelf activity. He already has scrubbing skills mastered, but does this because it needs to be done. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Living Montessori Now also has a lovely video about a table washing work for toddlers! You can also use this as inspiration for practicing such skills with younger kids. Again, at 4 years old, this is not our intention - Y only does this when it needs to be cleaned. 

3. Set the table

Y has taken this task upon himself a lot lately. We do not ask him actually, but when he sees that my husband or I are preparing to take dinner to the table, frequently, Y will get up to set the table. He enjoys being able to help. 

We recently had a barbecue outside. Y was very excited, but suddenly got up from the table and announced that he would be right back. My husband and I waited, to see Y return with a tray and drinks for everyone! Aaaaaand my heart melted. So that happened. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Let's ignore how badly the grass needs to be mowed though. We've been so distracted with my leg and working on our bathroom that there has been little time to take care of the one million chores we need to take care of in the backyard. Oops! 

4. Unload and load the dishwasher 

This is not something that Y does too much, but he is capable and sometimes will help to put dirty and clean dishes away. I also see myself in him when he does this. He'll tell me I arranged the dishwasher wrong, and will literally put all of the plates differently in there. 

Who is this kid? Oh yea, my offspring, of course. Note to self - do not re-arrange dishwasher after husband loads it. Probably that's a better lesson for Y, huh? 

5. Put away toys

Y is more than old enough to put away his belongings. He is responsible for putting his toys away. We do have a rule though that if he is finished playing with one item, he must put it back before taking something else. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Sometimes though, he does like to combine toys by for instance, using animal figurines in lego buildings. That is fine, but we do not want him to remove every single toy from the shelves to create a situation where I can no longer get around the house. We don't like clutter etc etc but because I use a wheelchair, this could create dangerous situations and could lead to broken toys and a broken wheelchair. So! Cleaning up toys is important.

6. Keeping the bedroom tidy

Y also likes to have some toys in his room. That is okay with us, but he must keep his room clean. Speaking of his bedroom! Last week, I ordered new furniture for his room. I'm super excited about it and thought the pieces would arrive in the weekend, but I mixed up the dates. Boo! So unfortunately, I don't have photos to share with you because his bedroom is not set up. Once those pieces are put together though, I will do a walk through! 

What I will say right now though is that Y's bedroom is mostly a bedroom. Aside from his bed, clothing closet, dresser, and a small reading area, there are not really other things in his room. Y likes to have a few toys there, which he may keep in his bed or in his window sill. He frequently chooses a few small cars or stuffed toys. 

We like to set up his bedroom as a place for sleep rather than play or doing activities. This is why we keep the overwhelming majority of his toys in our living room. 

Again, Y is given the task of keeping his room tidy. I do put away his wash though. I could probably give this task to Y, as well, or make it something that we do together, but! The way that laundry is folded is something I am very, very controlling about. I don't know what it is, but I literally panic (yes, panic attack panic!) if the our clothing is not folded Marie Kondo style. 

I don't know how I am going to let go of this, but I know the moment is coming soon as Y has started re-arranging items in his dresser. I'm pretty sure once our new furniture comes, he will want to arrange everything himself. Guys, moments like these, I have to fight myself. 

I know it's better for Y to do it himself, but it's a struggle to bite my tongue and stay out. This is actually one of the reasons that we keep his room so empty. There is less mess and less reason for me to go in there to tidy up or tell him what to do. By keeping the amount of items in Y's room minimal, he has an easier time knowing where to put things and how to keep his room tidy. 

7. Cleaning the floors

This is another great task that children can do! Encouraging children to clean up their own messes as well as care for their environment is a great way to increase responsibility. Like the majority of the tasks above, we do this in two ways - by modeling behaviour and providing appropriately sized tools for our children to carry out the task at hand. 

For Y, this is another aspect of managing our home that he only does sometimes. If he makes a specific mess, he will take the tools necessary to clean after himself. 

Our vacuum, mop, swiffer, and child sized broom are all available to Y. We have a specific broom that I purchased that is advertised for children. However, I prefer the one we have from Ikea for adults. This is one we purchased for me, but Y can use it more comfortably than his and it works better. It was even cheaper! 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Aside from cleaning after himself, he doesn't always like to help clean the floors. He will sometimes join me if I am doing it. We do have a house keeper who cleans our home weekly so Y rarely sees me mopping. I do sweep and vacuum daily (sometimes more than that) so he will help with that more often. 

8. Laundry

Children can take responsibility for managing their own clothing. We keep a laundry basket in Y's bedroom for his dirty clothing. When he changes, he places his dirty clothing his laundry basket. He finds that very important to have his own!

Y's laundry basket is fairly small and has handles which is perfect for Y to bring his laundry to the bathroom where the machine is. It's also perfect for me to use because I can lift it with the handles and place it on my lap to take from room to room. 

Having a mom in a wheelchair can have it's perks when it comes to getting your home set up for helping a child to be independent! Most things that are the perfect size for me to use (broom, laundry baskets, low sinks) are also the perfect level for Y! Even his bedroom closet and dresser must be low enough for me, which means, it's low enough for Y to use! 

Y also enjoys helping to wash laundry. We have a washing machine and dryer in one so doing laundry is actually pretty easy. All we do is load the machine, add detergent, and press the correct buttons. Y really enjoys being able to press the buttons and I think feels special in helping to do something so important for the whole family. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

We have a front loading washing machine, so this is also set up so that Y can help pretty easily. If you don't have a front loading machine, you can provide a step stool for a child to reach the machine independently. 

9. Care of self

A huge part of our daily routine for Y is the importance of taking care of himself. Y's toothbrush, hair brush, clothing etc are all within reach. When he has school though, we have a rule that he may pick his jeans, and a shirt/sweater depending on the weather. Many times though, he asks me to get his clothes.  

10. Caring for things and helping out 

In general, at this age, I like that we can just help each other. I think this is an important aspect of being a family - you do nice things for each other, and help each other. Y doesn't always want to get dressed on his own and asks me for help, or asks me to get him something from the fridge. I do it then even though he is capable of doing it himself. Sometimes, I ask him to do things for me, too. 

Y does take initiative in taking care of his belongings and in his environment. Here, you can see Y changing batteries on a remote control car he has. He did this all on his own, including getting a screw driver from his tools (he has real ones), asking if he had permission to get the batteries and getting them, changing the batteries. He did all of the steps independently. 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori


In general, Y is a pretty helpful young man. Whether it's helping me with picking things up from the ground, cooking, cleaning, or helping daddy build things and work on the house, Y generally likes to participate. I think a part of it is also spending one on one time with us, and of course, a part of it is learning how to do things for himself and taking responsibility for his home. 

Seeing this level of responsibility in him just makes me heart swell. It has been such a beautiful process to watch him go from shelf activities to taking initiative in caring for his environment. Of course, in a Montessori home, we generally encouraged Y to do this from a young age, but to see him truly do it on his own is just so heart warming! 

12 Months of Montessori


This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series. Be sure to visit the other wonderful articles in this wonderful, year long series! 

Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old by Welcome to Mommyhood #montessori

Montessori Practical Life Ideas for the Spring (free printable) | Natural Beach Living 
The Best Way to Sew on a Button {for kids} | The Natural Homeschool 
How to: Montessori Indoor- or Small-Space Gardening in a DIY Sensory Table | Living Montessori Now 
Montessori Inspired Tools and Toys for Building | Mama’s Happy Hive 
Introducing Practical Life with Montessori Babies and Toddlers | The Kavanaugh Report 
Introducing Email for Elementary Practical Life | Grace and Green Pastures 
10+ Chores You Didn’t Know Your Toddler Can Help You With | Uno Zwei Tutu 
Practical, practical life activities at 4 years old | Welcome to Mommyhood
What is Montessori Independence? | Sugar, Spice, and Glitter

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