As silly as it sounds, preparing a child-sized home means making a child welcome in your home. So much of a typical home dwarfs your child’s body: kitchen counters tower above their heads, beds are impossible to get into without a boost, and toilets are precarious watery caverns. As well-meaning Montessori parents, we want our children to feel comfortable and empowered at home. Yet beginning the adventure of creating child spaces can be wholly overwhelming, because it can be difficult to see the home from your child’s perspective. Once you do, you’ll still need to rearrange some cabinets and add small furniture, hooks, and step stools. If you focus on all those changes in your home, you can quickly lose the spark of why you are choosing to carve out these spaces for your child. Let’s forget the checklist of what needs to change and start with why we endeavor to make the change.
For my family, a child-sized home is about creating harmony. If my son can reach the sink safely to wash his hands, I don’t have to stop what I’m doing every time his hands get sticky (it’s often, he’s three). When I’m not beholden to my son’s every need, he experiences ownership and independence, which makes him feel more fulfilled. In my home, creating spaces for my son’s own spaces also creates much-needed moments of peace for everyone.
With the goal of harmony as my guide, I came up with five rough categories of spaces my son needs. These are very broad categories and can easily be added to, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll start with these five: places he can imagine (play), places he can be still and peaceful (beds, reading nooks), places he can work (shelves with Montessori inspired works), places he can prepare and eat food (low shelves with snacks, cabinets with child-safe knives and cutting boards), and places he can clean (small brushes and dust pans and washing). Most rooms in our house have some combination of these five spaces.
One last criteria for child-friendly spaces: make them manageable for the child. For example, my three-year-old loves Legos. If I gave him a whole bucket to play with, he would be in hog heaven the whole time he played. Unfortunately, he would be miserable when it came time for clean-up. Inharmonious. Instead, I gave him a small basket with visual instructions to build a sailboat and only the pieces to build that sailboat. For my son, that’s plenty. He can follow the instructions on the card or build something totally new, but he can only use a limited number of pieces. If my husband or I are feeling build-y, we have the option to take out the whole bucket of Legos to create AND clean up with our son. But for independent play, for now, our son gets what a 3 y/o can manage. It might seem counterintuitive, but he gets more enjoyment from fewer Legos, just like your children will get more enjoyment from simple, thoughtful, and harmonious play areas. The same thought goes into the tray with his tooth brushing supplies, his dish cabinet, and any other child-centric spaces.
Montessori in the home is meant to be a consistent bridge between school and home life. It means you don’t have to entertain, cater to, or supervise every waking moment of your child’s life. In our family, it means we (almost always) have a happy, peaceful, and safe home.
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