Maria Montessori once said, “The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self….To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.”
At Whitby School, their Children’s House teachers are continuously working to set their youngest learners up for success by guiding them to become self-reliant, confident and independent. A few of the strategies they’ve used as a school over the past 60 years have been to establish routines for children, give them responsibilities, encourage them to master tasks they are struggling with, and to ensure that teachers act as role models for the children.
However, they have found that the best way to allow children to truly flourish is when parents replicate these classroom practices at home. Here are four ways you can involve your child at home to help them develop a sense of confidence and independence:
1. Preparing a Snack
At Whitby they’ve found that their youngest learners are always excited to help prepare for snack time and they encourage you to try the same at home. Keep items within reach of your child, preferably on a low shelf. Small pitchers are ideal to avoid spilling. It is important to give your child materials they can access and use successfully to get a true feeling of accomplishment.
2. Getting Dressed
Give your child time to get dressed before you head out the door. Yes, this will take some extra time in the morning before school, but this is a fantastic way for your child to learn to take ownership of their morning routing. First model for your child how to do something (such as zipping up a jacket), and then let them try themselves.
3. Cleaning Up
Involve your child in putting away their own belongings. You may want to install a lower bar in their closet so they can hang their clothes, or have a height-appropriate dresser. It is also helpful to limit the amount of toys they have out at a time. When they can find a place for all their materials, it helps them complete the work cycle.
4. Work with your child to complete daily tasks
Offer your child the opportunity to try various tasks on their own. Equally as important, allow them to become a daily companion in simple tasks at home. For example, they can help you set the table, water plants, baking, dusting or taking care of a family pet. It is an opportunity to model routines, and children feel proud when they are a contributing member of the family. Accept their help when offered and where they show an interest.
Of course, all of the above requires patience and allotting extra time to demonstrate how something is done. In the end, the pure joy on a child’s face when they accomplish a task independently is priceless. And when a child accomplishes something independently, they are then given the confidence needed to help others. This is a wonderful gift to give to a child starting at an early age.
Founded in 1958, Whitby School is an independent, co-educational day school for students 18 months through Grade 8. Whitby was the first school in the United States to blend Montessori and International Baccalaureate in an early childhood program. Located at the border of Greenwich and Armonk, Whitby School serves students through Westchester and Fairfield Counties.
Learn more about how Whitby School fosters independence and confidence in children at our upcoming Open House on Sunday, November 5, at 1pm. Register online at whitbyschool.org/openhouse or schedule a personal tour at whitbyschool.org.