“If we just put out the tiny furniture children require, we see immediately that they order their activity in an extraordinary fashion. Everything they do is willed; they get along perfectly well by themselves, without any danger, because they know what they want. In children, the drive for activity is almost stronger than that for food, although we rarely see it because they lack it in their present forced environment. If we give them the right environment, we see little unhappy nuisances transformed into happy, active children. The proverbial house-wrecker becomes the most attentive custodian of the objects which surround him; the noisy and disorganized child is transformed into a tranquil and orderly being. For if the child lacks the external means to adapt, he has no way to utilize the great energy that is his. Moreover, he is impelled instinctively toward activity that utilizes all his energies because in this way he can perfect his faculties. Everything depends on this.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori (The Child in the Family, p.27)
Around 12 months of age a child’s life is transformed by the ability to walk and talk. These new skills give your child more independence and more opportunities to work with his hands. Your child will begin to independently explore the home beyond parameters of his own space, thus a space that is safe and supportive of child’s movement and development is ideal. Your child should be encouraged to make the most of newly gained independence by contributing to the care of the environment through age-appropriate activities as well as having a dominant role in care for Self.
In the entryway to the home, you can add low hooks or cubbies for your child to hang his coat, a place to store shoes and boots, and baskets or bins for hats and mittens.
In terms of your child’s bedroom, a bed on the floor rather than a crib allows for your child to freely move on and off as well as promotes independent sleep routines. Once your child is sitting or standing, the changing table no longer becomes necessary. The changing table has most likely become a source of frustration at this age. Your child can begin using a bench or stool to begin dressing more independently, with you aiding when necessary. Low drawers or some sort of storage that is accessible to your child allows for your child to become an active part in choosing their own clothing. It’s important to limit the choices your child can pick from so the child does not get overwhelmed. A vertical mirror can be hung at the child’s height on the wall to aid in the independent dressing process. The mirror aids in independent dressing by providing the child with visual feedback about the dressing process.
In the kitchen, your child should be able to access place settings so s/he can independently set the table. The place setting should be in low cupboards or shelves so they are available to the child. Your child can also have a small space in the refrigerator where he can reach to independently get snacks. Your child at this age loves to assist in all things in the kitchen so a stool or a Learning Tower can be used to provide those opportunities. Child-sized cleaning items such as brooms, mops, dust pans, etc. provide the child with the ability to partake in caring for the environment, a task which they will be more than happy to help with!
Your child will be spending a lot of time in the bathroom during this age. Low cupboards and baskets should be available so that your child can access all the things he needs for toileting. The adults’ job is to make sure the child has all the things he needs in order to be independent with the toileting process. These things should include a hamper for soiled clothes, wipes or toilet paper, access to clean clothes, and a step stool, which will most likely be required to give the child access to the sink and the adult toilet. You can also use a small potty chair for your child. Allowing the child to choose which place he prefers to toilet can help the child gain confidence.
To learn more about the Montessori approach to Toilet Independence, watch this great VIDEO.
As your toddler becomes more capable, his need for material that develops his motor and language skills expand. As a parent you should rotate material (toys) in and out based on the child’s developing skills. The materials that support his development should be stored in a neat and classifies manner on the low open shelves where they can be easily accessed and restored. The shelves support the child’s need for order in a way that traditional toy boxes do not. Shelves can be placed in different areas of the home to support your child’s participation in the family life. Additionally, a worktable and small chair should be added to give your child a space where s/he can work independently.
Your home environment is your child’s first environment. Your home will provide the building blocks with which your child will create himself. The careful preparation of a home that supports the child’s natural development sends a positive message about the person s/he is creating. A prepared home environment encourages the child to trust the world and his experiences in it.
Article Written By: Ms. Jillian Guest, Toddler Directress at Chesterfield Montessori School