Did you know that those IT guys who design ipads “so easy even a baby can use them” don’t allow their own kids to use them? Did you know that more than 50% of those Silicone Valley smart tech families send their children to Steiner schools (and many have been to Montessori schools themselves). Why? Because they observed that these children were so alert and open, so socially confident, so articulate, so observant of their environment…
Early childhood is the time that their spirits grow into their bodies, that they learn about the world by acting in it and on it and learning how to use their bodies as a tool like this little fellow who is practising to use the scissors. He is learning to coordinate his hands and eyes without cutting his fingers. He is totally focussed on the job. His brain is actually making neural pathways on which other skills can be built. Learning how to do things and do them well is a child’s job. And knowing you can do them is the basis of self- esteem and self- confidence. Don’t deprive them of that.
I have not heard people talk about ‘walking training; or ‘running training’ or ‘eating training’. Children will walk when their muscles are ready to carry their weight, run when they can confidently hold their balance and eat when they are hungry. Children will urinate and defecate when their body urges them to.
The ‘training’ really is about us teaching them how to inhibit themselves. We want to keep them and their clothes clean until we get them to a toilet, but frankly, children don’t care whether or not they are dirty or clean. They like to have a full belly, be warm when it is cold and be comforted when they are hurt, but they have no notion of hygiene or anything else. Mess? What mess? Dirty? Well, if you say so….Hygiene and cleanliness is a learned behaviour. It is really an adult problem and often turns into a battle of wills between parent and child unnecessarily. Ignorance and a perception that toileting has to be mastered preferably by the age of two are the main causes.
Children like to do what they see the grownup people do. In this case it's washing of the windows.
Preston has been shown how to wash a window. He enthusiastically tried to do it himself.
These type of activities help the child to focus his attention, because his hands can't do anything unless he wills them to work. One can't "will" one's hands unless the focus is on what you want to do with your hands.
These activities will always help to settle a child, especially after he has been upset.
‘Life skills’ also means how to beautify one’s environment.
I read an article once about a war torn area, Lebanon it was from memory. There was a photo of a middle aged woman, dressed in black and her hair covered by a scarf, watering a rose with three red blooms that grew in the shelter of a tumbled down wall surrounded by rubble.
She said that as long as there was beauty she would foster it, for life would be unbearable without beauty and nature was providing her with hope for having saved this rose…I have never forgotten this article.
Children, even the very young, love beautiful things, but it will mean even more when they see us enjoying and nurturing and appreciating beauty.
Doing the dishes after morning tea is part and parcel of our routine. Jodie is making us a cup of coffee in the grown-up people’s kitchen, ready to give verbal directions when necessary.
The children learn in a natural setting for our culture what ‘standing in line’ means. We give them the vocabulary, we demonstrate how one does it and we point out that this way everyone ‘gets a turn’.
The children in the preschool classes do it as a matter of course. They learned it in the Playgroup sessions when they were still so small that having their hands in the water was an experience in itself!