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Home Responsibilities for Children
Peaceful Mornings
Craving Spinach
Favorite Toys and Materials

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Toy Rotation and Pick-up

  1. At first, the adult picks up everything.
  2. Ideally, the child watches as the adult cleans up. Try not to look as though you are suffering.
  3. Child imitates, and picks up a few toys. Thank them!
  4. Child cleans up as they finish an activity, before moving on to the next.
  5. Enforce using “When-then”(Discipline Toolkit tool #13)
  6. Ideal, never 100%, the child cleans up independently.

It is the adult’s responsibility to provide a manageable number of toys, each with a specific location for storage, perhaps a shelf, basket, tray, box, or bag. If you have never been one for “A place for everything and everything in its place”, now is the time! You must learn this for the good of your child.

Put two-thirds of your family’s toys in storage, out of the child’s reach. The toys should not be reachable or visible to the child, but you should be able to grab a toy quickly when your child isn’t looking. If they haven’t seen a toy for a few weeks or months, it’s like brand new! This is how you can take a shower or make a phone call in relative peace.

Sort through toys and get rid of some. If a toy is broken, missing pieces, or dangerous, throw it out. If its appearance or sound is unattractive, donate it. If it’s outgrown and your child no longer uses it with concentration, give it to or save it for a younger child. If it inspires loud or violent behavior, get rid of it (the television?).

Home Responsibilities for Children

As I prepare for a talk next week on Montessori home environment, I thought I would share my handout on children's responsibilities and chores by age. 

In today’s changing society, children are challenged to become “working partners” with their parents. Challenges such as this can be met in many ways: mutual respect, sharing of opinions, acceptance of decisions, cooperative setting of goals, standards, or limitations, and permitting certain rights and privileges.                         

As the child learns the benefits of order resulting from cooperation, he begins to view himself as a person who is capable of making a contribution to others. Growth in this area is best acquired developmentally, whereby the child becomes useful and needed at early age, with the expectation of becoming more self-reliant and independent as time passes.               

The adult’s personal experiences and situations may lead him to find many ways in which a child can contribute. Sometimes parents, aware of the need for giving the child responsibility, are stymied at knowing what to do and what to expect. The following list is intended to meet this need.                             

The list is CUMULATIVE. As the child advances in age or grade he can continue to maintain past responsibilities as well as assuming new ones. Sometimes a child no longer finds it fun to complete a task once it is no longer a new challenge.  Tasks that are the child’s own personal responsibility, such as making his bed, doing his laundry, and tidying his room, we should no longer do for him.  Tasks that help the whole family may be rotated, or a choice of chores may be given.      

The list, meant to suggest possibilities, is only a starting point subject to the situation and creativity of the adult observing the child.  
                
In training for these responsibilities, it may be wiser to proceed gradually. First, establish or strengthen the relationship, and then through friendly discussions, the adult and the child together may determine the manner in which the child can become a contributing member of the family.                                             Before assigning duties, it would be helpful to keep the following principles in mind:   

1. Children have rights as well as responsibilities. If these rights as well as arbitrarily and impulsively withdrawn by the adult, the child may feel dominated or revengeful and will  resist any efforts to elicit his cooperation.   
2.  Children should be consulted about the jobs that need to be done. After they have helped identify the work, they help set the standards for work, and be involved in the evaluation of the completed job.   
3. Allow the children choices in which jobs they would like to do. To do nothing is NOT an acceptable choice. They follow through with the choice or accept the consequences.   
4. Allow the consequences to follow logically from the uncompleted job. Do not discuss before hand what will happen if someone does not fulfill the commitment.   
5.  Set appropriate time limits for completion of a task.  If the child participates in setting these limits, he will be more willing to meet them.  I ask, “How much time do you need?”.  Use of a kitchen timer helps.  Some timers can be clipped to the child’s pocket.   
6.  Vary the tasks.  Children become easily bored with the same chores.  They like new challenges.   
7.  Children like to move on to more challenging work; new privileges that they can take on now that they are bigger/stronger/older.   
8.  Use common sense in the number of tasks expected of each child.  He may stage a “sitdown” strike if he feels used.   
9.  Remember that you are the model of “order”.  Do not expect an orderliness and cleanliness from children that you do not expect of yourself.   
10.  Examine your personal standards.  Perhaps you are a perfectionist, you feel uncomfortable if things are slightly out of order, or are concerned about what others think.  Learn to accept the house as a place of activity for family members, not as a reflection of your personal worth.   
11.  Probably most difficult: never do for the child what he can do for himself.           

HOME RESPONSIBILITIES FOR CHILDREN 

Home Responsibilities for Ages 18 Months to Two-and-a-Half   
1.  Joins in with adult in putting away toys (adult must limit the number of toys, and remain cheerful while modeling picking up). 
2.  Fulfills some simple requests, such as, “Would you please throw this in the trash?” or “Please put this away” (adult points to the location). 
3.  Participates (imperfectly) in household tasks as interested, usually not yet completing the task.  May attempt to sweep, mop, wipe table, set table, vacuum, etc. 
4.  Participates more and more in dressing self (adult provides easy-to-manage clothing).  Undressing comes before dressing. 
5. Loads washing machine and dryer, pushes start button. 
6.  Diapers are phased out by the second birthday, and the child uses the bathroom with occasional mistakes. 
7.  Feeds himself independently, using fork, spoon, small (less than 8 oz.) pitcher, and small (approximately 6 oz.) cup without a lid. 
8.  Participates in simple food preparation, such as slicing soft foods, peeling, and spreading. 
9.  Arranges flowers in a small vase.   

Home Responsibilities for the Two-and-a-Half-Year-Old  
1.  Pick up toys as finished and put in proper place (adult provides low shelves and containers for each item). 
2.  Put books and magazines in a rack. 
3.  Sweep the floor or sidewalk with a small broom, use dustpan with help. 
4.  Place napkins, plates, and silverware on table (not correctly at first). 5.  Clean up what they drop after eating.  Clean up spills. 
6.  Choose a snack or breakfast from two or three options. 
7.  Clear dish from the table, scrapes leftovers, loads dishwasher, helps wash dishes. 
8.  Independently uses the bathroom, washes hands, brushes teeth and hair. 
9.  Dresses independently except for small buttons or ties. 
10.  Puts away groceries and dishes in low cabinets. 
11.  Involved in food preparation daily. 
12. Uses simple manners, such as “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”.     

Home Responsibilities for Three- and Four-Year-Old Children   
1.  Setting the table. 
2.  Putting groceries away. 
3.  Help with grocery list and shopping. 
4.  Polish shoes and clean up after. 
5.     Follow a schedule to feed pets. 
6.  Assists with work in yard and garden. 
7.  Sweep, mop, and vacuum. 
8.     Make own bed (keep linens simple). 
9.  Helps load dishwasher and wash dishes. 
10.  Dust furniture. 
11.  Prepare food and learn simple recipes. 
12.  Share toys with friends. 
13.  Getting the mail. 
14.  Tell parent his whereabouts before going out to play. 
15.  Should be able to play without constant adult supervision. 
16.  Polish silver. 
17.  Wash and polish car. 
18.  Sharpen pencils. 
19.  Enjoys a sense of accomplishment upon completing tasks on a chore chart.     

 Home Responsibilities of the Five- and Six-Year-Old Children   
1.  Help with meal planning and grocery shopping. 
2.  Help prepare lunch to take to school. 
3.  Set the table. 
4.  Peel carrots and potatoes. 
5.  Involved in more challenging preparation of food, including baking and cooking, with assistance. 
6.  Make bed and straighten room. 
7.  Choose clothing the night before, dresses self. 
8.  Ties shoes. 
9.  Attends to personal hygiene. 
10.  Fold clothes and puts them away. 
11.  Answer the phone properly. 
12.  Yard work and gardening. 
13.  Feed pets and clean their living area. 
14.  Assist in caring for younger sibling. 
15.  At busy times, the child may offer, “How can I help?”     

 Home Responsibilities for Ages 6 to 12   
1.  All of the above with increasing challenge. 
2.  Prepare a simple meal independently. 
3.  Care for own belongings. 
4.  Organize belongings. 
5.  Earn money for special jobs, perhaps receive an allowance. 
6.  Beginning money management: saving, giving, spending. 
7.  Increasing thoughtfulness toward others, appropriate manners. 

Home Responsibilities for Teens   
1.  Earn money through jobs such as helping neighbors and babysitting. 2.  Create and follow own budget, including giving. 
3.  Participate in family budgeting. 
4.  Help with home repair and maintenance. 
5.  Yard work and mowing the lawn. 
6.  Maintain respectful family relationships. 
7.  Take on greater responsibility for his or her own life and choices, gaining independence while maintaining safety and communication with parents. 

Marjorie Barksdale was my daughter's teacher 20 years ago. She gave some of these suggestions to parents back then, and I have expanded them over the years. You may share this list with other parents if you include a link to www.learningtogethereducation.org.   

Peaceful Mornings

 
 
Children in our society are often rushed and ordered around, especially in the mornings.  Parents tell me this is the time they are most likely to become, shall we say, unpleasant with their children.
 
It is important to consider how mornings are going, because morning sets the tone for the day.   We would like children to arrive at school feeling happy and peaceful, not stressed. Walking in late can be disruptive to child and class, so make an effort to set up an efficient morning routine and avoid running late.
 
A good morning starts the night before.  Everything that can be done to ease the morning should be.  Some ideas:
 
  • Tidying up
  • Child packs school bag and/or lunch and places them by the door
  • Check that shoes or boots, coat, snow pants, TWO mittens, hat, etc. are ready.  Provide low coat hooks and manageable storage near the door for these.
  • The child lays out clothing for tomorrow
  • Bath
  • Use the toilet
  • Pajamas
  • Snack and/or drink (if bed wetting is not a problem)
  • Brush teeth
  • Pleasant stories - no monsters or disasters, and no television in the evening. Light from any screen hinders sleep.
 
Begin the evening routine with the necessities, followed by some pleasant, quiet time together, perhaps reading stories, saying prayers, tucking in, expressing your love for your child.  This could all be done by candlelight. 
 
Your child should go to bed at approximately the same time each evening to set asleep habit.  Most young children need a bedtime of 7:30 or 8 p.m.  Allow for ten hours of sleep, or more.
 
Plan an evening routine for yourself also. Prepare for the morning.  Plan eight hours of sleep, or whatever you know you need to feel rested.  This helps you to be pleasant in the morning!
 
Get up a half-hour before your children so you have time to get yourself ready, uninterrupted.  Then, greet them with a smile!  This sets the tone for a good day. 
 
Children’s morning routines may include the following:
 
  • They get up on time, using an alarm. 
  • Make the bed.  Simplify bedding, perhaps using just a duvet.
  • Use the bathroom.
  • Get dressed in the clothing chosen the night before. Provide clothing that children can put on independently.
  • Brush hair
  • When they finish these steps, THEN they may join you for a lovely breakfast.  You have spent the last little while preparing this breakfast, INSTEAD OF nagging your children.  I call this the "Muffin Method". Remember, no nagging. They will know what needs to be done once the routine is established.
  • If they are ready early, then reward them with time spent in an activity they enjoy.  Perhaps they have 20 minutes to play outside before they leave. (Note: Getting outdoors before school aids concentration).
 
What’s your routine now?  Searching for shoes, laundry, the school bag, car keys…
 
Easier mornings start THE NIGHT BEFORE.  Do everything you can ahead of time. 
 
For both morning and night,observe how long it takes your child to get ready INDEPENDENTLY, with no unneeded help from you.  Allow this much time, plus some extra. 
 
I find that children respond better to nonverbal cues than verbal reminders. Instead of repeating “Time to go!” numerous times, I would just get my jacket and keys, and slowly head for the door, about 10 minutes early.  If a child is not ready and it is time to go, I put a young child in the car “as is” (unless it is dangerously cold).  They might get dressed quickly in the car (they must be buckled before we depart), or at school.  This could be too embarrassing for some children, but it can be a very effective logical consequence.
 
Once your mornings are running smoothly, you may find you have some extra time.  Enjoy that time together reading a book, playing a game, playing outside, listening to music, or having a conversation…something healthy that your child especially enjoys.  No television before school – it has a sedentary effect on children and adults alike.
 
 

Craving Spinach

 
 
Craving Spinach:
Understanding and Resolving Psychological Reversal
 
Some years back, sitting in the sun outside a Montessori conference, a young colleague asked how she and her husband should prepare before conceiving their first child.  My answer turned into a long list of “Don’ts”. Don’t smoke, avoid all drugs unless medically necessary, avoid all kinds of toxins, from pesticides to non-stick cookware. Avoid stress because your baby feels what you feel. I recommended that she learn R.A.T. and meditation, and today I would recommend EFT (see resources to follow).
 
Then I said, “Unfortunately, human beings tend to resist what is good for them, and desire what is bad.”
 
My friend Susie Shelton-Dodge was sitting among the group. As I recall, her jaw dropped and she turned to look at me. To me, it had been a simple observation of human nature (Susie and her husband David are committed observers), but it really struck Susie, and the encounter stuck with me. Susie is a great thinker, and if something makes an impression on her, I’m going to explore it further.
 
It’s classic good versus evil.
 
Most of the time, we want what’s not good for us. We are attracted to the unhealthy, and attract it to us somehow. And somehow, we are not very interested in what’s good for us.
 
In EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), the attraction to/of bad, and the corresponding avoidance of good is called “Psychological Reversal”.  I like to simplify things for my clients, some of whom are children, and I call it “Batteries in Backwards”. 
 
With their energy flowing backwards, people do things like argue, hurt themselves and others, sabotage themselves, engage in addictive behavior, get depressed or become evil dictators. I see psychological reversal in children who are aggressive, teens who are dark, and adults who are abusive, often within the same family.
 
As much as you want to change, willpower won’t work if you have strong psychological reversal. Anyone abandoned some New Year’s resolutions already?
The first step in EFT is to correct psychological reversal. This frees the child or adult to seek and accept what is good.
 
To me, this looks familiar. It is what Maria Montessori called “normalization”. In an ideal environment, the child is attracted to hard work, gets along with others, and becomes a respectful and contributing member of the group. Montessori called the negative behaviors of a non-normalized child “deviations” or "sin".
 
It is a sign of health to desire what is good for you, and to find the unhealthy not so attractive.  As I learned EFT, I started craving spinach, and eggs from the local farmer. I would devour a spinach omelet daily for breakfast, but skip the coffee.  Processed food started to look like… not food. It looks like plastic to me.
 
Some of my clients find themselves attracted to better jobs, healthier people, and real food. Unconsciously, they began to reject abuse and addiction and set healthy boundaries.  Relationships and health improved. Some slept more. Some slept less.  Some earned more.  Some stopped overworking. Some found God. Some stopped judging.
 
All seem to move toward what is healthy for them right now.
 
I craved spinach.
 
Resources
 
R.A.T. is Respiratory Autogenic Training which I teach in the Preparing to Parent class and in prenatal parent coaching. Here is a nice summary:
 
What’s Going on in There? by Lise Eliot
 
 
 
 
Farmer Sam, Chicken Herder: www.farmersam.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Favorite Toys and Materials

Favorite Toys and Materials
 
As a Montessori educator and mother for 23 years now, I have developed a fondness for certain toys and materials. I know many of you are shopping for children this time of year. I encourage you to get something different and special for the child in your life. Here are some of my favorites.
 
For Infants
 
I taught Montessori parent infant classes for twenty years (see www.parentinfant.org), and spent countless hours observing infants interact with people and the environment. Favorite materials include wooden rattles, wooden books, and the black and white wool ball from www.littleredrobin.com.  Michael Olaf, www.michaelolaf.com, carries beautiful mobiles loved by infants in the early months. They also sell the much-loved “box with one ball”, perfect from age 9 months or so.
 
From the time children start sitting at age five or six months, they enjoy having an appropriately sized wooden table and chairs. Until ten or twelve months, the chair should have sides or arms in case the infant starts to lean. The table and chairs are an important purchase, used instead of a high chair. See height guidelines here: http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/chairchart.html.
 
Provide beautiful dishes, small silverware (available at Ikea stores), a cup without a lid, a tiny pitcher, and tiny cloth napkins. These are available from several of the sites mentioned here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For Toddlers and up
 
Once the child walks, the hands are free to work, and are developing coordination rapidly. Involve children in daily food preparation starting at 15 or 18 months.  A lettuce knife or Crinkle Cutter (www.littleredrobin.com) will cut all but the hardest foods, but won’t cut fingers. My friend Susan Gow at Little Red Robin now sells tiny aprons sewn by her mother. Children take their work more seriously when they wear an apron. Children start with slicing, peeling, stirring, and by age four or five can do some baking and cooking with adult support.
 
Other important Practical Life activities include cleaning and care of the environment. Montessori Services (www.montessoriservices.com) carries small mops, brooms, etc. Flower arranging is my favorite. Montessori Services sells a complete set up, but you can assemble something similar yourself.  In my opinion, there should always be fresh flowers around the house.
 
I love the wooden wheelbarrow from www.communityplaythings.com.  This one has two wheels so it doesn’t tip.  It is wood, so don’t leave it out in the rain.  I have seen toddlers work very hard outdoors, moving dirt, leaves, wood chips, and sand using this wheelbarrow.  Provide a shovel and rake to use for loading.
 
I recommend the cooperative games, available from Montessori Services, for age four and up. I observed that my children continued to cooperate long after the game ended.
 
A Cascade Tower (www.hearthsong.com) is used by age ten or twelve months on up, enjoyed by all ages..  Little cars roll down the ramps, making a clickety-clack.  A ball ramp is similar, but doesn’t have the delightful sound.
 
In preparation for the holidays, I will soon be rolling candles from sheets of beeswax, along with children age two and up.  I help them make candles as gifts for their parents.  I buy the wax and wick locally at My Honey Company, www.myhoneyco.com, in Richmond, Illinois, but it is easily available at craft websites as well.
 
I love the feel and scent of beeswax, and a favorite of mine is modeling beeswax, available from www.waldorfsupplies.com. It takes awhile for it to warm and soften in your hands, then it can be shaped into little sculptures.  Three- and four-year-olds may have the patience for this.  It is excellent for building hand strength. 
 
A recent favorite at our house is the 65-inch Incred-A-Ball from www.Hearthsong.com, fun to roll and go inside!
 
 
It’s hard to stop! There are so many wonderful toys, but far more inappropriate toys on the market. Have a long look at the sites I have mentioned. Choose natural materials over plastic. Choose real, satisfying activities for children.
 
This will be the first post at my Learning Together blog, www.learningtogethereducation.org, where you are welcome to comment and share your own toy suggestions.  I will also try to answer your questions.
 
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