At the beginning of each school year, Montessori Guides spend one full week to one full month – or maybe the entire summer – preparing and amending the classroom environments in anticipation of hosting children full time. As Coronavirus and its accompanying closures and restrictions descended upon us quickly, we most likely did not have time to accommodate the new needs of our family to live, work, play, and rest together 24/7! In fact, our environments may still require some amendments as our expectations change.
As you designate your own Work-from-Home space, invite your child to designate their own nearby. Ideally, this will include both a shelf for constructive, independent activities and a choice of workspace. In the classroom, children have the option to work at a table (child-size if you have one), a “chowkie” (low floor table), or on a Work Mat placed on the floor. The Work Mat serves the dual function of maintaining and orderly environment, and preventing territorial disputes among children.
Ideas for Independent Activities:
In addition to the activities your child’s Guide will provide throughout our Distance Learning sessions, some activities you may consider placing on your child’s designated work shelf include:
- Nesting dolls
- Simple puzzles*, especially those with inset pieces with knobs – these characteristics serve as a control of error and refine the prehensile grip used for writing!
- Toy phone
- Matching games*
- Crayons and paper
- Beads and a lace for threading*
*If you have multiples of any activities, put out only one at a time and rotate the available activity on a weekly basis – this provides comfort and invites engagement.
Notes on Environmental Design and Maintenance:
Storing children’s activities in a toy box or chest may appear tidy when everything is inside, and the lid is closed. However, this storage system often invites frustration from children and adults in practice. Imagine how you would access your favorite things if you stored your items in a similar fashion! Children often have in mind the activity they want to do, and if it’s at the bottom of a toy box – you can bet they’ll dump onto the floor every obstacle in their way – creating a mess that neither of you will want to face when it comes time to clean up. If you currently use a toy chest in shared living space, consider spending some time with your child selecting several favorite activities to keep on a shelf for easy access for a while. You can revisit this process as interest in the chosen materials wanes.
At school, the standard expectation is that one child may do one activity at one time. We encourage you to set similar expectations at home, understanding that it takes some practice and enforcement when introducing new expectations. This maintains a sense of order and fosters children’s responsibility for their activities.
At the end of each work period or day, children are invited to put away their activities and to tidy their work or play space. Understanding that some projects may require more than one work period or day to complete – think Lego constructions or art projects – children may be given the option to “save” their work for next time. In the classroom, each child has a name card they use to do so; what system might you use at home?