What kind of activities can a child do in the kitchen? You may have observed…
Do you have a toddler who ignores the Montessori friendly work and activities you have set up on his shelf?
Let me tell you that it is normal!
The concept of the Montessori shelf comes from the Montessori classroom.
More precisely, it comes from the 3 to 6 years old classroom.
Although babies and toddlers benefit from having their toys on view, it doesn’t mean they will use the works on the shelf in the same way that a preschooler would.
Children from 3 to 6 make conscious choices. They choose what to play with, what to learn about based on their current interests. You will observe your 3 years old being deeply interested in “insects” for example. So you will set up various activities based on that interest. They will be attracted by those shelf works and they may ask for more!
Babies and toddlers are in an “unconscious” stage. They explore! They come upon opportunities. They will see their toys and explore. Some of those toys and activities will be well-loved because they allow your child to practice a specific skill such as pouring or posting. But if it’s not the skill they are working on, right now, they will have zero interest in that specific work.
Children under 3 explore in more open-ended ways. They constantly make connections and try to figure out how the world works! They are little scientists so they tend to mix up their activities, they tend to be more physically active because they are still learning to move their bodies!
A 3 years old has mastered walking, climbing, and grasping. He can talk and he can make a decision. So he is ready to organize the world. He wants to sort and classify. He wants to name everything. He is in a stage of accumulating knowledge.
So if your toddler is not interested in shelf work, rest assured that it’s not your fault. It is not because Montessori is not working or because Montessori is not suitable for your child.
So what shall you do if the shelf work is untouched?
- Keep shelf work activities to a minimum: as parents, we might have expectations. We are well-meaning but our children will “feel” the weight of those expectations and respond by being even less interested in those activities.
- The shelf can be used to display any toys you have. Maybe it’s time to focus on open-ended toys that are so valuable at home and compatible with Montessori.
- Focus on what toddlers enjoy the most: being active! Provide more physical activities. Give them a pop-up tunnel, some soft balls, juggling scarf to blow away!
- Nurture your toddler's language: Toddlers are learning to talk. It’s more important to chat with them, to explore books, to sing than to match pictures to toy animals.
- Encourage practical life activities: cook and bake together, clean the house, sort the laundry! Most toddlers want to constantly be with you so doing “chores” together will cover many of their needs: fine motor skills, language, sensory exploration, and time spent with you!
- Display a new activity on their table as a play prompt. I used to set up a processed art activity or a new shelf work on my child’s table. I was setting up during her nap and she would enjoy for the day. It was not constantly available on the shelf as she was losing interest if it was there.
But on Social media, all I see is toddlers being focused on shelf work!
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