My child only wants to climb! What do I do?I have been asked this question…
One of the main common questions in Gentle Discipline course is this one:
Throwing is a powerful need for young toddlers.
Toddlers are like little scientists. They experiment, they observe the results, and they repeat.
Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them. Maria Montessori
Young children don’t’ have yet the ability to manipulate you. They don’t do things on purpose to annoy you even if their “experiments” can be upsetting.
The highchair scenario is so typical that it exists some specific throw and bring back toys to attach to the highchair. Throwing food is so common that you can find all kinds of messy mats and apparatus to catch the food when it falls from the highchair.
Throwing is super fun for a toddler. They observe the food smashing down on the floor. Some make noise, some bounce, some are transformed when they reach the floor. The child experiments: he can drop the food, or he can throw very hard.
Not only your child likes to throw food, cup, cutlery, and toys from his highchair, but he probably also likes to throw any kind of toys and objects when he plays. And I bet that he loves all sorts of balls!
Maria Montessori observed that children, soon after they have learned to walk, have a strong need to exert their strength. They want to do hard and heavy work. Throwing is one of those maximum effort works. Other typical works are: carrying heavy objects, such as bottles of water, helping with your shopping, pushing heavy boxes, emptying the washing machine and so on…
In the 1946 London lectures, she said:
"The must be able to do things which require a great effort. They need big, heavy, things."
"The greater the effort, the greater the child's pleasure and the worse any interruption"
"Children make a great effort to conquer the environment. They do as much as they can as soon as they can. They apply a maximum effort."
A schema is a “pattern of play.” A schema is a repetitive behaviour. By repeating some actions, your child explores some characteristics of his environment. In the case of the trajectory schema, he explores lines and direction.
Throwing, jumping, and running are typical of that schema. Posting objects is also characteristic of that schema. Children in that schema have an interest in how they create movement with their bodies.
So, your child is not naughty when he throws from his highchair. But it’s normal that you don’t want him to throw at others or to break objects or waste food.
You can set up some boundaries and teach your child other ways to nurture that vital need.
For the highchair scenario, here is what I would do:
While showing and collecting the food on the floor, I would say, “I see that you are throwing the food on the floor, you are having fun.” Showing the food still on the plate, I would say, “the food is for eating, do you still want to eat?”. Invite your child to eat some more. If he still wants to eat and starts to eat more, I will reinforce the “appropriate” action by saying, “We eat the food and we keep it on the table.” As soon as he starts to throw again, I would give an alternative saying, “I see that you still want to throw, shall we leave the highchair and throw some balls in the garden?”.
The key is to be prepared. You must have some alternatives for your child.
And you must be ok with ending the meal. The need to throw might be so strong that your child will eat less of his meals (and maybe drinks more milk or eats more snacks for a few days).
Of course, your child might throw food for other reasons, but for this blog post, I am going to focus only on maximum effort and the trajectory schema.
Redirecting your child towards appropriate activities is the best way to handle those inconvenient needs.
But you must do it immediately. This is the key. To be effective, the redirection needs to be immediate.
The more you give appropriate opportunities to throw, the less your child will need to throw other things.
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I hope these ideas will be useful.
Let me know, does your toddler like to throw? How do you make it work for your family?
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Carine Robin is a a mother of 2 children. She raises them the Montessori way. Originally from Belgium where she worked as a child psychologist for several years, Carine spent 6 years in Ireland before settling in in the UK. She qualified as a Montessori teacher 10 years ago and has since worked as Montessori teacher and preschool manager. She founded Montessori-family in 2011 to provide opportunities for parents to discover Montessori. She believes that it’s truly possible to implement the Montessori ideas at home to make your house and family life welcoming to your child, her needs and her thrive for independence. She offers parents & babies classes, toddlers playgroups; Montessori home designs, one to one support, parenting classes and online courses.
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