Montessori Philosophy & Practice
AGE 1-3 YEARS—Family Life: Food
The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
AGE 1-3, FAMILY LIFE, FOOD
The child can only develop by means of
experience in his environment.
Adults and Children Working Together
This collaboration can be of great benefit
to ourselves, to our children, and to our developing relationship with
Following the Child
It is quite a pleasure just to sit and watch,
not having to do anything else, and nothing can help a parent more in
getting to know his unique child.
The Child's Research
A good example is the question "What
is the meaning of the word 'No'?" I remember an incident in our home
between a good friend and her two-year-old daughter, Julia. The two-year-old
had climbed up on the piano bench and was reaching for a bust of Mozart
kept on the piano. As she reached toward it she looked expectantly at
her mother, obviously for some kind of a response. The mother said "No,
don't touch it." Julia stopped, lowered her hand and then reached
toward it again. The mother said "No" again, a little louder.
Again the daughter reached and looked at her mother. This happened several
times with no resolution.
I watched this communication, and the confusion
on both sides, and offered the suggestion "I don't think she knows
what 'No' means and is trying to find out".
In the first exchange perhaps the child thought
"No" meant "I am waiting and looking and expect you to
eventually pick up that statue. And I am getting mad at you."
Children do not understand the language of
reasoning until around age six. They need clear demonstrations along with
Teach by Teaching, Not by Correcting
The second is to avoid correcting when the
lesson can be taught in another way. (Of course if a child reaches for
a hot pan handle we correct!) For example, if a child is continually slamming
the door very loudly, the best approach is to: (1) Note that the child
needs to be shown how to close a door carefully and quietly. (2) Choose
a neutral moment (which means not an emotionally charged moment when the
adult is upset by the door-slamming). (3) Give an amusing, exaggerated
and interesting lesson, showing the child how to close the door
turning the handle so carefully and slowly that there is no sound whatsoever.
Try other doors, do it over and over, as long as it is being enjoyed by
both. With these lessons the adult can teach many important lessons, such
as brushing teeth, putting away toys, pouring milk.
Manners lessons, like saying "please"
and "thank you," come from the culture in which the child lives.
We used to practice over a large bowl of popcorn, offering and thanking
over and over and sometimes laughing hysterically at the end of the lesson,
at the exaggerated and fun manners.
When parents and children begin to spend
more active time together the need for these lessons comes up often and
can be enjoyed by both adult and child. And life becomes more and more
One summer I discussed this philosophy with
my eight-year-old niece. The following day she and I were sitting on the
lawn talking and I noticed that she was watching carefully as a mother
and small child were having a verbal battle across the street because
the child wouldn't let the mother put on her shoes.
Finally my niece said "Look at that
silly mother. She is doing that all wrong. She should have said 'Do you
want to put your shoes on yourself, or do you want me to put your shoes
She was right. The normal healthy two-year-old
who is just beginning to be able to function independently on many physical
and mental levels is not interested in being told what to do, but very
interested in being given choices.
Let us say we are in a situation where a
certain action is necessarysuch as a child getting down from a table
he has climbed up on. The worse approach is to say "Get down from
there!" The child will be embarrassed and will try to save face by
refusing. Try saying "Do you need help getting down from that table
or can you do it yourself?"
"Do you want to wear the red gloves
or the blue ones?" "Are you ready for bed now or do you want
to hear a story first?" "Do you want your applesauce first or
your pasta?" (Rather than "Eat your food.")
I know of no behavior on the parent's part more assured of creating a peaceful atmosphere in the home of a two-year-old than that of giving choices.
© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)