Discover the Child

Discover the Child
"There is a tiny light in the unconscious of mankind which guides it toward better things." "We must follow the child, but we must follow the child as his leader." -Maria Montessori

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Move It or Lose It!

Movement is a real need for toddlers, a really big need. An exuberant toddler doesn't have to be a headache. A toddler's need for movement doesn't always match a parent's need for serenity, but it may help you to remember that each jump, tumble, whack and push helps your child develop his agility and coordination. With each repetition  a fatty coating called myelin coats the neuron. A brain cell with this insulating coating can relay information up to 100 times faster! Even if you have no expectations for athletic prowess, movement is just one cornerstone of brain development. Without this important piece, healthy integrated development can't happen.

Three tips to help you navigate the romping and ruckus:

Background Music- Imagine watching a scene of a woman walking through the forest. The background music, a serene melody or an eerie riff, will completely change the emotion of the scene. For your child, you are the background music. Are you more like a scene from Jaws than the calm, confident soundtrack you'd like to be? Take a minute to notice your own emotions, take a deep breath and smile while your child sets out to explore.
Bumps, bruises and skinned needs are very important part of learning how to move. If your child takes a spill you can send the message, "I know you are capable and you'll be ok" when you wait and watch to provide the support your child needs rather than swooping in. Acknowledging in a calm voice, "Wow! That was a big tumble!" is much more comforting than gasping and grabbing your child as if the building was ablaze.

Helping Hurts- Keep in mind, every movement is an experiment. Your toddler is gathering data about his body in space, his abilities and limitations. Holding his hands while he walks down the stairs or hoisting him up a ladder is the same misinformation as teaching 2+2=5. He'll learn to be safe when he can experience his own limitations. This means she will struggle and feel frustrated. What an amazing opportunity to learn perseverance!

Say Yes! Is it okay for your toddler to hit and push? Absolutely! Hit a drum, push a wagon, throw a ball outside, squeeze and pound playdough, carry a heavy grocery bag, climb a learning tower. You can set safe, clear limits by explaining:

  • Where can I do it? "You can run outside!" "You can tumble on the mat."
  • To what? "You can hit the drum!" 
  • How can I do it? "You can use gentle hands to pet the dog." "Can you set the plate down so quietly that it doesn't even make a sound?"
  • When can I do it? "I'll keep the puzzle for you until you are ready. You can knock over the blocks!"
  • Time In If your child is not able to explore safely or respectfully, remove him from the situation and explain, "You can wait here until you are ready to join us (use your gentle hands, play safely)." 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Practical Life and Integration

Wooden peg puzzles, painting and clay, wagons and bikes, even celebrated pretend play can't take the place of real-life experiences in a community, or what Montessori called, Practical Life. All of these things are wonderful, even indispensible, but Practical Life activities are the key to developing concentration and normalization, or what we now call executive functioning skills.

Flower Arranging

Consider every aspect of this experience- order, sequence, language (names of materials and flowers), fine motor skills, gross motor skills, all five senses, repetition, prolonged concentration, eye-hand coordination, and an opportunity to make abeautiful contribution to the community.

Hand Washing 


 After hanging the wet mitt on the clothes line and getting a new mitt for the next person, this child struggled for quite a while to hang the mitt on the hook. He was so elated at finally succeeding, he decided take the mitt on and off the hook a few more times!

Table Scrubbing

All of the steps between the actual table scrubbing!

Mirror Polishing

She loves the challenge of standing on a stool and reaching as high as possible! She is gathering information about her body, mapping how her body and objects move in space.

Cloth Washing


The sounds of the soap on the wash board, the smell of the soap, carrying and dumping heavy basins of water, squeeeezing out all of the drips...
"When separated areas of the brain are allowed to specialize in their function and then to become linked together, the system is said to be integrated. Integration brings with it a special state of functioning of the whole which has the acronym of FACES: Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized, and Stable."     -Dr. Dan Siegel
"The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction."

"Our hope for peace in the future lies not in the formal knowledge the adult can pass on to the child, but in the normal development of the new man."

-- Dr. Maria Montessori
Education and Peace, page 58

Dan Siegel - Mindfulness, Psychotherapy and the Brain