One of the greatest gifts my husband and I gave ourselves was enrolling our children in a Montessori school while they were toddlers. We quickly learned that even as young as 14 months, children are capable of learning how to care for themselves and be an active participant in family life. In fact, they may even express in words and actions, “Help me do it by myself!”
By adapting our household environment to meet our oldest son’s needs, we noticed that he was more content and acted out less. We also benefitted because our son progressively became more self-sufficient in the home.
Table of contents
- Here is a list of 10 simple changes you can make in your home to support your toddler’s independence.
- 1. Liqht switch extenders
- 2. A low cabinet in the kitchen filled with a few cups, plates and silverware
- 3. Low shelves and book baskets in the bedroom and living areas
- 4. Child-size tables and chairs in the kitchen, common areas and bedroom
- 5. Stools in the bathrooms to climb up to the toilet and reach the sink.
- 6. A taller stool or Learning Tower for the kitchen
- 7. Child-size tools for home and garden
- 8. Double Hang Closet Rod
- 9. Hooks installed at your child’s height
- 10. Small hamper and extra clothes in ALL bathrooms during potty training
Here is a list of 10 simple changes you can make in your home to support your toddler’s independence.
1. Liqht switch extenders
Install a few of these in your home to enable your child to turn on the light in the rooms he has access to. We ones we purchased were made from clear plastic, so it was not an eyesore in the home. At first your child may be so excited that he will want to practice turning the lights on and off. A LOT. This will pass.
2. A low cabinet in the kitchen filled with a few cups, plates and silverware
Provide your child with some easy-to-open containers with ready-made snacks that can be stored on a lower shelf in the pantry or the refrigerator, and a small pitcher filled with juice or water. Your child will be able to serve himself. Be sure to show him how to clean up after himself. In our household we started using cloth napkins. Children at this age love to fold, so teach him how to fold and put away napkins.
3. Low shelves and book baskets in the bedroom and living areas
Place just a few toys and puzzles on each shelf. Corral toys with several pieces in attractive containers or baskets. Encourage your child to play with one toy at a time and to return that toy before selecting another. Keep other toys stored away, and rotate them every few weeks.
Instill a love of books by storing books in baskets throughout your home. Children of this age enjoy flipping through books about what they see in the world. Give them a rich variety of books with photographs and real-to-life illustrations of animals, insects, plants and people.
4. Child-size tables and chairs in the kitchen, common areas and bedroom
Once your child has prepared his snack or chosen a puzzle, he’ll have a place to eat or play. We purchased unfinished wooden table tops and legs from a home improvement store and painted them to match our décor. The legs come in various sizes, so it was easy to replace just the table legs as our children grew. Unfinished children’s chairs can be found at craft stores. If they are too tall for the child, cut the legs to accommodate the child’s size.
5. Stools in the bathrooms to climb up to the toilet and reach the sink.
Opt for either a flip top toilet seat or a child seat that fits on a standard toilet and provide a stool for your child to reach the toilet. This stool can also help your child reach the sink and countertop. Store your child’s toothpaste and toothbrush, and hairbrush within arm’s reach.
6. A taller stool or Learning Tower for the kitchen
For the littlest ones, a Learning Tower is a safe choice because the child is surrounded on all sides. As they get older, however, a taller, foldable step stool is fine. Toddlers love to play with water at the kitchen sink and help with meal preparation.
7. Child-size tools for home and garden
Children find great satisfaction when they participate in caring for the home and garden. Give them a child-size broom, mop and a small dustpan and brush. Home improvement stores often have small brooms and inexpensive metal pails. The pole of a Swiffer is adjustable and can be made to just the right size for your child. On a small shelf, provide a handled basket with a spray-bottle of water, a squeegee and a small washcloth for window washing. Cut sponges in half to easily fit in a child’s hand, and keep a basket of small washcloths in the kitchen to encourage your child to wipe up spills.
Garden tools and gloves for children are often available at Target in the Spring. Keep a selection of small vases on hand for children to pick and arrange flowers. See the resources section below for links to websites that sell child-sized products that you’re unable to find locally.
8. Double Hang Closet Rod
Allow your child to select his own clothes by providing him with a closet rod he can reach. Give him clothing that is easy to pull on and off, with easy-to-use snaps, buttons or velcro. Place a small clothes hamper in his closet for dirty clothes. Encourage him to help with the laundry by asking him to carry his soiled clothes to the washer and carry clean clothes on hangers to put away in his closet.
9. Hooks installed at your child’s height
Install hooks by the front and back doors so your child can hang his own coat. Hooks in the bathroom allow the child to hang up his bath towel.
10. Small hamper and extra clothes in ALL bathrooms during potty training
In some Montessori toddler classrooms, “toileting” starts from day 1, where children wear cotton training pants instead of diapers. To support this transition at home, we kept changes of clothes and a basket for soiled clothes in every bathroom. Whenever our children had an “accident”, they knew they could go to any bathroom in the house and change their own clothes. This method of potty training was very effective for our kids, who were both out of diapers before they were two years old.
Adapting your home environment to support your child’s development and independence is easy to do and will also support you. Children are more capable than most adults give them credit for, and changing the environment to fit their size and needs will empower them in their growth. As you begin to see what your child is capable of doing and notice the pride and joy in your child as he accomplishes tasks in his daily life, you will find enjoyment in having him help you around your home and discover more ways to adapt your surroundings to support his drive to know and learn how to “do it himself”.