Any child who is self-sufficient, ......reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence. - Maria Montessori
A sense of independence, the very being of human dignity, is the goal of every child. As a Montessori parent you have probably heard the mantra, "help me do it by myself" several times by now. Children love to participate in the family by helping. They are very capable too. Often, as parents, we terribly underestimate what the young child can do and what they desire to do. Chores that are just that, "chores", to us - but they are special events in the young child's life that provide him with validation of his importance in the family. Contributing to the life of the family means he is important and what he does has real value. Did you notice that your child likes to play with real things more than plastic substitutes? He loves to clean and take care to keep his environment beautiful.
Those same little dirty hands that leave prints all over the walls and especially windows will love cleaning the walls and windows given the chance and correct tools. To make this available to your child in the form of a "work" that he can take out of the cabinet, or off a low shelf in the kitchen is a special gift to him. All you need for window washing is a spray bottle of vinegar and water. A small amount of vinegar, about 1/8 of a cup to two cups of water is sufficient. It is totally non-toxic, yet unpleasant to drink (as in spraying into ones mouth-yes this could happen!). You can cut up small "paper towels" out of newspaper and provide a small squeeze in a plastic utility carrying tray.
This is an early lesson given in the practical life area of the classroom. Your child will probably already know how it works, but a quick refresher lesson at home is OK too. Just remember the child will do exactly as you do; so do what you do with precision and thoughtfulness. Then leave the child to do it as long or short a time as he wishes. Show the child where to put it away, where it will be kept, and let him know he is free to take it out whenever he wants
For the wall washing work a spray bottle of water and a Magic Eraser sponge should do the trick. If you want to use some soap just provide a bar of soap that you would use for your child's bath on a soap dish. If using soap provide a small cotton cloth (a washcloth cut into 4 squares) instead of the Magic Eraser. The child can rub the cloth over the soap and wash the wall. This "work" can be placed on a small tray kept on a low shelf or in a low kitchen cabinet for the child.
Starting your child off early with home responsibilities and contributions to the household is a wonderful gift to the child - one that will give back to you in many ways for years to come.
Article by Patricia Craft-Heuer, founding director of COLCMS
Pictures by Claire Paglia and Stefanie Graper
Most of the child-sized cleaning items seen in this post are available from For Small Hands, a division of Montessori Services. If you place an order from For Small Hands before Dec. 31, please mention our school name and school code 104248 in the comments section of the order. We receive 10% back in the form of a credit we can use for next year's class supplies.
There are many great books about natural cleaning - we particularly like Clean and Green and use many of the recipes for cleaners and polish in our classrooms. Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement is a practical and humorous book by the mom of 5 children, ages 4-14, and how she empowered her children to become contributing members of their household.
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!