One of the key elements in any Montessori class is to encourage our children to be independent and to do things for themselves. The Nido class is no different. We encourage them to do as many things for themselves as possible. This includes things like putting on and taking off their own socks and shoes; learning how to wash their hands; learning how to use and manage going to the toilet; putting on their own sunblock etc.
There are a number of elements in the class that aid them to do things for themselves. Simple things like having low shelves that are at eye level for the children enable them to select their own piece of meaningful work. There are also steps for the children to stand on to be able to reach the taps and toilets easily. The mirrors are at the children’s height to enable them to look at themselves whilst applying their sunscreen. During morning tea time the children help set the table and are responsible for emptying their scraps in the bucket for the chickens, and then washing their own plate and glass. Likewise, if they select a practical life activity such as peeling a carrot, they wash up after themselves and place it back on the shelf ready for the next person. This not only encourages independence but also consideration of the other children in the class.
With all these activities the adults in the environment need to consistently allow the children time to do the activity. Children require repetition to learn so the adults should only step in and help the child if it is really needed. The result will not be the same as the adult’s standards, but the learning experience for the child is far more important than the end result.
Parents at home are encouraged to look for ways to allow their child to be independent and do things for themselves. Simple things like rearranging a few of your kitchen cupboards with plastic bowls and cereals low down will encourage your child to make and prepare their own breakfast. They can also help around dinner time by helping set the table and even some of the cooking like smashing the garlic in a pestle and mortar. Allowing them to use the vacuum, wipe the counters and mop the floor also helps lead them to independence. Sorting the laundry not only helps encourage independence but also improves their sorting and classification skills. All of these things help foster a positive self-image and a sense of achievement.