Montessori at home: 5 ways to make daily transitions easy

Change is hard. For small children, this includes the small changes that happen daily—getting ready for school, cleaning up after lunch, getting into the bath...getting out of the bath.

These daily transitions are frequently the times that result in meltdowns and power struggles. For whatever reason, children often resist the little tasks that must be done to move from one activity to the next (I just want you to wear pants! Is that so much to ask?).

While the struggles are often small, when they happen 10 times a day, they can be exhausting.

Through my work with 3-6-year-olds as a Montessori teacher, I’ve learned a few strategies to make these transitions easier. If you think about the challenge of encouraging one small child to put shoes on and multiply it by 25, you’ll see why.

These simple strategies can make daily transitions easier and help you avoid these common battles.

1. Be consistent

Toddlers and young children need and crave consistency. Doing things the exact same way every day makes things predictable, and that helps children feel comfortable and safe. When so much of life seems incomprehensible, being able to anticipate daily routines helps children to feel calm.

Of course, it is much easier to keep things predictable at school than at home. Life happens. Family comes to visit, parents travel, babysitters come. Every day doesn’t need to be the same to make children feel comfortable. Working to establish consistent routines for things like dressing, eating, cleaning and bedtime will go a long way in making children feel some level of predictability.

For example, to establish a consistent routine for getting dressed, make sure your child gets dressed before breakfast, in his room every day. It doesn’t have to be at the same time but does need to be at the same point in the routine.

Make sure his clothes are always in the same place, whether in his closet or laid out the night before, so he knows what to expect. Have a clear place where he should put his pajamas when he takes them off. Have a spot by the door or in his room where he can always find his shoes.

This type of structure provides comfort and helps alleviate the struggles that often arise with transitions.

2. Slow down

No one likes to be rushed and, quite frankly, rushing young children simply doesn’t work. If we’re stressed and in a hurry, they pick up on it—it makes them feel anxious, which often leads to a meltdown rather than speeding things up.

Think about how long it will realistically take your child to do something and add some buffer time. This is especially important in the morning or when you’re trying to get out of the house on time. It helps to think of these transition times as quality time with your child, rather than something to get through. Changing a diaper or helping a child get dressed can be a great time to connect throughout the day if you slow the process down.

3. Involve your child

Try doing things with your child, rather than to him. It may seem like encouraging him to choose his own clothes, or put on his own shoes, or carry his own plate to the sink after dinner would take longer. Sometimes it does, but often involving your child in the daily routines helps him take ownership of the task at hand. This helps him feel like a capable partner, making him less likely to resist.

Try letting him choose his own clothes, offering two or three options so it’s not overwhelming. See which parts of getting dressed he can do by himself. Parents are often amazed when they see their child at school changing clothes independently or putting his shoes on by himself.

If you involve your child in the process, he can often help, doing part of it by himself. This makes for a much more positive experience for both you and your child.

4. Give cues

Experiment with different cues to let your child know that one part of the day is ending and it’s time to transition into the next activity.

At school, we sometimes sing a song to indicate the end of the work period, we may clap a certain rhythm to let the children know that playtime is over, or we may simply give a visual cue like sitting on the circle time rug to show that we’re ready to read a story.

Try different visual and auditory cues and see how your child responds. I sometimes sing a lunchtime clean-up song to remind my son of the things we need to do to clean up (wiping the table, sweeping the floor, washing hands, etc.). You might lay a diaper out to signal that it’s almost time for a diaper change, or turn on the water in the bathtub so that your child hears the sound and realizes bath time is near.

5. Give a warning if a change is coming

Some children are more sensitive to change than others, but it is generally a good idea to tell your child ahead of time if a major change in routine is coming.

This may include things like one parent traveling, having friends over for dinner, or picking your child up from school at a different time than usual. Even small changes in routine can throw children off, so it helps to talk about it beforehand, even if your child is too young to fully understand.

Transitions can be hard for children, especially if they’re tired. Because of this, we often try to rush through them to get to the fun stuff, but slowing down and giving your child a few tools to make the transition easier can make these daily tasks more enjoyable for both of you.

You might also like:

  1. How to manage anxiety during life-altering transitions
  2. What is Montessori? 10 key principles all parents should know
  3. Montessori at home: How to raise a polite child

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

Keep reading Show less