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Montessori at home: 10 tasks young kids can totally do on their own

"Help me do it myself" is a common phrase we try to remember in Montessori.

Young children crave independence. They are driven to achieve it from birth. If we can help them get there, we can minimize a lot of the struggles associated with toddlers and young children, and empower them to feel capable and confident in their growing abilities.

Because of Montessori's focus on independence, parents are often shocked when they see their children do certain things all by themselves at school. "My child never does this at home!" is a common response.

Here are some examples of things young Montessori children do for themselves, and how to encourage your own child to greater independence.

1. Get dressed

From the time children enter the Montessori toddler classroom at around 18 months old, they are encouraged to dress and undress by themselves. This happens in very slow stages, with undressing usually occurring first.

Montessori toddler teachers patiently show a child each step of dressing and undressing, from pushing down their pants to strapping the velcro on their shoe.

To try this at home, find times that are not rushed to practice with your child. Make sure the clothes and shoes are easy to get on and off. After you've shown them how a few times, sit nearby and offer the minimum amount of help they need to be successful. You might start with just a verbal reminder of what they need to do. He may be able to pull up the front of the pants, but need help with the back. Gradually, they'll need less and less help.

2. Wipe their nose

Montessori toddlers and young children have access to tissues and are encouraged to practice wiping their noses in front of a mirror so they can see when their face is clean. An adult may have to alert them that they need a tissue before they learn to complete the task alone.

Children can also take care of other basic self-care activities like washing their faces, drying their body after a bath, washing their own hands with soap, brushing their own hair, etc.

The job might not be done as quickly or as thoroughly, but empowering your child to take on these tasks raises their body awareness and helps his confidence grow with each new skill they develop.

3. Set the table

From the time they are walking, Montessori babies help set the table. This starts with something simple like bringing a plate to the table or bringing over their own lunchbox.

As the child grows, the process involves more steps, with the 3-6-year-olds setting their place with a napkin and placemat, glass plate, fork and spoon and a water cup.

To try this at home, use a low shelf to place a few dishes for your child. Show him how to carry each item carefully, one at a time with two hands, to his spot at the table. He may need a step stool to reach the dining table.

4. Clean the table and floor

Montessori children clean the tables and floor when they have made a mess by sweeping up any spills.

They also often choose to scrub a table or chair or mop the floor when there is no specific mess. The children enjoy the sensorial experience of the soap and water and experience a great sense of pride at seeing the results of their labor.

To try this at home, give your child a small broom and encourage them to help you sweep after meals. Give them a scrub brush and spend time scrubbing their outside toys together.

5. Put away their own toys

Montessori children are expected to put their own work and toys away, and they generally do so without reminders after becoming acclimated to the classroom.

Every item in the classroom has a specific spot where it belongs and the children quickly understand the expectation and social norm that everyone cleans up after himself.

To try this at home, ask your young child to put away a toy when he is done with it before he gets out another one. Toddlers may need you to clean up with them, especially if it's something like blocks with many pieces.

6. Help prepare food

Food preparation work is often a favorite among Montessori children. The interesting thing is they love activities like washing and cutting carrots and apples even if they choose not to eat the food they've prepared. This is because they are getting to use real tools and participate in the work of everyday life in a real way.

To try this at home, find ways your child can help in the kitchen, either preparing a salad alongside you or making a snack independently. Slowly introduce your child to the tools and skills needed in the kitchen, always watching for safety, but also giving him the freedom to work on his own.

7. Problem solve with a friend

While kindness and peaceful actions are always emphasized in Montessori schools, disagreements between children still inevitably occur.

Rather than acting as a referee, the teacher acts as a support and a guide, helping the children to talk to each other about what they each want and need resolve the situation.

To try this at home, next time your child has an argument with a friend or sibling, take a step back and see how they handle it on their own. Step in if it's becoming violent or escalating too much, but take the minimal action needed to help the children sort through the situation on their own.

8. Play independently 

As Montessori lessons are generally given one on one, rather than a group, the children spend a good deal of their time at school working independently, practicing the lessons they have already been given.

Playing with your child is a wonderful thing, but don't be afraid to tell her you're unavailable if you need to get something done. This will help her learn to play on her own, too.

To try this at home, if she's used to always playing with you, start with really short tasks. You might say something like "I'm going to unload the dishwasher and then I will come play with you." Slowly stretch the time she is comfortable playing on her own.

9. Take care of a pet

Pets are a big part of many Montessori classrooms, in part because they let us observe biology in real life, but also because they offer a great opportunity for the children to take care of another living being.

Children feed and give water to the pets daily and even help clean and scrub their habitats.

To try this at home, if you have a pet at home, show your toddler how to feed it or your preschooler how to scrub the pet's food bowl to keep it clean.

10. Think through a problem

Montessori teachers often answer a question with a question. "Where might you look for that? What should you do next? What are you missing?"

This encourages children to think through a problem rather than turning to an adult for the solution.

To try this at home, you can use guiding questions in the same way at home to help your child think more independently.

The journey to independence is a messy one. It is so worthwhile though to see a young child doing what he is capable of – helping to take care of himself and his community. This not only leads to independence, but gives him such a sense of purpose and pride in being a contributing member of the group.

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With two babies in tow, getting out the door often becomes doubly challenging. From the extra things to carry to the extra space needed in your backseat, it can be easy to feel daunted at the prospect of a day out. But before you resign yourself to life indoors, try incorporating these five genius products from Nuna to get you and the littles out the door. (Because Vitamin D is important, mama!)

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With 5 essentials that are as flexible as you need to be, the only thing we're left asking is, where are you going to go, mama?

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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Yesterday at Target I stood in line behind a Mom with two screaming kids. One clung to her leg while the other, a brand new baby, wailed from her arms.

I am not used to being the one who is not the parent of the screaming child.

This was uncharted territory.

I identified with her painfully and I wanted desperately to affirm her. I wasn't sure what to do except smile and look as nonjudgmental as possible. I tried to think of what I could say, like, should I shout above the screaming, “YOU'RE AMAZING!!" Or should I go in for a fist bump, “You got this!!"?

Before I could process what my awesome, pro-mom, non-judgey response was going to be the mom turned to me with desperate eyes, “I'm sorry, um, can you hold her?" She held out her crying infant towards me.

“YES!" I said eagerly. As I took her precious one in my arms, the little girl made eye contact and then wailed. I bounced her gently and put her pacifier back in her mouth, feeling such an intense solidarity with this mama.

“I have four," I offered, hoping to reassure her that she hadn't chosen a psychopath.

“Me too," she smiled.

“Target with kids is hard," I said, “how old is she?"

“Four weeks," she smiled with postpartum exhaustion in her eyes, “thank you so much," she took back her baby and I watched her walk away.

No…thank you. I thought.

I have been the woman in the checkout line more times than I can count.

I've stood sweating in this woman's exact position, barely commanding the tears to wait until I got to my car. I've felt my face grow red and hot as my toddler screamed and kicked, waking up my baby who was angry and ready to nurse. I've felt so alone and so out of control.

I've thought I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS. I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG AND EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT IT IS EXCEPT FOR ME.

I've pretended to be calm and cool while inside I felt like I was suffocating. I've felt embarrassed and emotionally naked in front of an audience of spectators. In my mind people were waiting and expecting me to GET IT TOGETHER.

But as I rocked this baby I thought, in those moments, there were probably people just like me who were longing to lighten my load and whisper—hey, I get it, I've been here too—you're doing a great job.

This mama was brave.

She let her guard down and because of that, gave me a gift. She redeemed a thousand of my own frantic check-out moments by letting me be a part of hers. She let me join her village and reminded me that I'm not alone.

I am not the first one to walk this road and I will not be the last. There are grandmas, great grandmas and great great grandmas that have gone before me. There are mamas whose kids are older than mine and who are navigating junior high and high school. There are those who are right where I am and those who have brand new babies.

Whatever stage I find myself at, I will not find myself alone. This is a weathered road we travel.

I'm not the only parent whose kids have thrown tantrums in Target, I'm not the only one to have her kids tell a lie, I'm not the only Mom to lose her temper. I'm not the only one to have a son who struggles with reading, or the only one to have a child scream I HATE YOU. I am not the first and I will not be the last.

We really are a part of a village, a part of something much bigger than just ourselves and there are women all around us who simply get it.

Chance brought me one of my people, a sister I just hadn't met yet.

She is one of the ones in the ring with me, doing messy, but beautiful work. We are both knee deep in motherhood and for a moment our stories crossed and I am grateful.

To me she was beautiful and valiant, a mother holding everything together by a thread. I don't know how she felt. I don't know if she felt small, or if she felt tired. I don't know if she felt undone or defeated…but I hope she felt supported.

I hope that in that moment she did not feel alone.

I hope she felt like I was WITH her.

No judgement.

Just respect.

We are not the first moms and we will not be the last to have a “moment."

It is messy, it is hard, we will fail often…but we do none of it alone, and we are never, ever the “only one."

#Solidarity

Jessica writes at her blog Wonderoak. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

We all know that being a mother brings many joys, but a phenomenal sex life is not usually one of them. While parenting with a partner can be the most beautiful bonding experience, it can also be a breeding ground for resentment, romantic disconnect and unsatisfying sex.

But all is not lost to a life with little ones. As a mom of two, I attest to the fact that parenthood can actually improve your sex life; and as a relationship coach, I know I'm not alone in that. But here's the thing: you have to give it some attention. Great sex doesn't just happen on its own.

A truly satisfying sex life after kids requires education, communication, commitment and confidence. It asks that you shift your attitude from seeing sex as a chore to something pleasurable that you have the privilege of doing with the partner you love.

And I'm here to show you how.

Here are six elements to have a great sex life after kids.

1. Time

A great sex life requires time. I know what you're thinking: there's already too much on your to-do list. But you're just as important as everything else, and you need to make pleasure a priority. Maybe you put the kids to bed 30 minutes early or swap babysitting nights with your sister-in-law for a pre-planned date night. But you need to find the time to focus on yourself as a woman and as a lover.

2. Sleep

You need sleep to feel like a human, and you need to feel like a human to rekindle your sex life. A 2015 study found that with just one more hour of sleep a night, women were 14% more likely to engage in a sexual activity the next day. So do whatever it takes to get more sleep; take two 20-minute naps or promise yourself one early bedtime a week and see the difference it can make.

3. Ask for help

Between picking up after the kids and laundry and dishes, household responsibilities can put a toll on your relationship. After all, they provide the perfect breeding ground for resentment; and, let's face it, resentment is the opposite of attraction. So ask for help. Yes, from your partner (research shows that sharing household responsibilities increases the frequency of sex a couple has), but also from the reinforcements. Call your mom or your best friend and ask for help, or even splurge on an agency to help you get things back in order.

4. Attitude

When you want a happy and healthy sex life, you need the right attitude—one that doesn't treat sex and intimacy like a chore, but enthusiastically embraces sex positivity. Although it sounds difficult, it's really just four principles.

First, make sex a PRIORITY, which may mean giving up an evening playing Candy Crush to have a romantic night with your man. Then you need to do some PLANNING and put sex on your calendar. Planning intimacy does not have to take the fun out of it, but instead builds the rhythm we need for spontaneous lovemaking to occur.

But you also need FLEXIBILITY to make a great sex life work, especially with parenthood. Is one of the kids sick? Push back your special night until tomorrow. Babysitter cancelled? It's okay to settle for Netflix and a quickie. Go with the flow a little more and you may be surprised what fun you can have. Finally, FOLLOW-THROUGH and commit to these principles. If you throw in the towel after the first roadblock, you're telling yourself and your man that your sex life isn't important enough to fight for, which only leads to more disappointment and resentment.

5. Sex toys

Sex toys aren't only for solo play, they can add fun and excitement when used with your partner. A toy, whether a vibrator or silk blindfold, brings newness to the bedroom, which can turn you on and inspire you to explore. Beyond their aphrodisiac effect, sex toys can give you the extra stimulation you need and ensure that you get your happy ending, too.

6. Sense of humor

Parenting can bring MAJOR frustration to your sex life, and when it goes unaddressed, it drives a wedge in your relationship. Don't let it. Approach parenting's chaos with a sense of humor. Share your oh-my-god experiences together and laugh about them. Embrace the crazy joy parenthood offers and use it as a connection point, something that ties you together, not tears you apart.

Mamas, I know you're exhausted. And I know sex is often the last thing on your mind. But I promise, if you put in a little bit of effort and dedication in your sex life, it pays back tenfold. You get better sex. Your relationship improves. And your partner transforms, once more, into your lover.

The mental load of motherhood is heavy, but it can be difficult to explain what it really feels like to others. It's that never-ending to-do list that has to get done, but only seems to get longer. It's the constant worry of having to get all of those things done, from routine check-ins to managing the emotional balance of the household.

Simply put, it's invisible work that has to be done by someone—and that usually falls on mama.

If you're having trouble explaining that load to others, whether it be friends or your partner, Karen Kleiman, a well-known international maternal mental-health expert, put it into words. And Molly McIntyre, an illustrator and comic artist drew beautiful images.




Illustrated by Molly McIntyre. Molly McIntyre is an illustrator and comic artist with a background in traditional printmaking and book arts techniques. Her illustrations have been featured in Bitch magazine, Everyday Feminism, ScaryMommy, Psychology Today, and more. She is currently working on a collection of comics about new motherhood, called Momzines. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and young son.

Comics from Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts, an accessible collection of comics and resources, releasing March 1st from Familius and available at bookstores everywhere.

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