Kids have such a drive for independence. From the moment they are able, they are resisting help, trying things on their own, and working toward their personal successes. We often refer to their first attempts as the “terrible two’s”as we fight those natural urges in order to make things run more smoothly . . . for us. I have to admit that sometimes sitting by and watching isn’t fun, and it is definitely time-consuming to watch yet another failed attempt at putting on socks or getting that one button fastened. I can admit that I have often been tempted to jump right in and do it myself, especially when I have a time constraint or something else I’d rather be doing.
What I try to remember, however, is the significance of all of these stepping stones toward independence. For in my children’s eyes, putting on shoes by themselves is just as important as learning how to ride a bike or drive a car. It is all relative, and I pray that I can share their joys and offer the encouragement they need along the way.
This is why I absolutely love the Montessori approach. As a parent, you provide the opportunities for your children to gain their independence in safe and age-appropriate ways so that they can better initiate and perform their daily activities. You can provide practice with learning baskets and trays or create a safe space where they can easily access and return their favorite toys, books, and music.
These are just a few pictures of my daughter’s bookcase. I used the upper shelves for overall storage and pulled out a few toys for her to play with and clean up. (And yes, she did manage to “decorate” her storage bins.)
I also put her favorite stuffed animals in a basket on her nightstand along with some books she can “read” on her own. She also likes playing her kid songs from time to time.
Packing up for an overnight trip or a family vacation is no different. I remember the first time my son insisted that he pack his own stuff. He was about three years old and kept asking that I just tell him what he needed so that he could do it himself–just like mommy and daddy. The first time he asked, we did it orally with me dictating one item at a time. He prepared his socks, then he’d run back to me for the next item and the next and the next.
The following time I decided there had to be a better way for him to do a bit more independently, so I took out a piece of paper and drew pictures of the items he would need and drew dots underneath them to show how much of each he would need. He really liked this much better and called me proudly after he had finished putting everything on the bed in order to show me all of his hard work.
After doing this a number of times, I finally sat down and made him this packing list. Of course, my daughter insisted that she have one of her own, so I made one for her as well.
My son, who is now six, and I go over the number of days and nights and even the weather before completing the number of each item together. For my daughter, I draw filled-in dots under each picture for the number of items needed. I then let them take their packing lists to their rooms and choose their items. They place everything in neat stacks on the bed or on a rug or sheet.
As the children complete all of the needed items in a box, they fill in the circle with a crayon. When they’re finished with all of the boxes, we review each box together and put the items in the suitcase or bag, and I place a sticker on the corresponding circle. I sometimes also use the included “days of the week” cards to bundle the items by day for a smoother trip. They enjoy the encouragement and the opportunity to pack themselves, and I love the look of accomplishment on their little faces when they complete it all.
I hope to remember and set up as many opportunities like this as I can in order to help them grow with positive learning experiences. It’s one stepping stone of many, but one that can be done with smiles on all of our faces.
If you’re interested in trying out our packing lists, Download Them Here and please comment below. I’d love to hear what you think!