0-6 Independence in the home: Room by room guide!
I've wanted to do this for ages! I've made a lot of posts about independence in a Montessori environment and ways to incorporate it into your home with your young children/toddlers. However this post is going to be the ultimate guide! Going room by room, taking into account different budgets and spaces to try and suite everyone!
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The kitchen is one of the most popular areas for Montessori children. It is a great place for your child to learn, develop and be independent.
When it comes to getting a drink, it's a basic human right to be able to hydrate ourselves right? So children need to be able to as well. There is a few ways that you can allow your child to get their drink independently.
One is to have a Learning tower so they can reach the sink by themselves safely and use the tap.
Another way is to have a Drink dispenser at the childs height that they can use to dispense their own drinks.
Another important note is that glasses should be in low cupboards or somewhere the child can independently get for themselves and the right size. Which leads to my next kitchen element!
Cutlery and Tools in low shelves
Now if you have enough cupboard space you could have all of the plates etc at the childs level in a low cupboards. If not you can keep just keep a days worth in a smaller cabinet and replenish daily.
But there should be somewhere in the kitchen that you can store items the child can reach independently either with using a Step stool or by having them lower down
Items including, glasses, plates, bowls, cutlery, tools for cooking like knives, chopping boards, spatulas, etc.
When it comes to snacks everyone does snacks in a different way, but ultimately I recommend a snack box/station of some sort.
In our home my son has a snack box in a low cupboard that is there all day, I fill it up after breakfast and he's able to help himself throughout the day. However there is only a certain amount a day, and it is only replenished once a day.
Others choose to bring out a snack box at certain times for their little ones to choose a snack and then put it away until the next designated snack time.
However you manage snacks at home, find a way to allow your toddler to be independent with getting, prepping and cleaning up after their snacks.
Reaching counter height
In the kitchen it's important for children to be able to reach counter height, either all the time or at certain times.
In our home we use his Weaning table (link is a similar design not that actual one) which is solid wood for him to stand on for reaching counter height to do dishes, cooking, meal prep etc.
Living room/play area
The reason I have put these two together is because we don't have a seperate playroom, our living room is half a playroom. The other reason being there's not a whole lot that really needs to be adapted and changed in a living room.
Low open shelving
Low open shelving is important for a childs independence and in the concept of Montessori in general, in the home or the classroom.
The childs shelf should be low so they can independently reach it. It should also be open so the child can see the activities and reach them by themself.
We use a Cube unit.
Toys and activities
The toys and activities that are prepared in the childs environment should be set up with independence in mind.
Trays and baskets should not be too large for the child to safely and comfortably carry and move to wherever they will be working with it.
They also shouldn't be too heavy for the child to successfully carry and use by themselves.
This also includes the toys and activities themselves not just what they are stored in on the shelf!
Books in the play/learning living area and any other area of the home should be age appropriate, easy to move around and hold with pages the child can independently flip. As well as being forward facing to encourage children to independently reach out and look through different books by themselves.
You could use a Forward facing bookcase if you have the space and money for it, they are very pleasing to the eye and practical!
Or if like me you have limited funds and space, a few books in a Little basket allows the books to be forward facing and still independently used by the child but doesn't take up as much room or cost so much.
I rotate the books regularly based on interest and learning topics.
The bathroom is one of the most private spaces in every home, therefore meaning it also becomes the most independent areas of your home. There a few ways to ensure your child is being giving the opportunity to develop their independence in the bathroom.
Using the Potty or toilet is probably the first thing most people think of when you think about toddlers and a bathroom. And if you want to know more about the Montessori approach to potty training I have a blog post about the subject here.
In terms of items needed, really that depends on your approach of toilet learning. In a Montessori environment it is very child led and independent.
A basket with some books for number 2s if you wish, wipes/toilet paper, and clean underwear.
Another basket could be elsewhere for the dirty clothes.
Using the sink
The bathroom sink has a few purposes with a toddler, the obvious handwashing, but also brushing their teeth and general self care.
You will need a Step stool to enable the child to reach the sink by themself.
A Soap dispenser that the child can use independently can be tricky to find but it's a good idea to find one as they will be using it frequently.
Having toothbrushing items such as toothbrush, toothpaste and a cup for rinsing and spitting into within reach of the child.
Although I personally keep the toothpaste up high until it is needed then I place it within reach as Jax likes to waste toothpaste if it's left down!
There should also be a low mirror at the sink so the child can see their teeth for brushing, and cleaning their face etc.
An independent approach to bath time can make bath time battles a whole lot easier.
Having a way for a child to independently get in and out of the bath can seem daunting and dangerous, but it's a great opportunity for independence.
We use the same stool we do at the sink for Jax to get in and out of the bath by himself, ofcourse I am there to make sure he's safe but he is capable of doing it by himself.
Another brilliant idea to make bath time more independent for children is small bottles!
It seems like such common sense when you hear about it, but it truly makes a big difference.
Having small Child sized bottles for their body wash and shampoo means you can control how much they can squeeze out by not filling it all the way up and they find it easier because it's smaller.
You can buy empty bottles from pound shops/dollar stores which are the perfect size.
You could also use travel bottles, although the lids of the travel bottles aren't very easy for some children to manipulate.
What we did, after the previous two and have stuck with, is reusing sanitizer bottles. There are countless people giving out free sanitizer bottles these days and they are perfect for reusing for your childs bathtime.
The bedroom as your child gets older will become their own little space, so being independent in their own bedroom is important for their overall independence development.
Independence when it comes to sleeping and independence it can be very tricky. How you choose to "Sleep train" is entirely your choice but the bed can be made independent!
In a Montessori environment a childs bed is a Floor bed (or a mattress on the floor). Which means from as early and as safe as possible a child can independently get in and out of their bed.
Which can seem a bit of an out there concept but it provides independence and also means when a child is waiting for a parent to come in or however your morning routine works, they will have a few quiet toys and books and over time learn to entertain themselves for a short while before getting ready for the day.
We did not do this as I wasn't aware of Montessori at the time when it was relevant for Jax.
Ah, the ever loving battle of getting a child into clothes! This is a strong on in my house because Jax LOVES to be naked.
Having their clothes organised and in a space where they can reach and allowing them to learn to dress independently can be half of the struggle.
This could either be with a specific child sized Wardrobe, or a Cube unit or any other way that works in your childs bedrooms. The main goal is for them to be able to CHOOSE their clothes independently, and also learn how to put them on, and eventually fold and put away etc.
We don't really have an entry way because we have a very small hallway so I don't have a nice picture to share here but Jax's shoes and Jackets are still independently reached by him in different area's & cupboards.
Having a step stool is a good place for a child to sit down and put their shoes on, it. Depending on the stool it's also a good place to store 1 or 2 pairs of weather appropriate shoes also.
Having hooks for hats and jackets at a level a child can reach independently is a great way to encourage them to take more autonomy over the leaving routine and can reduce the battle of getting out the front door!
A basket for extra accessories like umbrellas, scarves, gloves, sun cream, sunglasses etc is also a must as they are all things you will need to leave the house anyway so let them have some control over it!
Another good addition would be a mirror so the child can see what they are doing and look at themselves before leaving and see if they have everything they need on to leave!
Depending on your home layout and set up you may either go for a small table and chair or for a booster type seat for use at the big table, or even both. Whichever you choose is fine, the aim is for them to do it independently so just make sure the child can get into the seat at the big table as independently as possible!
We personally have a 3-in-1 chair. (Here is an identical design, but not the same brand as ours) It can be a high chair/normal chair with or without a tray, attached, and a table and chair. So it's very versatile depending on how we need to use it.
Setting the table
Setting the table is a staple Montessori activity in most children's houses, after a couple weeks the children take over setting up for lunch. Bringing this into your home provides an opportunity for many skills to be developed.
We use our KidsHouseUK placemat currently but at some point we will probably venture to using the blank side of the placemat and doing it by memory. But we're not there yet!
I believe Montessori is for everybody, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.
Montessoraus mama. x