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How to Adapt Your Environment to Nurture Your Child During Shelter-in-Place

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This is what in Montessori education is called a Prepared Environment: a place organized with the right materials and tools to provide your child with a sense of security and order, and allow them to do activities independently. Make your home a prepared environment during shelter-in-place by first selecting appropriate activities for your child (e.g. correct developmental stage, right size, right amount and right location), and then designating a homebase for the necessary materials and creating separate workspaces for both you and your child.

The ProHowNow Way: Plan and Prepare Your Environment and Say Goodbye to Improvised, Tiring, and Unproductive Days

This article is from guest contributor Alejandra Tryon, founder of Immerse - Montessori & Spanish Immersion Consulting. To learn more visit www.immersemontessori.com.

By putting in a little time and effort up front, you will be able to not only set up your child for success, but also establish a routine that allows your child to learn and enables you to be productive while working from home. Here are the basic steps and strategies:

  • Establish clear working spaces for you and your child: For you, it may be a desk or table in one of the rooms. For your child, it would be a small table and chair and/or a rug area (for things like blocks and large puzzles) in the area of the house where their materials will be set.

  • Prepare the materials you need in your work space: Make sure you have ALL you need to do your work in your space. This includes your work items and any snacks you may need. By not wandering around the house constantly, you will show your child you are working and not available at the time. Also make sure all your items have a set spot. You want to be a role model for your child (e.g. If your desk is your work space, your computer should not be on the kitchen counter).

  • Prepare a set of activities for your child: Decide what activities you are going to have available for your child. Also, plan the way you will set these activities so your child can use and clean them independently. (See below for some examples.)

  • Create your ideal routine: It won’t be perfect in the beginning, but if you work towards and reinforce it, it will become natural for everyone in the family. IMPORTANT: include in your routine a time to prepare the environment for the next day.

  • Establish rules and limits: Before starting this process, adults must agree on these guidelines. Make sure you are on the same page with your partner/co-parent regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable, what will be your exact response when your child pushes the limits, and how you as adults will also be following the rules.

  • Set expectations: This is key. You must show your child how to use EVERY piece of material and walk them through the process. No matter how easy and obvious it seems to you, remind yourself, “I cannot ask my child to do something I haven’t shown him or her how to do.”

  • Be consistent and stick with it: I assure you there are going to be times where you are going to think, I cannot do this, this is not working or I’m going to let this slide just for today, what’s the big deal? Push through it! It is going to work, and it is a big deal. Doing it consistently even in the hardest times is what guarantees success.

  • Trust yourself and your child: Believe you are doing the right thing. It just takes a little time and repetition. Also, believe in your child—they are capable of doing more than you may think.

Characteristics of Children’s Materials:

  • Reachable: Materials should ideally be on low shelves.This also includes having snacks and water available. Also, stools should be available for them so they can access toilets and sinks.

  • Child-sized and Delicate: Appropriate-sized materials (trays, scissors, pitchers, etc) allow precision of movement and fragile materials (plates, glasses, pitchers, etc) give an unspoken message of trust.

  • Limited: Offer a limited amount of materials and a limited amount of items within each material (e.g. three markers in a jar, 3 pieces of paper in a napkin holder, 5 books, small amount of paint in squeeze bottles, etc). When you only have a handful of activities available, you are setting up our child to be successful maintaining order. Also, you will be able to rotate the activities and give your child the opportunity to really enjoy, practice, and master each activity before moving on.

  • Have a Home Base: Every material should have a specific spot on the shelf. The child should return it to that spot before grabbing another material, and you should place that material in that spot when you prep at the end of the day.

Examples of activities:

  • Painting

  • Coloring

  • Puzzles

  • Tearing paper

  • Cutting paper

  • Gluing snips of paper

  • Slicing bananas

  • Peeling and slicing cucumbers

  • Pasting stickers on a piece of paper

Need personalized help with your child? Visit Immerse Montessori & Spanish Immersion Consulting → Get Your Free Consultation

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