Growing a curious toddler… just add water.

This post originally appeared at Aug 22, 2018

You buy all the coolest toys and your toddler plays with the box right? Or wants to follow you around for hours with a broom when he has all of the latest walking, talking gizmos. Their whole reason for being at this age is figuring out this big wide world, and you are their muse. Your biggest arguments (ahem tantrums) come from telling them that they can’t have, do or play with something that is only for ‘big people.’

Those who have been following us for a little while will know I’ve tried to set up some Montessori spaces in our house. When I started looking for daycare places for Remy last year I was reminded of both the Reggio Emilia and Montessori mindsets. There are differences between the methods but at their core they both believe that even very small children are capable of so much more than we recognise and that our role as ‘big people’ is to foster their natural sense of wonder in the world. As an elimination communication mama this resonated with me.

“Never help the child with a task at which he feels he can achieve”

Maria Montessori

I recently read “The Montessori Toddler,” by Mum-boss Simone Davies, a Montessori educator. Apart from being a beautifully made book that I love just owning for it’s aesthetic, it is a very practical resource for understanding toddlers and their little minds. It has an ‘instead of this say that’ section which I really need right now, and has a range of easy and practical ideas for activities that are pitched at the right level for different development ages.

I love Montessori spaces from a design perspective too because they value natural timbers and fibres, remove clutter and focus attention on just a few exciting things at a time. The spaces feel just a little less chaotic, and I need that in my life right now. The idea is that in creating inviting and beautiful spaces – we create an invitation to play.

The first space I set up was his general play area. I started with a little table and chairs (Kmart #ftw). Gone are the toy boxes that were overflowing and he never looked into except to throw stuff all over the house. Instead we have some simple IKEA shelves with different toys and activities that look balanced and neat when they are together.

We have a tray with nuts and pine cones found at the park. A mini cash box from officeworks and a 50c piece for ‘posting.’ Jigsaws and other ‘handed down’ treasures. The activities that I’ve set up for him that he keeps coming back to the most are those with a beginning (get the tray from the shelf), middle (put the coin in the slot etc…) and end (pack it away and put the tray back in its place).

Having independent access to water is a key part of life – getting a drink, washing hands, mopping up spills, brushing teeth, watering plants. Giving toddlers access to some amounts of water, in a little jug or similar, lets them gain confidence. Practising and making these everyday tasks a part of Remy’s daily routine should encourage him to become independent in self-care much quicker. He’s not expected to do all these things for himself of course, but giving him the opportunity to learn through play in theory should give him a strong sense of pride from being able to complete these tasks himself.

The grin on his face tells me its already a hit. The water on my floor makes me think I need to get him a pint-sized mop… asap.

Creating the water station

** Husband, please do not add all these things together…I swear some of them were on serious sale, at least 60% off #sorrynotsorry

To put it all together I borrowed a jigsaw, traced some bowls, drilled a hole to get me started and precariously placed the table top between two eskys with pavers inside them (my makeshift workbench) while I cut out the holes. I put shoes on though, you know for #PPE. If you have a somewhat ‘good with tools’ other half I’d recommend enlisting their help. But hell “I am woman, hear me roar and I can cut sh*t that I draw…” I then affixed the cabinet handles to give us somewhere to hang the tea towels and voila!

The water dispenser is glass. I really agonised about whether to get a plastic one, but in the end it was only $4 more for glass. Once full of water it is quite heavy so I don’t think Remy would be able to lift it. I stuck the wooden tray and other dishes to the coffee table with foam tape to avoid spills and give everything it’s own place (might need to try something more waterproof though).

My tips (also known as ‘things I have learnt the hard way’):

  • don’t fill the water dispenser with more water than the ‘sink’ can handle in one go;
  • rub the inside of the cuts in the table with surfboard wax to limit swelling of the timber;
  • put some velcro dots under the water dispenser to try and keep the tap from moving from over the ‘sink’; and
  • for the first few times while the novelty is there put a few extra towels under the table.

The result, one wet, super happy and well hydrated toddler.

Don’t get me wrong – we still have a heap of ‘plastic-fantastic’ stuff in our house. I’m trying to apply the same methods to those things – packing away things he isn’t using and rotating them so that he has just a few things to focus on at once.

A little at a time. Perfection is not the goal.

#invitationtoplay #kmarthack #ikeahack #montessoriathome #montessoritoddler #smallmomentsofcalm #mynestandburrow #mariamontessori #reggioemilia #plasticfantastic #woodentoys #waterplay #selfcare #selfcarestation #holdthemoment #seekthesimplicity

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