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Children Love to Work and Play

By Tim Seldin - President, The Montessori Foundation; Chair, The International Montessori Council

Small children want to be part of your world. For them, work is every bit as much fun as play if they are given the chance to do it. The best way to encourage your child to try new skills is to demonstrate precisely and slowly in simple ways that he can understand. Then give him time to practice, and to be allowed to make his own mistakes and correct them.

Try looking at the world from your child's perspective. By giving him clear boundaries and careful guidelines, you can allow him to learn how to do things for himself and give him the self-respect and confidence that come with independence.

A matter of size
The first step is to seek out tools and utensils that are the right size for your child. Most of the tasks young children can do are much easier if they have equipment made in a size that is right for their age. Most parents can find child-sized toothbrushes, but there are also child-sized cups, plates, forks, spoons, watering cans, brooms and brushes, and even tubes of toothpaste.

The real thing
Children can easily stir things that are cool, wash vegetables, or learn how to set the table. Children do not always want to do what we are doing, and I am not suggesting that you should make a young child wash the dishes when she really wants to play. Buy child-sized cutlery. Outlines of each piece show your child how to set the table and where to place her plate and cup. But when children ask or show that they want to help, be ready to show them how. And, if you've taken the time to organize your kitchen to provide a small worktable and some child-sized basic tools, they are more likely to ask, help out, and come back again and again.

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