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Children Love to Work and Play

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

Establish your plan and then teach your child how to do things correctly, rather than punishing or criticizing for making mistakes. If you do find your child using a toy in the wrong place, redirect him to move to where this activity belongs. If a mess has been made, it is reasonable, depending on your child's age, to expect him to clean it up, or to at least help. This often doesn't work well with toddlers. With them, prevention is the only defense! Don't allow them to get access to something that they should not use.

Some things are fine to work or play with on a sofa. Some are best done at a table. However, many of the activities children enjoy they find most comfortable doing on the floor. Give your children small rugs or mats to define their work/play area. Toys and puzzles have a tendency to spread out all over a room if you don't help children to contain them. A small floor mat or rug defines an excellent work/play area on the floor. For larger projects, such as a giant city built of blocks, your child can use two mats together. Teach your children how to roll and unroll their mat for storage in a large basket.

Think about how your child can safely and carefully carry each toy or utensil from the shelf to where they want to work and play. Often the best way is to carry a toy in its own container. Some toys, games, or utensils are easily carried by themselves-a doll, for example. Others involve many pieces, and sometimes the set is too large or heavy for children to carry. In this case, provide small trays that your child can use to carry enough pieces to work with in one or more trips. Keep in mind that children do not automatically know how to carry things on a tray without spilling, so you will need to demonstrate and let your child practice. Small baskets may be easier for a child who finds using a tray difficult.

Teach your child to take care of her toys and other belongings. Rather than punishing her if she breaks something, or simply buying a replacement, take the time to show her how to use things correctly. When a toy, game, or anything else is broken, see if it can be repaired, then make that process a lesson itself. Encourage your child to help you repair things and teach her how to do simple repairs herself.

Demonstrate how you personally take care of your family home, and encourage your children to do likewise on a daily basis. Draw their attention to the small details, such as picking up stray pieces of paper, beads, or other debris from the floor.

Beautiful toys
Children respond to the beauty of natural materials such as wood, silver, and brass. Select toys, tools, and other everyday items that your child will use on the basis of their appropriate size, ease of handling, and beauty. When you choose trays, pitchers, and other utensils for your child to use in everyday life skills, avoid cheap plastic things-look instead for the most attractive materials that you can find and afford. The aim is to design activities that will draw your child's interest and create a prepared home environment that is harmonious and beautiful.

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