Great parenting requires you to challenge your natural tendencies.
Some of us lean towards being more passive or controlling when it comes to raising kids. But wherever you are on this spectrum, Maria Montessori’s famous quote "The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” is a great reminder that our children need both the security of boundaries, the anchor of our unconditional love and the freedom to explore, discover, fail and keep on trying.
No matter our natural tendencies, that Montessori saying means we need to work at giving our kids more than just what our natural tendencies have to offer. Practically what does this look like though?
Here’s four ways to put into practice that idea of giving young children roots and wings:
Involve your kids in looking after their own health & hygiene
Montessori herself in her original Casa dei Bambini (Children’s house) placed a big emphasis on learning how to take care of your physical wellbeing from a young age. While that included lots of physical activity, and cleaning and looking after the space around you for slightly older children, personal hygiene was also a major part of her philosophy.
It is a key part of why GRASP products are all about involving children in the process of washing and looking after their own skin health and hygiene. Involving kids in washing their own hands, washing themselves in the bath or helping a sibling do the same helps them discover, grow in confidence and be self-motivated to learn in the future.
All this is much easier to do with the right tools. Montessori’s first school changed up the furniture to make it light and practical for children to use and move around – a huge change from what it had been previously.
Our GRASP Pebbl brush for example, does something similar. It puts the power of bath time in kids’ hands because it’s designed specifically to make it easier for kids to be able to wash. It’s ergonomic with a wrist strap, it stores and dispenses soap from inside the brush and it’s safe to chew, for younger babies that like to chew everything!
Giving kids the right tools is crucial to involving them in looking after their own health and hygiene too, but the reward is that they grow in autonomy, body awareness and confidence in how to look after themselves.
Design the right play environment at home that gives them freedom
As parents we have an amazing opportunity to create a space that allows our kids the freedom to explore and discover toys and play for themselves. The storage we use, the toys we give them the space we allocate for them – it all matters when it comes to how confident our kids can be in trying things for themselves. If you use furniture that always means kids need to ask permission to play, you limit their freedom to discover and be create with the games they play.
Alternatively, if you create a totally exclusionary space for play and don’t allow integration with the rest of your life, you lose the opportunity to encourage them and extend their imaginary world into the very real world around them.
Choosing the right furniture therefore becomes really important. We wrote about some great kids’ furniture options that inspire kids’ confidence here.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to create the right space that integrates your child’s play into the rest of the house, you don’t need to look much further than Totter & Tumble. Stylish enough to have in any room of your house and safe enough to let your baby roam more freely
All time is an opportunity, don’t wait for ‘quality’ time
If you’re waiting for a space, or an age, or the right time of the day or week to help shape and instruct your kids to build their confidence, you’ve already missed the chance.
What I love about Montessori, is the appreciation that learning isn’t something done to kids. It’s something that you involve yourself and something you involve them in, no matter what you or they are doing. To put in succinctly: opportunity to build your kid’s confidence is all around you.
Their play, your work outs, their bath time, your family mealtime. This list of mundane or ‘garbage time’ as Ryan Holiday calls it, is endless, but it amounts to the vast proportion of time we get with our kids. So much can be done with this time, and it shouldn’t be overlooked while you wait for some more ‘precious’ time.
That’s why thinking about the space your child plays in, the tools they use at mealtimes (checkout these baby-led weaning tools that help your baby learn to feed themselves) or just opportunities they have to climb higher or brush their teeth are so important. It’s about understanding that no matter what time of day and what you’re doing, there are ways to give your kids wings and encourage them to try.
While there is plenty in the Montessori method that includes practical tips for how to set up a space, use different tools or toys that encourage creativity and freedom, there’s also less tangible help you can give your kids.
We’ve talked about here about the importance of encouraging your child to say 'hello' to other adults. We make a big deal of mealtimes as a place to talk and listen and we emphasise kindness as a way to get our kids empathising with others and growing in curiosity about other people’s perspective.