On this roller coaster of raising a child of surprise hills, bumps, and curves, one thing is for certain….the child from 0-6 craves independence. Dr. Montessori noted this in her Planes of Development chart as the child progresses towards “physical and biological independence.” The phrase “I do it” is heard endless times coming from a toddler. This is not a new phenomenon, this is not a new concept to children of the 21st century, this is something Dr. Montessori observed over 100 years ago, “Little children, from the moment in which they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.”
The independence that the child seeks comes at you like the crazy drop of the roller coaster. There is no stopping it, or avoiding it, just plunging straight into it. Thankfully, Dr. Montessori gave us the insight to expect it as we approach the drop “The child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his ‘natural development.’” Natural development…., just like that drop after the big upward hill, it is happening regardless, so why not prepare for it?
In the toddler environment, we prepare the classroom with the child’s independence as one of the main intents. We follow the guideline from Dr. Montessori. “The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”
You will notice low tables and chairs for the child to be able to sit in independently and without being impeded. Short shelves, so he can access any work that is available to him. Low cubbies so he can take care of his belongings. Pictures and labels to help with taking care of their own physical bathroom needs. Stools to aid in handwashing. Small pitchers to pour himself a drink. Access to a small toilet.
As you make that gradual and slow climb to the top of the first hill, you may have a sense of anticipation, dread, or excitement. The same is true as your child moves through the beginning of the first plane of development. Remember, just like the drop, growth of independence is a natural tendency in children. We brace for the drop by being prepared for it, go with the fast and fluid drop, then celebrate the success of surviving the first part of the ride.
Tune in next week for independence in the primary classroom.