Andrew: My post on Session 2 took much longer to craft than Session 1 as the second session was so rich, with so much to process, with a great blend of theory and practical. Before I go on, shout out to my amazing wife for taking care of Emmy so I could attend this session as our childcare arrangements fell through! Thanks Dear!
In terms of theory, there were two main concepts covered during the session:
- Prime times: This concept builds on the fact that the child from 0-6 has an incredibly absorbent mind. It refers to periods of time where the child has strong inclinations for learning certain things and strong interests for particular activities and experiences. It is sometimes referred to as ‘sensitive periods’, ‘critical periods’ or ‘windows of opportunities’. During these ‘prime times’, the child is more efficient at building the necessary neural connections for learning; once the prime time is over, the brain can still make those acquisitions, but it is never done with the same joy, perfection and ease.
- Prepared environment: In order to leverage children’s ‘prime times’, the prepared environment is thus important to encourage the child’s exploration and give the brain what it needs best to develop. It ensures the child can have repeated experiences to build strong synaptic connections for life. (See our children’s bedroom and the rest of our London home)
Following the theoretical portion, we went on to the practical aspects, where we split into groups to discuss how we can ensure that our morning routine (from waking up till leaving home for school) encourages independence for our children. Here’s a summary of the tips suggested during the discussion, accompanied by links to illustrate how we practise some of these in our home either in Singapore or here in London.
- Enable your child to get out of bed on his/her own, e.g. use floorbeds or remove one side of the cot.
- Wear clothing that does not restrict movement, e.g. not a sleepsack.
- Consider using a Gro Clock to help your child understand sleeping and waking timings.
- Have a clear, unobstructed path to the toilet.
- Place a stool within easy reach so your child can turn on the light.
- Your child should be able to access all his/her washing up items, e.g. toothbrush, face towel. Place a child-height mirror, so your child can see himself brushing teeth. (See our post on our bathroom set up.)
- Teach your child to change his night diaper (standing up makes diaper change easier)
- Breakfast selection: Place on a child-height table/trolley so your child can self-serve.
- Breakfast preparation: Possible ways to get your child involved – teach him/her to operate the toaster, pour milk into cereal, spread jam or butter (use metal knife as plastic knives snap), beat eggs.
- Breakfast clean-up: Get your child to clear their bowls/plates and place them in the sink/ dishwasher.
See our uploaded videos on Dylan preparing eggs and our Montessori-friendly kitchen.
- Pre-select the clothes in agreement with your child the night before and lay them out in an accessible area so they can dress themselves in the morning. Offer limited choices.
- As a general principle, buy clothes that are easily pulled on and off to enable self-dressing e.g. tops should have easily distinguishable front and back and no closures at the back, and bottoms should have elastic waists instead of fiddly zips or buttons
Two points to note regarding the tips:
- Given how rushed mornings can be, it is not always practical to do everything on the list. With an awareness of what can be done, you can then tailor your morning routine to encourage independence in a way that suits your lifestyle and children the best.
- In areas where your child is still unable to be fully independent, collaborate to help your child gradually gain confidence and move towards independence. For instance, you do one step and ask your child to do the next.
For ease of reference, we’ve also created this image with all the tips:
It was a fruitful session and I’ve really been applying the part about getting the children to take more ownership over self-dressing. We’ll be looking at how we can encourage independence when the child returns home from school in the next session.
Do visit our Practical Life album on Facebook to see how we have been facilitating our children’s independence.