How To Teach Independence In Montessori

“I want to do it myself!” I cannot even count how many times I hear this every day from my increasingly independent three-year-old daughter. Most of the time I marvel at the tasks she wants to undertake: getting dressed, pouring her cereal, packing her lunch, getting on her coat and shoes, feeding the dogs, etc. And most of the time I’m very good at providing opportunities – and time – for her to tackle these tasks, making both her and me feel good about our abilities.

Independence Starts When They Can Walk

However, a child’s path toward independence is often slow and messy. Learning to walk – the first great independence -- is full of falls and scares (more for mom than for baby). And it is a slow and unsteady process. Even when they accomplish vertical independence, their rate of forward motion impels us to pick them up and carry them if we want to get anywhere on time. Learning to feed herself is a second (and very messy) step towards independence. Graduating from hands to utensils is a major success of coordination and development. However, as most of my friends will attest, if we want to finish dinner before breakfast, we often wind up feeding our child.


How To Teach Independence To Young Children

Maria Montessori believed that every child is born with a potential for independence. Unfortunately, the child’s yearning for independence often clashes with the way we adults want things done. We want it done well but more importantly, we want it done quickly! And in some cases we want it done right (flashbacks of my dogs eating the bowl of leftover stuffing and the bowl of leftover jello that my daughter gave them come to mind).

The “done quickly” part is one I am guilty of too often. I recently increased my hours at work and between that and trying to get ready for the upcoming holidays, I feel like I am always about 10 minutes and 10 steps behind where I would like to be. When my daughter wants to put on her own snow pants and snow boots in the morning, it’s everything I can do to bite my tongue and let her do it. To watch painstakingly as she tries on the left boot, then goes back to the right boot, then goes back to the left. To not dive in and grab the two flaps of her jacket as she struggles to put the one part of the zipper into the other part of the zipper and pull it up tight. And don't get me started on cutting her own hair. Down to the scalp ;)


“Every unnecessary help is a hindrance to development.”
--Dr. Maria Montessori


This is an important concept for all Montessori parents to embrace. Our children will never sweep a floor as well or as quickly or as thoroughly as we can. But how will they ever learn unless they try?


Is Independence Worth The Extra Time?

Helping our children by letting them help themselves is the greatest gift we can give to our children. It is not only accomplishing the task – which gives rise to feelings of competence -- but it is the feeling of confidence that comes because he or she knows that we believe in them. When we tell our children that they can achieve anything they set their hearts and minds to, they believe us because we have been their cheerleaders for independence and success. Here at White Bear Montessori, every child is given the opportunity to learn independence through every day work and play. If you would like to see this development in action, give us a call to setup an appointment to visit a classroom. You will then be able to decide for yourself if it is worth the few extra minutes and a little bigger mess than normal to foster independence.  

Danielle Cloe