An Inly Parent’s Perspective by Rachel Rich
We are back! The school year has officially kicked off and we are all working hard at getting back into a groove. The beginning of the year can be a challenge to get it all going at once and remember all the routines we want to implement. To help the process, here are six Montessori friendly practices and routines that will bridge our children’s school day with their home life and help to simplify our daily lives.
Lunch prep each evening.
This one routine significantly reduces morning stress! Pack as much as possible the night before, allowing children to help choose what they are interested in having, and leaving out necessary materials to finish up in the morning. Children love a sense of control. Involving them in their lunch preparation provides them with hands on learning experiences, quality time with caregivers, and an opportunity to care for themselves. If they are not quite ready to make selections that would meet adult approval, provide options. You can say something like, “You can choose a yogurt tube or cheese stick for your extra protein tomorrow. Which would you prefer?” Working together to prepare lunches will show children how to make food choices that are delicious and healthy. By prepping together the night before, children enjoy time with parents and mornings become lighter and easier for the family.
Drop off in the drop-off line (except TH children!).
This is a wonderful opportunity to provide children with independence in a safe and controlled environment. They are capable of walking in and going to their classrooms! When they do it themselves they develop confidence, resiliency, and independence. Also, by utilizing the drop off line, the transition from home to school is much smoother for everyone. The system works great because time is strategically limited. There is no time to dawdle. The window for drop off is twenty minutes and everyone has to get through the process, so the transition is quick and effective. And it is designed to be a pleasant experience! Children are greeted with smiles, music, and friendly faces to usher them out of the vehicle quickly and efficiently. Children practice independence, adults transition much more quickly.
Eat dinner as a family as often as possible.
Dinner together is an opportunity for families to connect. Throughout the day, family members go their separate ways living their individual lives. Coming together as often as possible is an important part of being a family. How dinner together looks can take many different forms. It can take place once a week, nightly, or may be week dependant. It can occur around a table, a kitchen island, or a fire-pit. What it looks like is not as important as it is taking place. When parents bring the family together regularly, children feel a sense of belonging and connection. They have a support network that is reliable and consistent and the family bond is strengthened.
Post a visible morning & evening checklist.
On each list should be the must-do’s before leaving the house and crawling into bed. Visible checklists help children to remember the myriad of tasks to complete each day, strengthening executive function practices in both children and adults. Checklists do not have to be complicated. They can be as simple as a list for the entire family or one personalized list for each member. Read the list aloud with children each day before leaving or heading to bed. Together, verbally check off the tasks completed and complete the ones left undone. Executive functioning is important for self-regulation, thoughtful decision making, managing impulses, and completing organizational tasks. By taking a few minutes each morning and evening to go through the responsibilities of the day, daily life runs smoother and family members develop a sense of responsibility for themselves and the family unit.
Limit access to technology and screens.
Unless the screen or technology is being used as a tool, such as, but not limited to, checking the weather, sending out an invitation, assisting special needs, or completing math homework online, it does not offer much added benefit to children’s development and is contradictory to the idea of providing children with authentic, natural, and nature inspired environments. Allow children to use screens and technology for fun in age appropriate time increments and at predetermined times. In order to enjoy their screen time, all responsibilities should be completed beforehand. This will encourage children to develop an understanding of how to incorporate screens and technology into their lives and teach them a healthy ratio of tangible-real life to screen-based life.
Schedule unstructured free time.
Provide a time each day, when children are at home, where they are not obligated to any particular task. This is an opportunity for them to choose how they will utilize their time in a way that is most useful to them. They may need time to decompress, to think, or to close their eyes. They may need a snack or might want to play with a toy that they’ve been wanting to play with, explore outside, or just be bored. Children process much of what they experience through play and boredom. This down time is critical to children developing a sense of who they are and how they fit into this world. This unstructured time can be 15-30 minutes each day or a couple of hours. The weekends are great for setting aside windows of time to allow children to be present in their environment without obligation. Adults also need time to think, decompress, and re-energize. This time benefits everyone in the family and should be a priority!
The beginning of the year is an exciting time for children and parents. By implementing some simple routines that support our lives together and our children’s development, we set ourselves up for a smoother and more delightful year. Good luck! Please share in the comments other Montessori friendly routines that your family finds helpful!