Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Everyday Living....and yummy soup!

"Let ME do it!" how many of us have heard this familiar phrase when trying to complete a task such as cooking or even when we are lifting something heavy? Our children's interest in work comes about through their tendency to imitate what their parents and older siblings are up to. Often it is the youngest child who cries out to help with pushing the vacuum, pulling weeds in the garden, washing the family dog. When your child exhibits this kind of behavior, it is the ideal time to let him/her work along with you, particularly in the kitchen, a sensorial haven for children with good things to smell, taste and feel. When you are cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, gardening, washing the car, or other everyday tasks, let your child join in.
Let your child:
  • scrub potatoes
  • spread peanut butter on celery
  • make meatballs
  • roll pie dough
  • beat eggs
  • grease pans for baking
  • use a cookie cutter
  • arrange cut flowers in a vase
  • fold napkins
  • match socks
  • dust window sills
  • wash car bumpers
  • scrub brush the deck
  • water household plants
The key to the success of this is providing appropriate sized tools for the task--broom, mop, carpet sweeper, sponges, dustpan and brush--provide your child with items they can use to feel successful. (See LINK list: For Small Hands) Perhaps the essence of Montessori's theories on this subject can be expressed by her insight that an adult works to perfect the environment, but a child works to perfect being itself. (from The Secret of Childhood p.217)According to Montessori, a child's work is to create the adult he or she will become. Each little task, especially if it is self-chosen, contributes to his development.

That doesn't mean that a child should never play. Play is a vital part of a child's life. it's just that children usually don't differentiate between play such as having a teddy bear tea party and actually working at a task such as sweeping up crumbs. Montessori believed that sometimes even more than play, children enjoy challenging tasks that increase their concentration, coordination, competence and ultimately their independence.

Each year the Cornerspring Children's House celebrates the Fall Harvest with Stone Soup. We read the story Stone Soup as a group and talk about how we could create our very own Cornerspring Stone Soup! The children are asked to contribute whatever they can, a 1/4 cup of corn, a bay leaf, a fist full of green beans...this is their soup, they come up with the ingredient list, including of course the Special ingredient from the story.

Leading up to the big day, different cultural versions of the Stone Soup story are read, original artistic place mats are created, the classroom is decorated with seasonal objects the children collect and arrange such as: acorns, colorful leaves, gourds, pumpkins etc., bread is made, songs are practiced. It's a wonderful time of anticipation. Stone Soup day, the children arrive with their soup contributions and full of excitement to be part of the process of making soup. What could be better than that?

They start the morning completing various tasks: table scrubbing, folding napkins, dusting, bread slicing...next the soup is prepared: carrots are scrubbed, peeled and cut, potatoes too, broth starts to bubble, beans and pasta are added to the pot...next the tables are arranged, children carry chairs and put them around the table making sure every person has a seat, table cloths and napkins are put out, bowls, silverware, vases with flowers, place mats...when the soup is ready, everyone is invited to sit down and share the special (and delicious!) soup together. "It tastes soooo good"the children will say, "The best soup I've ever tasted!" "It's because of the Special Ingredient." I tell them. [The special ingredient for those of you who have not read the story is...'Sharing'.] Often parents will tell us that their child has never eaten veggie soup before this day. It's a wonderful day.

Okay, so maybe it's a little bit early to be talking about Stone Soup, it usual happens around the Thanksgiving holiday. But it helps me explain the importance of allowing children to be part of everyday life. They WILL rise to the occasion, you'll see. They will love every minute of it. And so will you.
[SEE my previous post: Prac
tical Life for a more detailed description or this area of a Montessori classroom]

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