Thursday, February 28, 2008

Care of Self: Nose Blowing


Providing a mirror for young children to admire themselves is a good way to buy yourself 5 to 10 minutes of time :)
Seriously, there is nothing my Little One enjoys more than checking himself out in the mirror!

When I brought this mirror out yesterday, my little guy had a bit of a runny nose. Upon noticing this in the mirror he got himself a tissue and wiped his nose, he then checked his reflection in the mirror to make sure his nose was clean. As I observed him I was reminded of a story.

One day, when Montessori came to see how the children where getting on, she decided to give them what was at that time a rather unusual lesson--on how to blow one's nose. After explaining first of all how it should not be done she showed them how to do it as politely as possible, with as little noise as one could, and taking out the handkerchief unobtrusively so that the action remains more or less unnoticed. The children followed her demonstration with silent interest. When the lesson was quite finished they all together broke into a burst of genuine and heartfelt applause, clapping their hands "as when in a theatre a great actress evokes an ovation repressed with difficulty." she later said.
Montessori was completely amazed at this sudden demonstration of emotion, until all at once its true significance dawned on her. The question she had touched upon--keeping
one's nose clean--was one which children too often associate with discipline and humiliation. People are perpetually complaining to children about their noses being dirty. Making remarks, such as "Blow your nose, Billy." "Why don't you use your handkerchief, you dirty boy," etc. But no one had ever quietly and calmly taught them how to do it, without attacking them or criticizing them at the same time.
Okay,
I have a confession, when I ran my child care center in Massachusetts I kept the box of tissues on a high shelf in the bathroom. I did this without giving it much thought. I expect I just thought it was my job to recognize when the children needed a tissue and to care for them when they did. I would provide the older child with a tissue, and assist the younger child with their nose, by wiping it for them. I really don't recall giving this much thought at all. I will say when I began working at a Montessori School the fact that each room had its very own tissue box on a low shelf, was one of the very first things I noticed when looking around the classroom.
I remember noticing this and mentioning it to the Director; she went on to explain the story I have just shared with you. I left that day full of so much new and exciting information about Montessori and this new school I had found myself teaching art at. My head was spinning and I was so happy to be part of a place that valued children so much. But, a three year old blowing his own nose impressed me most of all!
Later, during my formal Montessori training when the instructor began sharing the "Nose Blowing Lesson Story" with all of us, I smiled to myself already knowing what she would say.
Now my not yet two year old can blow his own nose! I've come a long way in my own learning, as a mother and as a teacher. As Montessori would say, children are the true teachers.
In PEACE
~~MM

9 comments:

Julie said...

what tips can you give to help a preschooler understand "blow" vs. "suck"? My lil guy thinks he's blowing but sucks it back up his nose. We've tried blowing in water (with mouth) to explain exhale/blow...but he just doesn't get it.

writinggb said...

What a wonderful story! I love Montessori stories -- such an amazingly insightful and kind woman. Thanks for sharing that anecdote.

Sadaf Trimarchi said...

Yet another awesome post! I love the suggestion of a mirror, and the practical points of explaining actions we want our children to learn. I'm working on one with my son (rinsing his mouth after brushing his teeth). It's funny how some things we take for granted become more complicated when we have to explain them in simple terms.

Keep up the great work!

S

Montessori Mama said...

Thanks for the comments!
Understanding the difference: "blow" vs. "suck". Have you tried blowing bubbles? With Easter coming up you can probably pick up a container of bubbles at a CVS or supermarket. Practicing blowing bubbles in the bath tub is fun way to work on this skill. Other "blow" ideas: making music with a recorder or kazoo,pushing a pom-pom around the dinner table with a drinking straw, and with parent supervision (obviously) blowing out birthday candles (hey it's an excuse to make up a batch of cup cakes or muffins :)right?)
By mastering "blow" there really in no need to practice "suck" the difference between the two will become obvious with trial and error. (this is more successful when done in a playful way rather than during swim class for example) You can also model for him, the difference between the two by using a drinking straw in a glass of water. You drink it when you "suck", you make bubbles when you "blow".
I hope this helps.
In PEACE
~~MM

plaidshoes said...

We keep a mirror next to the kleenex box in our classroom. I will often see kids checking out their nose blowing success!

Thanks for the kind comments at my blog - I hope you also have a peaceful weekend!

Melissa said...

What a great post! O loves to look in the mirror, too, and she's quite good at blowing her nose. I never thought of letting her look in the mirror while blowing her nose. I'm sure she'll love it. Thanks!

S144 said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your message on nose blowing! I'm sending the link to all of my (grown) children. But please, please, PLEASE remove the apostrophe in the word its, as it appears in the following excerpt:
"...that each room had it's very own tissue box on a low shelf..."
Normally I wouldn't mention it, but a teacher truly needs to maintain her credibility, and I sense that you are a fine teacher, indeed!

Triebenbachs said...

I love the idea and had never really thought about how we ask kids to do something but don't really take the time to show them how first. But I have one question about the nose blowing and kleenex boxes low: what do you do about the kids who just empty the entire box as a game? I have made a couple of "kleenex box" toys with fabric and a wipes container but it doesn't deter them from emptying the actual kleenex box.

Jennifer Howard said...

Sorry, to take so long to respond to your question...
how to distract from the game aspect of tissue boxes.
What I have done:
fill an empty tissue box with bits of scarves/fabric...then allow the children to empty that box as a game (and re-fill it of course). So, flash forward when the child begins to empty the real tissue box, you can redirect them to the play tissue box you've created. I also did this with baby wipes for doll play. *Parents need a warning if you do this in a toddler classroom, it's easy enough to do at home too.
Hope this helps.
J

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