It is during nursery school years, between the ages of 2 and 6, that it is essential to develop a young child’s autonomy. Favor a child’s self-sufficiency means developing his self-confidence. He will feel more independent from the adult and feel capable of doing things on his own. This is why a lot of Montessori schools use the motto: “Help me to do things on my own”.
It is also an age when the child really wants to do things “on his own”. It is a sensitive period towards self-sufficiency and a moment when his personality is building up.
If you want your child to acquire self-confidence, it is really the right time.
In nursery classes at the Ecole Internationale Montessori Athéna, we favor methods that will enable the child do a maximum on his own. You can do the same at home.
Use shoes with scratches so that the child can put them on by himself.
To put on and take off his coat, follow these steps: put the coat in front of your child, up side down so that the collar is on his side, the exterior of the coat placed on the floor. Clear off the sleeves so that he can fit his hands inside and throw his coat over his head. That’s all there is to it! He put on his coat by himself!
The furniture in the class and in his bedroom must be made in such a way that he can grab things on his own.
You can also build a sink especially for your child. That way, he will be able to wash his hands, his teeth, his face and comb his hair on his own.
In school, we have no cafeteria. A child must not be served. The moment of the meal is a part of the Montessori method. A child must know how to set the place mat, how to set the table, how to open his lunch box, how to get his meal out, how to set it on the table, how to eat the food in the right order and then put everything away and clean the table.
In our nursery classes at the Ecole Montessori Internationale Athéna, the child in full autonomy can do all exercises involving the environment.
The child chooses his exercise, brings the platter to the table or to the rug, does his exercise and then puts the platter back on the shelf. He does not wait for instructions from the teacher. He decides on his own what he is going to do.
In a class, a child must be able to find things on the shelf on his own. This will help him develop his autonomy. Some exercises which will help are as follows: pour the contents of a jar into another porcelain or glass jar, pour with a spoon, cut out fruits with a small knife, clean the table, the chair, the shelves, use a feather duster, arrange flowers, take care of them, take care of small animals… and so on. Use easy clothes and shoes to wear too.
To develop his self-confidence, it is essential to teach him how to act in society, and find his place as a “little man”: to be polite, to look at the adult without fear, to know how to speak clearly (teach him vocabulary), to know when to speak and not to interrupt others. All of this can be taught during collective moments in the class. It is also essential to insist on good manners during the meal: to wait for everyone to start eating, to eat correctly with a knife and fork, to thank others when receiving, and not to say “I do not like this” or “it is not good”, but rather “no thank you”.
All of these exercises will make the child proud of himself, a little being that adults will appreciate. These good habits will serve him all life long.
To develop autonomy and self-confidence, the young child must also learn how to read (with small script letters). He will therefore be able to read everything that is around him: books, street signs, store signs, words on products, on newspapers, on boards…
Can you imagine the sense of self-confidence, of freedom and of autonomy your child will feel when he notices that he does not need an adult to do everything for him? On the contrary, the poor children who rely on the adult to do everything for them develop a sense of insecurity as soon as they have to do things on their own. If the adult is not there, nothing is possible anymore. They are the kids that cry in schools, or in supermarkets because the familiar face is gone, and they are lost.
When I talk about learning how to read, I also mean numbers because they are present everywhere.
One last important thing is to teach them about the world they live in because sometimes the unknown scares them. In our nursery classes, the child finds a lot of material that teaches him about geography, history, science (flowers, animals…) On that particular subject, I will soon write an article because it is easy to be taught at home.