Part 4: Montessori for toddlers (2-3 Years Old)

This is Part 4 of our series Montessori From Birth. 

Your child is reaching a stage in which they crave more independence so it is important to set up their environment to allow them to accomplish tasks independently which will translate into a greater self-esteem.  Set up an environment in a way which is easy for your child to succeed in accomplishing tasks on his own. 


Order in the environment is essential for a young child of 2 to 3 years old as it translates into their ability to develop their own sense of internal order.  Place toys of a set into individual baskets so that it is easy for your child to see what activity is available in each basket (for example, one basket contains play food, one basket contains wooden blocks, another basket contains pieces to a single puzzle, etc).  Your child will the be able to clearly see his choices for play without tearing everything out and creating a mess.  On the same note, this shows the child that he can choose one activity and then clean it back up into its appropriate basket before moving on to the next activity, which encourages your child to contribute to the order in their external environment.    


Allow your child two or three weather-appropriate options for their clothing each day.  This will ensure that regardless of the option they choose, it has been approved by you (So as to avoid a child wearing a swimsuit in the dead of winter) and also gives them a sense of independence and a sense of self in choosing what they would like to wear each day.  Help them dress and show them how to put on each garment.  Dressing frames are a wonderful tool for your child to become familiar with dressing themselves and how buttons, zippers, and snaps work.  


By now, you have developed a routine for your child to allow them to make sense of their day. This routine should now include bathroom time before bed, including potty time, washing their own hands and brushing their own teeth.  A stool is required for this so that your child can independently complete these bedtime routine tasks.  Everything your child needs to accomplish these tasks should be easily accessible to your toddler - A teeth brushing tray with the toothpaste on the left and toothbrush on the right,  an area for a brush to brush their own hair, a towel and soap nearby for easy handwashing, etc.  A towel rack that is low enough for your child to access their own towel and dry himself off after bath time is another great way to encourage the independence that your young toddler so deeply craves.  It is also wise to provide your child with a basket for them to place their bath toys into once bath time is complete.  When showing your child how to properly wash his hands, remember to have the materials (soap and a towel) nearby for easy access.  Show your child to turn the taps on just slightly to avoid wasting water.  Remember to exaggerate each step, moving slowly and pointing out that bubbles are made when creating friction to the tops of hands, palms and in between fingers.  Use emphasized motions when rinsing the bubbles and completely drying your hands also.  


Your child has been experiencing meals with the family since the beginning.  At this stage, your child will likely be on the same meal schedule as the rest of the family.  Provide a low drawer for your child to access his own dishes and utensils for meal times. Also, consider a weaning table like we talk about in this article.  



Your child has now had access to age-appropriate books his entire life.  His collection of books should include realistic images to teach your child how things really are.  Fantasy can be introduced after age three, according to Maria Montessori’s principles. Keep books on a low bookshelf that is easily accessible to your child at all times. Make it easy for them to grab and book and read. This is a great behavior to reinforce by not putting limits on their access.   

Practical Life

As previously stated, your child is craving independence and wants to help in the upkeep of their own environment.  Allow your child to be a part of all daily activities such as cooking, wiping up their own mess, putting dishes in the dishwasher, sweeping and mopping.  He will want to imitate.  First, explain to him and then show him what to do.  Always exaggerate your actions to show each detail of a task.  Your child will not be a perfect window cleaner or sweeper at this stage and that is not important.  Their effort is important and that is the part that should be communicated.  Rather than point out his flaws, praise his efforts.  Provide child-sized cleaning materials in a cleaning basket just for your child and keep them in a dedicated spot so he can find them easily. 

Food preparation with your child is an activity that meets the needs of children of any age. The beauty of it is that the difficulty can be increased as your child matures.  Provide your child with an environment that enhances learning abilities - giving them something real to be done with the hands, accompanied by mental concentration and integrated movements.  Whether it be raking leaves, cleaning windows, bathing a pet, driving nails into a log, washing the car or food preparation, an activity should have a full cycle with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Of course, it should also be enjoyable for the child.  Food preparation can be as simple as a child buttering their own toast, slicing their own bananas or washing produce.  For maximum success and safety for your child, prepare the activities beforehand in a tray or area with all of the tools required for them to work.  When showing your child each activity, remember not to show and talk simultaneously.  Tell how to accomplish the task.  Then, show how to accomplish the task.  After that, it is the child’s turn.  Do not intervene when the child is trying their turn.  Instead, take this as an indication that they should be shown the activity again.  Praise their efforts and show them again.  Be sure to use slow and deliberate motions so that the child can learn each step of the process.  


Your child’s language has really begun to flourish lately.  You find yourself noticing that your child is beginning to speak in complete sentences seemingly overnight and that his vocabulary has increased exponentially as well.  Support this habit by becoming a good language model - be deliberate with your vast vocabulary and tones used in conversation.  Talk to your child like you would another person (not in a baby voice).  Speak clearly so your child can absorb what you’re saying.  Rather than correcting a misarticulated word, simply model its proper use next time you use the world so as to avoid your child becoming fearful of trying new words.  Talk to your child in complete sentences about things and explain things in ways he or she will understand.  Remember that you are the best language model they can have.  

We feel that things are beginning to be lots of fun when your child turns this age. There is so much discovery and the sponge that is your child's brain is soaking up knowledge at incredible rate. Use this time to bond with your child and set precedents for how you want the next few years of their life to go. 

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