I do not consider myself a very observant person. One of the core tenets of Montessori is, however, to follow the child. Observe what the child needs, what can further the child’s fulfillment of self. Naturally, as the mother, I find my child much more interesting and worthy of my observation. So I try. To understand. It is like observing an alien creature. And I have to constantly remind myself that he is a new human being who does not come with all the structure and knowledge that I have accumulated over the years.
I imagine that, though he will likely not remember most of the events before 4 or 5 years old, his mind is building the shelves for which future memories and capacities will rest. So this time is critical – for him to establish a sense of calm, order, and love. For him to experience touch, smell and light in a way that he never will be able to again when he is all grown up and used to filtering sensations.
Anyway, today after breakfast I was showing and asking him to wipe up his table with me. I know that toddlers are not goal oriented and need to practice at their own pace, but I still want to have things cleaned up quickly. I took a towel and showed him how I dabbed it in water from the sink, then I went to wipe up the sticky food bits on his table. I asked him to try, but all he wanted to do was take the towel and walk away. And he got very upset when I wouldn’t let him. When I finally did (after scrubbing off the most egregious sticky bits), he walked away with the towel, went to his little sink (what might be a bidet), and proceeded to wet the whole towel, then came back towards the table, calm, satisfied, with a dripping towel.
I realized at this point that he was ready, had probably been ready a while ago, for proper cleaning exercises. From reading stuff, and the Montessori consultation by Stephanie Woo, I had learnt that we needed some small tools for him to clean up: a small bucket that he could easily get water with (or we get water for him, until he knows to not put too much water in), a small sponge or scrub, and a basket of folded, clean cloth towels (we already have a bucket where he puts dirty cloth diapers and towels in).
It is amazing how many towels this kid goes through, what with potty training, water fascination and food.
I had actually been waiting for until we get his little dining cabinet, where he can have his eating utensils, placemat and cleaning up stuff all stored together. But his growing up can’t wait. So I’m going to get together as much as this stuff as possible now, and introduce them gradually.