“He who is served is limited in his independence.” Dr. Maria Montessori

I recently added this ‘Practical Life’ shelf to our kitchen. Creating a home environment that serves the child is critical for his optimal development and independence. My children are grown, but I work privately with local children in my home each week. The addition of this shelf has been so well-received by them.

An accessible shelf designed for the child’s needs lets him know we believe he is capable. And it is a powerful message. I make small changes to it each week, based on the individual child’s abilities, making sure everything is within his reach: utensils, glasses, dishes, cloths for spills, snack choices, tap and drinking water and a few practical life activities. Most importantly, he can help himself. When the child is ‘set up’ to succeed, he is developing self-esteem and confidence.

Regardless of the age or stage of his early development, the environment can have as great an impact on the child as the adult guiding him. This impact can be realized during any period of interaction with either or both. The child’s greatest learning takes place when he is able to to actively participate in an environment prepared for him and one that safely allows for him to do things for himself. His innate need to learn should be assisted by the adult, not extinguished by serving him.

Dr. Montessori’s lasting message is clear, “These words reveal the child’s inner needs: ‘Help me to do it alone'”.

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