(Author Ms.Nithya Ramachandran - Montessori Guide and Consultant)
If you have been following the Montessori method, you must have heard the phrase ‘follow the child’ a lot. By this we mean, to observe and understand the needs of the child and to create a physical and human environment to meet these needs. One of the observations Dr. Montessori made, was that we design schools and homes for adults. For a child, this environment is like entering a giant’s house. The Montessori philosophy was the first to change furniture in the classroom to child-sized ones so young children could be independent in using them and feel like the classroom belongs to them. We can extend this idea to the home as well where most of the furniture is adult sized, making it difficult for children to access and use independently.
While it may not always possible to change the furniture in all the rooms to accommodate our children, we can provide a work area for them in one part of the house with furniture that is developmentally suitable for them. The most essential components of a children’s work area are the work shelf and the work chair and table. While older children can even sit on the floor and work, toddlers need a work table and chair to attain a comfortable posture for working on activities and develop concentration.
The toddler work space can be set up either in the child’s room, the living room or even next to the area where the parents work. It should be a clutter free space with the work shelf with about 6-8 developmentally appropriate activities and the work table and chair placed close to the shelf. We encourage toddlers to choose one activity from the shelf and take it to the table (we can help with this step, initially), pull out the chair and sit on it, work with the material and then get off the chair and carry the material back to shelf. This sequence of steps takes time to process and master and we must collaborate with them and keep reminding them till they are able to do it on their own. The table itself should always be empty and available for the toddler to place an activity on it and work.
Here are some reasons having a work table and chair can be beneficial for your child’s growth and development.
- Toddlers thrive on order and having a designated work area builds into this sensitive period thereby enabling them to successfully navigate the environment.
- A child sized work table and chair provides children with the freedom to move their bodies and the furniture by themselves which further develops their self-confidence.
- Using a table and chair that is specifically designed for their size is good for their posture and physical development.
- When toddlers have a work area designed for easy accessibility, it increases their interest in working with material as well as their attention span.
- Having their own area for work makes toddlers feel a sense of belonging with the space as well as ownership for it.
- When toddlers have their own work chair and table. It encourages them to take care of it. We can set up practical life activities for wiping and cleaning the table and chair, fostering care for their environment in the toddler.
- A work table and chair set up in a quiet corner invites the toddler to sit and work on an activity or read by themselves, helping them to calm down and develop concentration.
- Their own work table and chair can develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, as they practice sitting, reaching, and manipulating objects on the furniture.
- Having their own work chair and table builds a sense of predictability and consistency in the toddler. When they know where they must go if they want to work and having the work space always ready for them build a sense of security and confidence.
- When toddlers have their own work table and chair, they don’t have to depend on the adult to help them use it and thereby they get more independent which increase their self-esteem and trust in the world.
Overall, the use of child-sized furniture in the Montessori method is intended to create an environment that is conducive to children's natural learning and development. By giving them own space to work in and furniture that is developed for them, we aren’t just helping their physical development but creating an environment promotes their psychological, emotional and intellectual growth.