I was inspired to make our own list after seeing Natural Beach Living’s list here.
There’s no particular order for these, but I am adding tips on how to help your child succeed with each activity.
1. Wash dishes
In the Philippines, we wash dishes with our hands. Work with just one plate or cup or utensil first. Don’t put a lot of things in front of the child – just little soap, sponge, and the item to be washed.
2. Pour own drink
Before giving the pitcher for pouring, measure the water in the pitcher. It might have a lot more than the cup for pouring, and the tendency would be for the toddler to pour all. Make sure the water in the pitcher isn’t more than the size of the cup to avoid overflowing of water.
Let them wipe. Wipe the table. Wipe their noses. Wipe their mouth. For wiping tables/surfaces, choose a cloth / mop that absorbs liquid quickly. For wiping their noses and mouths, choose gentle cloths that don’t feel rough on their faces.
4. Wear/ Take off shoes
Choose shoes that are easier to wear, such as velcro snaps instead of laces.
5. Clean the floor with walis/ walis ting-ting!
Use a child-sized walis. We got ours from Baguio. There are lots in Tagaytay, too. You can also find child-sized walis and dustpan from Sidcor Market in QC. For walis ting-ting, we just break the adult-sized ones into half.
6. Pick fruits
Choose ones that are easy for starters – calamansi and kamias are my toddler’s favorites. These trees are so friendly for young children’s heights, too!
7. Do self-care
When taking a bath, you can encourage your child to try washing his/her own body. You can start with hands. We tend to buy liquid soap for our infants and toddlers, but I’ve found switching to a bar soap helps a lot with their independence because you can leave it with them without worrying about them spilling all the liquid soap! For washing hands in general though, you may also transfer your liquid soap into a cologne-type of container. It’s easy to open and the liquid spills quickly – easier to use than the pump kind of container. After bathing, you can also encourage independence by allowing your toddler to comb his/her hair, brush his/her teeth (have a turn atleast), drying him/herself with a towel, etc.
8. Eat without adult help
Search for baby-led weaning tips online. This approach has helped us and our child really enjoy our mealtime. To help them eat on their own, you may start giving food that’s easy to pick and eat – like carrots steamed and thinly sliced, or potatoes cut up like fries instead of mashed. Use child-sized utensils, too (for spoons, you can use teaspoons or spoons used to stir coffee).
10. Do Kitchen Work Without Cutting/ Chopping
There are many kitchen activities you can do without using a knife. I know how scary that sounds at first. If you’re not ready, I wrote a whole article on activities you can do instead. Read about it HERE.
11. Make Own Snack
Whether it’s opening a container for crackers, twisting the container to make cereal/ nuts come out, getting fruits from the fridge or peeling/ opening them, or spreading peanut butter on bread, think of how you can encourage your child to prepare his/her own snacks. Think of what s/he likes eating and how you can prepare it to help him/her succeed in doing the rest of the work.
12. Have Quiet Time
Our modern lifestyle can be too noisy and busy. Allowing our child to just slow down, relax, and do “nothing” is more beneficial than we think! We can also help them by having this calm, quiet time with them – we can close our eyes, or maybe play some calming music (think beach waves, or forest sounds, etc).
13. Go barefoot
Maria Montessori was an advocate of this. One of my favorite quotes of hers is this: “Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping.“
14. Cut with child-sized scissors
The easiest to cut would be fresh clay! It’s therapeutic, too. Try it!
15. Sort items by categories
Do you have play animals? You can sort it according to habitat, or countries where you can find them. Do you have play vehicles? You can sort it by color, or by kind. You can also sort by whether you find it in water, land, or sea. Look at what you have, and think of how they can be sorted by categories.
16. Match items
Match socks, shoes, memory game tiles, pencils, food, etc! You can also match your toys with photos (you can print photos or look for books where you can match your existing toys).
17. Free Art!
You can experiment with colors and brushes, or other art materials. No agenda on what particular art to make – leave the materials out and let the child do the work! For starters though, you can start with just one or two colors to avoid turning everything into black or brown.
18. Arrange Clothes/ Art Materials
You can ask your child to help you arrange his/her cabinet, or his/her art caddy by placing controls of error before asking your child to participate. Example: If you want his/her help in arranging clothes, maybe you can put photos in each container to help your child know which items go to which boxes. A photo of t-shirts for the t-shirt box, a photo of diapers for the diaper box, etc. Same goes for the art caddy – put colored stickers to indicate which items go to which side (the easiest would be to organize them by color).
19. Prepare food
Whether it’s adding greens to your sandwich, or cooking something easy like eggs, this is an activity many children are simply drawn to. Let them!
20. Do Music Exploration
You can curate a CD with good music. Then allow your child to operate the CD on his/her own. You can also explore instruments, or even make your own, such as wind chimes or glass xylophones!
21. Smell Food/ Plants
You can smell and even look for the matching smell of food. Check out my quick and easy DIY smelling jars HERE.
22. Feed pets
If you have pets, this is a great way to introduce care of environment. Ask your child to scoop the food and offer it to your pet.
23. Water plants
Choose plants that love water. Toddlers tend to overwater. This just makes the maintenance easier for both and your child.
24. Go outdoors
Go on a nature walk. Head to the park. Visit a nearby beach or river. Go wildlife watching. Anything that connects you to nature, it will be good for your child…and also nourish you.
25. Move, move, move
When people think of Montessori, we tend to think of shelves and fine motor work. But you to refine your fine motor skills, you first need to refine your gross motor skills. Go to the playground, the nearby field, or wherever your child can really move around – crawl, jump, brachiate, walk, run, push – toddlers and young children love all sort of maximum effort work. Note: Tumbling is important for their balance!
Choose books with realistic images and stories! Toddlers love reading books they can relate to – so concepts that they encounter in their daily life will be a hit! Oh, and let them flip the pages as much as possible.
27. Letter Sounds Game
Instead of teaching the alphabet by teaching them the Alphabet Song, start introducing letters by their sounds. “Can you give me a fruit here that starts with /a/”? Then just put out 2-3 choices. Before letting them choose, name the items together.
28. Arrange Items By Sequence/ Order
You can gather sticks, or pencils, or whatever similar items you have at home and arrange according to the following: small-smaller-smallest | large-larger-largest | tall-taller-tallest | long-longer-longest |
29. Do posting work
One of my toddler’s favorites – and you can keep changing the items depending on your child’s skills and interests. Click HERE to read my article about this.
30. Let children be.
This last one is actually for YOU, dear parent. Of course, freedom has its limits. Maria Montessori called this freedom within limits – but the rule I always try to remember (which might help you) is to remove the dangerous to allow the risk. When fixing our home, I try to keep that in mind – instead of childproofing our place, I make it child-friendly. Plugs are usually covered, and I have put nets on our electric fans because we use electric fans a lot (just impossible with Southeast Asian heat not to), but other than those, we don’t put a lot of childproofing – no foams on our walls, floor beds instead of bed rails, etc. At the end of the day, I find we learn most about our children when we take time to observe rather than judge and criticize. Before I interrupt my son’s activity (especially when I don’t know or understand what he’s doing), I try to step back and watch. Many times, I learn WHY simply by watching him, or asking him what he’s doing. This step has been so helpful in our journey, and I hope it encourages and helps you, too. Let me end this post with Magda Gerber’s quote (RIE founder whose principles are very compatible with Montessori): “Do less, observe more, enjoy most.”