Motherhood

5 Things Nursery School Taught Me

Toddles Montessori Tips

My two-year-old started school this fall and he’s full of surprising new knowledge. “Snails only have one foot, Mommy,” he pointed out when I tried (clumsily) to draw a portrait of the classroom pet. But, true to parenting form, I think I’ve gained as much wisdom as he has. His teachers, who use the Montessori method, have decades of experience with little ones and I’ve picked up so many tips. Here are five that were especially thought-provoking…

On please and thank you. Parents often encourage toddlers to use pleasantries like please and thank you, but the head teacher says that’s less important than teaching them to ask nicely — without shouting, demanding or whining — and directly, with eye contact. In her view, most two-year-olds can’t yet understand the meaning of please or thank you (they’re just words), but they can understand the difference between saying “more crackers” nicely and not.

On self-care. One of Montessori’s tenets is teaching children how do practical things themselves. There are many dimensions to this, but my favorite is the water pitcher. A covered pitcher is always available next to a stack of durable glasses and a small towel. The kids learn to help themselves whenever they need a drink. And if they spill a little, no big deal — a towel is right there so they can clean up. (Jasper loves pouring water for himself and everyone else.)

On referring to classmates. All the kids at school are taught to call their classmates “friends,” which is so sweet. For young children who are still getting their sea legs socially (and might find memorizing a bunch of new names challenging), being able to say, “I played with a friend!” at the end of the day is empowering. Jasper tells me, “I have eight different friends in my class!”

On praising toddlers. There are a ton of different philosophies about how to praise kids, but when Jasper does something great, we tend to overreact. “Great job!” I’ll say. Or “Wow, that’s amazing!” His teachers at school have a more matter-of-fact way of praising that Jasper really responds to. They’ll acknowledge his work (“You made a picture!”) and offer praise that’s specific rather than general. “I like how you drew the tree so tall,” they’ll say. The idea is that this encourages kids to think and talk about their about their own work, and to appreciate its merits on their own, rather than always looking to others for approval.

On diaper duty. Our school leaves potty training (and its timeline) up to parents and kids, but they help support the process and have a specific point of view: Always change toddlers’ diapers in the bathroom, standing up. Anything solid in the diaper gets flushed down the toilet and kids wash their hands after being changed. When we learned this on parents’ night, all of us collectively slapped our foreheads. What a sensible way to start showing little kids what the bathroom is all about. It instantly sets them on the path to potty training.

What has your kids’ school taught you about parenting? Do you do any of these things? I’d love to hear.

P.S. Toddlers in the kitchen and how to teach your child not to interrupt.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Amanda says...

    What a great post! My oldest went to a Montessori school last year in NC and it was the best experience. We all learned so much and she really thrived in that class setting. I am on the hunt for one now that we are in Brooklyn. Can you recommend any?

  2. I worked in a Montessori school with infants and toddlers for a few years and this post brings me right back to all of the things I loved so much about it! The biggest thing I learned during my time at this school is that kids (even babies) are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Things like pushing in a chair, pouring water, or asking nicely are TOTALLY doable from a very young age, we just have to give kids the space to do them :) As I prepare to welcome my first child into the world this spring, I have been thinking a lot about the Montessori philosophies and how we can bring them into our own home from the very beginning!

  3. Anna says...

    These all sound very Danish – after 3 years of my son being in preschool there – I learnt all those things!! Didn’t happen like that in North America!

  4. I’d love to see a post in which you talk more about your family’s experience with the Montessori model. My daughter will start pre-school next year, and we are considering a Montessori school, so I’d love to hear more!

  5. Vicki says...

    I teach at a Reggio Emilia preschool (another Italian philosophy, has some similarities to Montessori) and not saying “good job” is something we all feel very strongly about. Actually, I disagree with the one teacher’s quote – “I like how you drew the trees so tall” because it still puts the teacher’s opinion of the drawing at the forefront. I would edit it – “You drew such trees!”. This is an awesome article for anyone interested in eliminating “good jobs”. http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/five-reasons-stop-saying-good-job/

  6. wish I’ve heard that potty training advice earlier! it make so much sense! will wait some 20 years to try it on my grandkids LOL

  7. Kadija says...

    My son started Montessori school (he just turned 8) and it’s been so awesome for both of us. We were in the public school system since pre-K and he went to daycare starting at 4 months old…so to see how they do many things differently with little ones at such a young age is amazing. The bit about calling everyone friends is the sweetest thing… it makes me teary!

  8. Haha Love this. My son is 19 months and will be starting nursery soon. I’m literally bricking it how he will adjust to nurseryhood. He is such a good boy with a big slice of cheekyness but my biggest issue is changing time. He cannot for the life of him stay still when im changing his nappy. Its such a bigger mess by the time i’m down, i’m worried how the staff will cope. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Great post as usual by the way xox

    Laura| http://www.lauralivinglife.com

  9. Kathy says...

    I find their take on praise interesting. So many times I have heard a parent over praise a child, telling them “great job!” for sliding down a slide. I believe that praise is great when a child has earned it, but saying great job basically for breathing might possibly be what leads kids to false ideas about how well they do things later in their lives. And many employers have indicated that newly hired employees of the millennial generation are incapable of performing their duties without almost continual praise, even going into the manager/bosses office seeking it if they haven’t received a daily affirmation. I like the school’s approach better, commenting on something the child has done, without overdoing the “great job” phrase many come to expect.

  10. Luna GC says...

    This year our youngest of 2 boys (12y & 6y) commenced Prep/Kindy. He didn’t attend any structured care centre or pre-school prior to this. As schooling has changed since our eldest attended… I started to ask his Prep Teacher for examples of how to this & that as our son always came home happy, relaxed and eager to share something new he learned. She is a wealth of knowledge with 20+ years and experience in changing methods and studies. If not for her I would’ve home-schooled our son.

  11. These are such brilliant tips! I have a one year so these will definitely help me at home. This reminds of a past post when instead of saying good job or complimenting Toby you said, I love to watch you play. I love that!

  12. CG says...

    When our daughter was young we taught her the phrase “I’m not fond of this.” We didn’t want to be eating out (esp at a friend’s place) and try some new food item and say “yuck” or something similar. So we taught her to try a bite and if it wasn’t to her taste to simply say “I’m not fond of this, thank you though.” It’s the cutest thing ever coming from a three year old and it really lessens the rejection for the cook. She’s twelve now and still uses the phrase for anything she doesn’t like (not just food).

    Another thing we taught her was if she wanted to speak to us while we are engaged in conversation to simply put her hand on our arm. Instead of verbally cutting in, or waving an arm to distract, her hand on our arm was signal enough. We used to then put our hand on her hand to let her know we would give her our attention soon. Now she knows to just wait patiently even without us putting our hand on hers. It was hard to practice at first since she was a bit impatient. But with each time we practiced we’d stretch the time out before acknowledging her each time, takin care to not stretch it too far before responding.

    Also, a note about hugs. We fidnt (when she was younger) and still don’t force her to give hugs to people. Instead we do one of two things: ask her if she’s interested in giving a hug to so and so. If she says no, we honor it. But if we do want her to pay some form of respect to that person (say grandma) we’ll then offer a less physical alternative like “ok, how about a high five then?” We also don’t insist that she give us hugs, before we go in for a hug I always ask her “would you like a hug?” Almost always she does, but on that rare occasion she doesn’t we always affirm it by saying “ok, that’s fine too.” Now that she’s a tween, we want to make she understands that she is in control of who touches her and is practiced at asserting her options.

  13. C says...

    Our kiddos have been in Montessori, Public and Waldorf and they all have their issues and bright spots. Of them all Montessori was our least favorite! Each kid/family is different as is each school and it can take some time to really understand where they will feel most at home. Don’t worry! Your kids will learn amazing things everywhere. Promise.

  14. Well before I had kids, I worked in a daycare. When I was on diaper duty I changed 18 toddlers in 15 minutes, all standing up. It’s a bit of a practiced skill, but so much faster once it’s learned!

  15. M says...

    I agree that all of these tips are great, as a former infant/toddler teacher and then preschool teacher, and very future mom.

    The only thing I would like to address is the “friends” thing. It is really popular these days in early childhood education to promote friendship and community building by having everyone refer to each other as friends. But it gets more complicated when children are around the age of four and are actually working hard at making true friendships. There are certain kids they are going to be drawn to, especially at first, and they have to use those growing social skills in order to help build a friendship (and protect it, and repair it, and maintain it in the face of other friendships). This is a huge amount of work and often leads to lots of angst! Children are really sensitive to what friendship means at 4. So when adults then refer to kids in the class as friends, as in, “follow your friends to snack!”, it’s more likely that the response will be, “they aren’t all my friends.” And this is valid. It’s important to children that we acknowledge the work that goes into a friendship, and find ways to build community and respect without the optimistic “if we act like everyone is friends, they’ll all be friendly!” attitude. We also can’t expect that everyone is going to be best friends with everyone, although we can maintain that children are kind to and honor each other. And that kind of community building is harder, but it is one of the biggest parts of being an early childhood educator.

    To speak to the other reasons why teachers may use “friends”– one is because it is gender neutral. IE, “Come to the rug, friends!” But “everyone” or “purple dragons” (or whatever the classroom name is) is more authentic and solves that problem.

    And when it comes to learning each others’ names, it’s great when teachers send home a one-sheet of photos with each child’s name. Kids love to put their classmates’ photos up on the wall and talk to their family members about who is who. Learning each other’s names is actually a very important foundation for building community, and teachers always feel excited when kids get to the point where they know each others’ names.

    Love Mondays for these rich parenting discussions!

    • Eva says...

      What an interesting perspective! Always refreshing to hear ideas turned on their heads. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Molly says...

      Totally agree with this comment (as a preschool teacher and mom). And also love the post! :)

    • Holly Demaray says...

      I SO agree with your take on the friends thing. In fact, I know a lot of parents of young children who now share this distaste for “friends”, as their children grow and go through exactly the processes you described. Our preschool does the picture sheet, doesn’t say “friends,” but calls the kids by “preschoolers” or “JK-ers” when referring to the group. It keeps things so much clearer as you have those inevitable pre-K conversations with your own child about who his or her good buddies are. Thanks for adding this to the discussion!

    • Aya says...

      You bring up some valid points I hadn’t thought about. And what a great idea about the photos of classmates. Thank you for your comment.

  16. This was such an interesting read! I don’t have any kids yet but I’m sure gonna remember these! Such a great tip about changing toddlers in the bathroom standing up, and I love their view on asking nicely! Wonderful post! :D

  17. Love reading this and all the comments as our eighteen month old is growing leaps and bounds and we’re trying to get our parenting caught up to her development (and looking at schools for next year)! The comments here are so helpful and thought-provoking!
    Rachel
    http://www.thimblecollection.com

  18. Natalie says...

    My son’s preschool taught us to give our toddler an element of control with transitions. For example they will say “how many more minutes would you like with that toy before a friend gets a turn?” He’ll choose 5 min and when the timer goes off he shares the toy happily.

  19. Deb K says...

    Once my kid became 3, I started to help him identify his feelings to help him communicate better. When he had tantrums I would say, “I wonder if you are tired (or angry , or hungry or lonely or frustrated etc….) His teachers greatly appreciate how he can say, “I am hungry” “I am angry” “I am tired” “I am lonely” instead of just a screaming tantrum. He may still cry but he can also verbalize to others.

    *Also we did Montessori (age 2) and then a general play based school (ages 3,4). We switched because the Montessori school we were going to had a bit of a dictatorial head of school and was a little too rigid(it had more to do with her personality than the method). Both are fine as long as the school emphasizes play based learning as at this age all the studies show that kids at this age benefit most form social emotional leaning in relation to others.

  20. Lee says...

    As a teacher of preschoolers I love that you included the point about praise. Praise should be something that drives them to think deeper about their choices and their work, rather than hollow words.

  21. I love the diaper changing in the bathroom idea!! I was just thinking today, “What am I going to do when my baby is too big for the changing table?” She’s almost 10 months and a little on the big side…so I guess once she’s a little older and stable on her feet we can start doing bathroom diaper changes!

  22. Kelsy says...

    Thanks for sharing! These are wonderful insights and I hope everyone understands that you don’t have to attend a montessori school to implement them into your lives.

  23. Katie says...

    To the Cup of Jo team, you should write a book on parenting! It could be a culmination of what you have read and experienced over the years, perhaps with a few readers’ comments sprinkled in. I firmly believe it would be a NYT bestseller.

    • Liz says...

      YEEEEEEEES

    • Elizabeth says...

      Yes yes yes! The motherhood posts are my absolute favorite. So much gentle, sensible advice here! I would buy that in a heartbeat.

    • balsam says...

      i agree 100%! I’m not having kids anytime soon but i basically bookmark every blog post that’s like this like this, full of insightful tricks and healthy habits i will want to keep when i go down that road one day.

  24. Traci says...

    One of my most satisfying techniques has been teaching our two year old daughter early on that when she gets frustrated, she should pause, shake her fists, take a deep breath, and approach her activity again. She definitely still screams or throws a shoe or toy, but more often, she clenches her little fists, says, “oo oo oo oo oo,” then resumes whatever she’s doing, usually with success. I like that she’s given freedom to express herself but in a controlled and helpful manner.

    Also, with regard to requests/demands, we’ve taught her the phrase “nicely and calmly.” And when she demands, we say, “how do you get the things you want,” she will respond, “you must ask niiiicely and caaalmly?”
    We’re all still figuring it out, but it feels good to have a few things we feel we’re doing right. :) Great post!

  25. Danielle says...

    my stepson’s school is good (wouldn’t say great) and has been very helpful with his autism-spectrum diagnosis. they’re great at encouraging his skills and recognising that he’s also a bit ahead in certain things- he was given a fiction book to read by himself at 5yo because the teacher could see he was getting bored with the other reading.

    i’ve learned a lot from my husband (who is an amazing and patient father), but I think I’ve taught him a thing or too as well! little one responds very well to rules and reasoning- and being spoken to like an adult. for example, once i explained to him why we have to brush our teeth (and all parts of them), he was so much more interested in doing it every night. now he tells my husband how to brush his teeth or hair and makes sure it’s done right. he’s hip to when we’re saying ‘good job’ for no good reason; little one takes great pride in doing it the ‘grown up way’ and making sure we’re all playing along!

  26. heather says...

    I’m seeing so many enthusiastic comments for Montessori school, and I also love the philosophy behind it, but there are many, many good educational models out there. Before our son started preschool, I was obsessed with his going to a Montessori or Waldorf program because my favorite bloggers and child-rearing experts tout their superiority, but when the time came… neither of those was a realistic option, both because of their scarcity in my part of the world and also $$.

    But, like so many things with regard to raising children, there is no one right way. Our son ended up in preK3 at the neighborhood public school, which by all outside accounts should have been the worst option, and it’s fantastic. The teachers are warm, friendly, firm, and calm. The learning is all from playing, the play is mostly child-directed, they spend a lot of time outside running and tumbling around like puppies. The faces are diverse and all familiar (they’re our neighbors!). I’m not sure what pedagogy is involved at this particular neighborhood, city school other than that they let the kids be kids, but my son is thriving. SO, just saying, don’t worry too much if your kids can’t go to a montessori school. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job and home-school. :-)

    • Sandra says...

      I needed this today–thank you! Montessori was not in our budget and I always feel a little pang of guilt when someone posts about how much better it is than other methods.

    • Jen says...

      Love this

    • Rafaela says...

      Couldn’t agree more.
      I also had the wish to put my sons in a Waldorf school but ended up in a tradicional one because of our budget.
      Worst: the school is catholic and we are atheists.
      For sure it wasn’t our first option, we even tried others before, but now… we couldn’t be happier! I just regret not putting them in this one from the beggining.
      I love the school, love the people who work there and admire their skills, I feel so grateful to them.
      Every morning the kids enter the room and are greeted by their friends (and it’s not just a way of calling them) with enthusiasm, and hugs. The teachers are always interested in what kids find interesting. For example, my son took a ladybug for school, in a jar, I thought that maybe this could annoy the teacher, instead she was thrilled, organized a moment to free the ladybug and next week they were working about ladybugs and learning everything about them.
      Even little things, like the food, feels warm in this school, it’s like being at home: trays with sliced apples or carrots when they arrive, homemade (or schoolmade) cake, proper meals… Everything about the school has a familiar feeling.
      They have a way of teaching the kids to be positive, kind and confident that is so subtle but that works wonders!
      And… we are not just numbers for them. Last year when they sent us the prospect for the summer program we replied, saying that they were not going. I received a call one day later, very politely, asking me why, if we would be on hollidays or something… I said that was not the case, it was only a matter of priorities and we couldn’t afford that extra. They convinced me about the great opportunity it would be for my son, cut the price to a third and ask me if that value was confortable for us. And it didn’t felt like charity at all.
      The only thing I would like them to experience compared to the Waldorf school is nature. This is a city school, outdoor space yes, but not nature. And Waldorf schools here are in the forest.
      But in the end, minus forest, plus friend Jesus, it’s a very positive experience!
      And i like the fact that they are all together: the kids that are brought to school by the housemaid and the kid that his mother is a housemaid, and our kids, in the middle. I think it’s a healthy mix.

    • Joanna says...

      I agree! We tried montessori part time but it was too much $$ and honestly it wasn’t a great fit for our son. The implementation at this particular program was just too rigid – the focus was on doing things a particular way rather than independence and exploration. We’re now at an in-home program and couldn’t be happier with the warm play-based approach. The ideal program is what works best for your child and your family. :)

    • Amy says...

      Completely agree! My girls attend a city-neighborhood public school too. We love it.

    • Carla says...

      This! I admit to feeling a little defensive after hearing so many Montessori parents in my community praise that model of education as if it is the best option out there, especially because the price makes it prohibitive for many. There are many options! And many different kinds of kids, and no one model will fit every kid.

  27. Amanda says...

    My three-year-old son goes to a Montessori school. They are also big proponents of RIE, the philosophy that Janet Lansbury teaches on her wonderful site. Joanna introduced me to Janet’s teachings on this site, which has basically saved my life through these past three years! We looked at several schools and when I saw that this school was having a parent book discussion on “No Bad Kids”,” I thought, “Sign us up, this is our school.” Regarding teaching kids to say “please” and “thank you” (and, similarly, “sorry”) I am totally on board, but it can be awkward around other parents, adults, and grandparents. I often find myself feeling like I need to tell them that there is a reason why we aren’t constantly prompting our son to “say thank you, say you’re sorry.” Have you had this experience?

  28. Samantha says...

    Yay for Montessori! I taught lower elementary (1-3 grade) at a Montessori school for 7 years and now work part-time in admin at a small Montessori school while my children are little. It is such an amazing philosophy for education, but also just for life in general. It has been very special to now see my children experience the joys of Montessori! My son just turned 3 and is now in the ‘primary’ class (3-6 year olds). But he spent 1.5 years in a toddler class and that potty training tip mentioned really helped us.

    • Eve says...

      Hi! I’ve been looking to ask a Montessori teacher about his/her experience. I have so many questions. But perhaps the big one is, can your kids go there for free if you teach there? Please tell! Thank you.

  29. jen says...

    clean up, clean up, everybody clean up…. when i start singing this, every kid seems to know this song and immediately starts singing and cleaning up!

  30. teegan says...

    We cloth diaper, so our boys have both watched us flush solids from day 1! Also, since he already see his older brother use the toilet, our younger son (18 months) started asking to sit on the potty around 16 months. We keep a little one in the bathroom and let him sit on it before/after bath time and mid diaper change. If he doesn’t do anything, no problem (sometimes he “brushes” his teeth while there, too), and if he does, he gets major praise, and we have one fewer diaper to change!

  31. WMom says...

    My three sons also attend a Montessori school, and one major thing I love about a Montessori education as that students get to choose their work. I was talking to a high school teacher and she told me that she can tell the Montessori students because they come to class with an attitude of self-agency and ownership over their education. Many other students just wait to do what the teacher tells them to do. I wish they could go to a Montessori schools for their whole academic career.

  32. My daughter went to Montessori and we loved it. Respect is a huge part of it, along with time management and conflict resolution. What human couldn’t use those skills??!!
    Once we went to a Birthday party and at the end the Montessori children put their toys away and had already cleaned up after their places at the table. The non-Montessori kids were wild, left a mess at the table, and were climbing all over the house and furniture!! Respect for someone else’s home and possessions is a huge thing for me, in addition to good social skills! It was a 6 year old’s party, so to see polite behavior at that age was noticed by all adults in attendance!

    • I think this is just a responsible school thing. My kids go to the big public ‘nursery school’ near our house in London, it’s bare bones and state run but very lovely and friendly. they have my 3.5 year old twins clear and scrape their own plates and tidy up etc. I don’t think you really need to have Montessori for a lot of this!

    • Donna says...

      Have to agree with Alicia, our 22 month old goes to a non-Montessori nursery school in our village and I often go to collect him at home-time to find him and his cohort helping the nursery nurse tidy up their class. He automatically helps clear his toys away when he’s finished playing with them at home too. Any decent nursery/pre-school/kindergarten should teach this.

  33. Montessori is so amazing for kids. I love this!! Our daughter is in her third year of Montessori right now. It’s amazing all the things she’s learning and all of the little games and activities she’ll come up with and structure for herself and her little brother. WE LOVE MONTESSORI! :)

  34. Louisa says...

    I’m in the best preschool-parent class right now – our two year olds play behind a one-way-mirror while we get a class with some pretty fantastic parenting tips and wisdom. One of my favorites is: “You’re allowed to go to work, and she’s allowed to be sad about that.” It’s so lightened my mood when my toddler is upset: instead of needing to make everything okay, she’s ALLOWED to be sad, duh!

  35. My kids are going through Montessori school too, and my youngest started in a toddler/nursery-school age version of Montessori when he was 19 months. I remember his first year, learning how his teachers spent a considerable chunk of time each day supporting the kids in learning how to put on their winter gear themselves (which is important as we live in Maine!). That emphasis on learning life skills is part of why I love the Montessori philosophy, as a mom and as a potty training consultant (another very important life skill!). Of course the alphabet and learning shapes is important, but there’s a real sense of pride in a 2 year old being able to put on their snowsuit all by themselves. And it sure does make getting out the door with toddlers that much easier!

  36. Jess says...

    I’m book marking this for later! We are expecting our first child in January, and we’ve talked so much about (and read so much about) parenting and raising confident and thoughtful children (we loved The Danish Way of Parenting). I love every single one of these… so simple and practical, but so meaningful.

  37. Sarah Beth says...

    These are such great tips! Thank you so much for posting realistic, useful parenting tips (instead of nebulous ideas that make me feel bad.) I have been trying to be more mindful with my daughter, who at 11 months is just becoming willful, to be more neutral in my expectations, rather than getting excited or exasperated. It’s hard!

    My favorite dealing with kids tip, which I feel is somewhat related, is instead of saying “great job!” about a piece of art, ask them to explain it. I learned that from a baby sitters club book, of all places, but I’ve never known a preschooler who didn’t LOVE explaining their art.

    • MissEm says...

      Ha! I remembered that one from babysitters club too! I use it all the time!

    • Anitra says...

      I remember that too and use it all the time! :)

  38. Mae says...

    Ah! I’m going to start that diapering in the bathroom trick asap! I’ll report back soon! Great tip!

  39. Angela says...

    My friend’s daughter went to Montessori preschool and they did the diaper thing there too. For the life of me, I cannot get a diaper on to a standing child. I’ve tried with my son and have the hardest time! But it is a great idea!

    I don’t remember where I heard this, a podcast maybe, but we have really latched on to the family responsibility idea that “a child should be able to do anything in the home that concerns him.” I think this relates to much of the philosophy behind Montessori kids helping themselves to water. Within reason and as it concerns them, we ought to start equipping our children to be responsible, involved family members, so that later on they can be responsible, involved members of society. It all starts with pouring your own water and cleaning up your own mess. 😉

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Diapering a standing toddler can be a little tricky at first. We switched to pull-up diapers to make the bathroom approach easy.

  40. My two year old started a Reggio Emilia, Mandarin immersion school in September and it has been pretty amazing to the jumps in language and social progress. We were actually hesitant about the immersion part because he speak English, Spanish (and some Yiddish, he is a Jewtino), and were afraid it might confuse him. It is completely fascinating to see him pick up phrases in Mandarin and know who to use them with. His cousins are Chinese and he has tried to say things to them, however they speak Cantonese (but were really excited to see their little cousin make the effort!).

    • Haha, I love that “Jewtino.” How have I never heard that before? I’m a Jewtina, too, specifically a Jewxican!

    • Ooly says...

      Unlikely that he’ll get confused! Don’t place your doubts and concerns on him– that’s what’ll make things confusing. The mind- especially of a kid that young- is an amazing, logical sponge.

  41. Mallory says...

    My 3 year old is in a Montessori preschool and we all just love it so much. Since we now have a 4 month old, one of the huge benefits has been those practical life lessons. My 3 year old can now get dressed by herself, put her shoes on, pour herself a drink, brush her hair, and even help fold her laundry and put it away. She takes such pride in this work! If someone other than me is in the bathroom, she will queue up outside the door (what they do at school). With me she still barges in per usual ;)

  42. Heather says...

    This post is fantastic. Thank you so very much.

    I have been trying very hard to not use “good job” and “good work” after reading one of the Motherhood Around the World posts that mentioned the same thing. (Why is everything a job?) However, I catch myself using one or both of these phrases daily. Instead of training myself to replace them with “well done” I am now going to change my approach entirely and adopt #4, praising his accomplishment directly. In fact, I am going to adopt all five of these tips. Today we say goodbye to the makeshift changing station in our living room!

  43. Love #2! Gonna have to keep that one in my back pocket :)

  44. Jenna says...

    You just blew my mind with the potty training tip! I have never seen or heard that mentioned every before! We have started introducing the potty to our 18 month old daughter so perfect timing!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Awesome, good luck! It blew both Joanna’s and my mind too!

  45. Tip That Really Works With Kids: don’t say please, say thank you.
    when you want a child to do something, if you add please it becomes a request. And a request can be refused. But…if you simply, and politely, ask for something neutrally – let’s get those boots on, could you pass me the pencils – and then thank them afterwards – thank you, that was well done, thank you, how kind – then the child is always gratified. No need to make a song and dance. I found it worked brilliantly when I was a teacher and invariably, a child would reply: that’s OK, or you’re welcome. Result: harmony.

    • Angela says...

      Love it. That’s a great idea!

  46. Julie says...

    I don’t have kids yet, but that diaper stuff-flushing idea is already making me feel so relieved about potty training. It seems so, so, so impossible!

    • Heather says...

      We’re not quite to potty training yet with our first kiddo. However, he is so observant and I can just feel his pride when he is able to accomplish a new task and gain some independence that I am no longer all that worried about potty training. I’m sure it will be a messy and at times stressful affair, but he’ll get it. We’ll wait for him to indicate that he’s ready and then just go for it. I think the tip in the post will really help him along and gives me a place to start now instead of waiting for him to turn two. So happy to have read this.

  47. The Montessori model sounds so appealing. We have a friend who went to a Montessori school and another who was a Montessori teacher, and they are both huge fans. I especially like the emphasis on children’s freedoms/self-sufficiency in a developmentally appropriate manner. I wish more public schools would jump on board with this method!!

    • Lisa says...

      We have two kids in Montessori and I just can’t say enough wonderful things about it. I can sum it up, however, with the fact that my kids are busy and joyful, loved and respected at school. It makes me want to be in preschool.

  48. Leanne says...

    One of my favorite things we learned from my daughter’s preschool teacher (also Montessori,btw) is about being available. She obviously couldn’t be available for all 30 minutes at once but she had a special chair that she would sit in when she was finished helping the last friend. If a friend accidentally did interrupt her during a presentation she would remind them that she “wasn’t available right now. ” I steal that phrase all the time with my kids and then make sure I find them as soon as I’m done.

    • Lucy says...

      Leanne – so true and I love this phrase. Although my three-year olds, who are in Montessori, have started saying, “Mommy, I’m not available right now” when I’m trying to talk to them, so it’s kind of backfiring! ;-)

    • Lisa says...

      When our toddler don’t want a friend to watch them work, they are told to politely say, “Please walk away.” I about died the first time my kid said that to my mom at age 2. BUT, after a full 4 years of Montessori, I love that kids are given the power to choose how they interact.

  49. Mischu says...

    I love these. Another great tip passed down to me from my sister in law (and I think I read something similar via another response). Yes, the concept of time is nebulous for kids, so when we are getting ready to leave the playground I tell my son that we have to go, but he can go down the slide five more times (or which ever activity he likes to do a certain amount of times). Instead of wailing he becomes intent on getting his five slides down or finishing a sand castle’s windows and once I announce it’s time to go, he’s processed this more gently.

  50. I learned so much from our preschool teachers! One of my favorite tips from them was, “Don’t ask a question unless you’re prepared for either answer,” which basically means, “Tell your child what you expect as a statement unless you’re willing to be flexible about it.” This lesson really pointed out to me how many times I was adding, “Okay?” to the end of my instructions! There is a big difference between saying, “It’s time to leave,” versus, “It’s time to leave, okay?” Or saying, “It is clean-up time,” versus, “Are you ready for clean-up time?”

    I love how so many of these preschool communication lessons apply to life in general, well beyond preschool.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      This is so so so spot on.

    • Amy says...

      My natural tendency is to want to add that okay so instead I always say “it’s time to leave, got it?” which still gives them the opportunity to respond and let’s me know they’re paying attention.

    • Emma says...

      Yes! I think of this as only asking real questions. I learned this as an au pair, and the kids I worked with grew to really respect that when I asked for their input, I would respect it (instead of asking, but then trying to do something that now I know they are unhappy about). As a childless adult, it’s even more important in relationships–personal and professional. I am trying to teach my boss this idea :) I hate being asked a question with at least one answer that is definitely “wrong.” Just tell me what you want/feel/need/think!

  51. Danielle says...

    Definitely feeling the part about please and thank you lately with my 4 year old. He says thank you very sweetly, but somehow we got into a bad habit of him demanding something saying “gimme” or “I want” in a whiny or crying voice, and when I would tell him to ask nicely, he would yell “I said please!” Ugh. I had to put a stop to that, so now he knows that to ask nicely is much more than just saying please. He has to say, “can I/may I please have some xxx” and it is working so well!! He doesn’t have to be reminded as much anymore and he asks for things in a much nicer way.

  52. This is such a great post! Our 6 month old just started army crawling and sitting up, but the big exciting thing (wow, get some perspective!) is clapping and drinking from a sippy cup on his own. Any time he even gets CLOSE to doing these things (including when he doesn’t but almost gets there), my husband and I have started a habit of over-praising…the idea being that he’ll connect the praise with those little actions and try again and again. I can see this becoming a bit of a bad habit on our part though, so I love the idea of giving specific praise. It seems so obvious!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Aw, I love that age. Specific praise is also supposed to help with language development, so go for it!

  53. Roxana says...

    These are great bits of wisdom! I love all of them. Thank you so much for sharing!

  54. A great thing about a lot of nursery schools is that the teachers have studied how young children’s brains work. Because of this I learned why saying “We have to leave in 5 minutes!” is utterly meaningless to a three year old. I instead was advised to purchase a large timer (the kind that looks like a big round clock) so my daughter could see what five minutes looked like. Discovering which of your expectations are just plain unrealistic cuts down on so much frustration, and is fascinating too!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      That makes so much sense! In my son’s class they have a big five-minute hourglass they use before every activity transition and having that visual really, really helps the kids.

  55. Lucy S says...

    Love Montessori philosophy, it’s just so sensible. I like that each child chooses their activity and can play as long as they want, then put it away, no enforced sharing before they are developmentally ready- and it teaches patience too. No snatching, no fussing, just calm “you may have it next.”

    I really wish there was Montessori near me 😞

    PS Swiss Lark is a lovely Montessori blog written by a Mama who now lives in Spokane- I imagine she would write a great guest post if you are keen!