If you’re struggling with a kiddo that won’t eat anything besides pasta or chicken tenders – or afraid of that scenario down the line – listen up! Picky eating among toddlers is incredibly common, but it’s no less frustrating. Tantrums around getting dressed, getting new toys constantly, etc. is equally draining (and here we all thought sleep training was the worst of it!). Luckily there’s plenty we can do to help mitigate these everyday woes.
I spoke with Stacy Keane, head of the Monti Kids learning team, and she shared Montessori-inspired ideas that will help make some of our struggles easier to manage. While on the surface you might not see the connection, all of the below tips are about helping to give our children control and independence, so they will feel less likely to act out with, say, food refusal.
“We love to offer little ones opportunities to assert their independence in the transitions throughout their day. This includes getting dressed in the morning. We recommend setting your child up with a limited selection of seasonally appropriate clothing options in a low dresser or child-sized wardrobe. This means any selection is parent approved – i.e. no more battles over wearing shorts in the winter! You’ll watch your child grow in confidence with these I did it myself” moments.”
Toy Rotation 101
“Providing a low shelf in your child’s play space with a limited selection of toys is a game changer. We recommend just 6-8 toys, curated for your child’s current stage of development. Just like an adult who can’t focus when their work space is cluttered, a child may struggle to concentrate when there are too many options. Watch too see which toys continue to captivate your child’s interest. Remove the toys they aren’t playing with, and rotate in fresh options from storage every one to two weeks. This also gives forgotten toys a new life.”
“Toddlers intrinsically love to help – and that includes joining in the family dinner prep! We recommend clearing out a low cupboard where your little one can store their child-sized cooking tools, along with a few cups, bowls and silverware. They will learn to independently access what they need when it’s time to cook or set the table. A young toddler can transfer veggies into a colander, or practice mashing avocado and spreading it onto toast. As they gain skills, you can continually challenge your child with more complex tasks. A Kitchen Tower can go a long way in getting them at counter height to take on the role as your sous-chef.”
“Maria Montessori often referred to what’s called The Absorbent Mind. This is the idea that babies and toddlers are picking up habits from everything they see around them. As a parent we are given the opportunity to lead by example. This can be as simple as talking about small acts of kindness we see throughout the day, “that woman was kind, she held the door open for us.” We can also model grace and courtesy through our own actions like saying “please,” and expressing gratitude. It’s amazing how these small moments throughout the day stack up to positively impact our little ones.”
Child-Sized by Design
“When considering your child’s bedroom, ask yourself what purpose does the space serve. As Montessori educators we encourage parents to get on their hands and knees (yes it sounds silly,) to see how their child will view and engage with their space. You may decide to lower artwork so they can truly admire it, add a light switch extender, or create a calm down corner with pillows and a basket of accessible books. The possibilities are endless, and can apply to spaces throughout your entire home!”