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The Link Between Water and Independence

Water is all around us. As adults, we use water every single day. We drink it, cook with it, bathe with it, clean with it. Water literally makes life possible. The link between water and independence is palpable, yet, for many children, water is taboo.

Independence is a fundamental Montessori principle. And, it's possible to promote independence through the environment. Here's the number 1 Montessori way to get independent kids: give them access to water!

It's given to them in small doses, in covered cups, or explored every few days during a bath. When we give children water the are expected to use it carefully without mess, without exploration. We literally restrict access to arguably the most important life sustaining material available. And, in the process we restrict children's ability to be independent.

My Number 1 Tip to Encourage Independence

Fostering independence is one of the most important and central tenets of Montessori. In the words of Maria Montessori, "the child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his ‘natural development’.” In other words, children seek independence as a part of their natural development. They are driven toward it in all things. So, how do we make it happen?

If you want independent kids then you NEED to give them access to WATER! Children with access to water can get their own drinks, they can clean their own messes, they can care for others and their environment. They get to feel that deep sense of personal dignity that comes along with independence. They get to feel the joy that comes with accomplishment. They will become independent. 
"Under the urge of nature and according to the laws of development, though not understood by the adult, the child is obliged to be serious about two fundamental things … the first is the love of activity… The second fundamental thing is independence.” Maria Montessori
This is not to say that it is always an easy undertaking to give kids access to water. It takes planning and patience on your part. And, it's going to require some exploration on your children's part! Which can be hard for you. But, in the end, I think so worth it.

But, Practically How Do You Make It Happen

There are many options when it comes to providing water access to water for your children. Which option will be best for you will depend on your child's age, experience level, your home's setup. Some options include: 
  • Making an adult sink accessible -- we do this for washing dishes, with the help of a large stool
  • Provide a pitcher of water for pouring -- perfect for younger babies and toddlers
  • Adapting a child size sink to provide real water 
  • Using a low beverage dispenser as a water source for children -- we also do this and it works wonderfully! 

My favorite, and I think, most easily accomplished way to provide water is through the use of a beverage dispenser. But, before we talk specifics, let's look at the realities of using water in our home and think about our own expectations!

Independence is a fundamental Montessori principle. And, it's possible to promote independence through the environment. Here's the number 1 Montessori way to get independent kids: give them access to water!

Do you think water and independence are interconnected? How do you provide access to water to your child? 



Anonymous said…
Wish I could do this. My little one wants to pay with water all the time but her eczema is so bad that her skin gets raw and bleeds when she does :(
Veronika V said…
Thank you so much for this article, and I can't wait for the next one!
I am really interested in how you made target water dispenser work.
It's a little difficult for my daughter to use - she can't open it and then fully close it by herself.

But overall, thank you so much for your blog! It's a constant inspiration for me as a parent. I'm in the process of transforming our home environment and all thanks to reading your blog.
It's fine to set a limit that water use has to be productive -- drinking or cleaning or whatever. This way she gets some independence but it's not a free-for-all.

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