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Cleaning with Your Baby -- Montessori Baby Week 39

I think there's a myth in the Montessori story that children's spaces always look perfectly together while one toy is being used happily and quietly. Toys stay separate, spaces stay clean, things are returned to their spots, and order is maintained at all times. But, this isn't reality. While a Montessori classroom may have a bit more order to them, your home is your home. It's lived in.

Babies can be like a whirlwind of destruction, pulling apart everything in their path. Here are some Montessori thoughts on cleaning up with your baby and setting routines to promote order in the future.

Augustus is at the age of exploration! All babies are. He is determined to learn about everything in his environment. And this means he has to pull it off the shelf, mouth it, shake it, bang it, toss it, drop it, pick it up again, and repeat dozens of times. Friends, this is not a clean process. 

He leaves a little trail of destruction wherever he goes. He's not worried about maintaining order or restoring work. He's too busy exploring. I can always tell which way he has been headed by following the little path of things that have been strewn all over. 

But, we do eventually want to get him to a place where he can use materials and place them back on the shelf. And, the work for this starts now! 

Responding to the Whirlwind 

The sensitive period for order will eventually strengthen with a baby, but it will take into toddlerhood and continue until they are into elementary school. But there are a few things that we have found help create the foundation for the order you see in Montessori environments 

Limit Options. I've found that limiting the options available is a big help to stop giant messes from occurring with Gus (or really any of the kids.) We personally stick with a few things out on his shelves at a time. So even if everything is pulled down, it's not completely overwhelming for him or for you. At it's worst, it's only a few minutes to restore order. 

Clear Place. Make sure everything you have in your environment has a clear place to go. For babies, I like small baskets or really small trays. Not only does the basket become part of the fun to explore, it gives both of you a clear idea of where things should go back to when everyone is done playing. 

Model, Model, Model. Before Montessori, I used to wait until Henry would take a nap then I would quickly clean up all his toys. So when he woke up, it was like magic, everything is ordered again. But, with Montessori, I've taken a different approach. It's all about joyfully modeling the behavior you want to see. So as Gus finishes with something, I happily put it back where it belongs. I don't say anything to him or make it a big deal -- he's watching and absorbing -- I just do it. I know eventually he will follow suit. 

So, hopefully you aren't thinking that your baby's movement area, or play space should always be perfect! It won't be! And, that's ok. Gus will get there, and your baby will too! 

Babies can be like a whirlwind of destruction, pulling apart everything in their path. Here are some Montessori thoughts on cleaning up with your baby and setting routines to promote order in the future.

Have you noticed the wave of destruction that comes with a mobile baby? How do you handle it? 


Petra said…
My 10mo old son is in exactly this place - the wave of destruction is so real! I've been trying to "joyfully model" cleaning up (as you called it in a previous post, I think) but I love the idea of not needing to make a big deal about it. He will be involved in his own way eventually! Thank you for all of your posts!

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