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Maximum Effort at 3-Years-Old


As children grow, they want to strengthen both their big and their small muscles. In order to do this they are often drawn to heavy work. In Montessori, we commonly refer to this as the need to reach maximum effort. We recognize, especially in toddlers, that they need to have an outlet to exert as much strength as possible, to use as much effort as possible, and to test their little bodies. 

20 purposeful and engaging ways for 3-year-olds to exert maximum effort and do heavy work.

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Typically, this is something I have always associated with younger toddlers. But lately, I've noticed this need more and more in Nora. At 3-years-old, I've noticed that if she doesn't get to reach maximum effort regularly, then she starts to seek it herself. Usually, by emptying shelves and hauling things around. Once a huge mess has been made and she has reached maximum effort, she walks away, leaving it all behind. 

Once I recognized this need, I've been making a conscious effort to provide her with heavy work. Unlike when she was a younger toddler, she is less likely to participate in hauling for hauling's sake. This work has needed to be purposeful, and real. It has been less about providing opportunities and more about engaging her in the challenge. 

20 purposeful and engaging ways for 3-year-olds to exert maximum effort and do heavy work.

So here are some ways we are reaching maximum effort at 3-years-old:

  1. Opening doors and holding them open -- especially in public 
  2. Carrying a small backpack and things into and out of school 
  3. Holding her baby brother
  4. Kneading bread dough
  5. Rolling bread dough 
  6. Finding and carrying objects in the grocery store -- especially heavy ones like bags of potatoes or apples -- then placing them in the cart
  7. Filling a beverage dispenser 
  8. Filling pots with cooking water 
  9. Swinging while standing up 
  10. Playing hot potato with bean bags 
  11. Pushing a baby stroller or grocery cart 
  12. Pealing and slicing fruit with a Spiralizer 
  13. Reading large books {like this one
  14. Climbing anything, especially up slides 
  15. Gathering and measuring lots of things 
  16. Engaging in heavy sensorial work -- like the brown stairs or pink tower {for us this happens at school}
  17. Scrubbing and sorting laundry 
  18. Using a regular vacuum to clean
  19. Planting plants into larger pots or the outside garden
  20. Riding a bike 
20 purposeful and engaging ways for 3-year-olds to exert maximum effort and do heavy work.

I'm sure there are other ideas that you could think of! But, these are some of the ways we have been incorporating heavy work in our lives. She is reaching maximum effort, and I'm happy that she's getting what she needs! 

Have you noticed this need in your 3-year-old? How do your kids reach maximum effort? 

20 purposeful and engaging ways for 3-year-olds to exert maximum effort and do heavy work.

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