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Learning to Clean Up - Montessori Young Toddler Week 27 and 28

I don’t know when it first happened, but one day I noticed it. And then again. And again. Gus playing with a material, then that material put back on the shelf when he was done. Suddenly, my baby was starting to clean up, restore work, and maintain order. 

Now, let’s not get the impression that it’s perfect. Or that it’s every single time, because it’s not. But it is happening. And, it always surprises me a bit when it does. After months and months of exploration and tornado-like movement, a slow and orderly boy emerges.

4 Montessori friendly tips to help your toddler learn to clean up after themselves.

It shouldn’t surprise me, Maria Montessori talked extensively about the importance of order for children. She said, “Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness.” The sensitive period for order is strong in young toddlers. They recognize order and seek to make it. A disruption to their sense of order causes them real distress. So it makes sense that children around this age can clean up the toys and materials that they use. 

But, I do think there are a few things that can help this process be successful: 
  1. Your own expectations - keep them in check! No young toddler is going to be perfect or always restore work. Know that for the time being any small step in that direction is a good thing.
  2. Refrain from praise - don't make cleaning up about the "reward" of your praise or attention. In the end this will kill a child's intrinsic motivation to restore order.
  3. Prepare your space - create an environment where there is a clear sense of order. This includes making sure there aren't too many materials on the shelves, that work is clearly organized, that materials are appropriate. Your child has to know where things go and what things there are in order to maintain the order.
  4. Model, model, model - and do so joyfully! Don't wait to pick up until after your child is in bed or has moved to something else. Model maintaining order for your child. Make it a simple part of everyday life. It's just something you do and don't make it a chore. 
4 Montessori friendly tips to help your toddler learn to clean up after themselves.

Have you noticed your child starting to clean up after themselves? 



Unknown said…
Hi Nicole! Gus is adorable :) My son is 19 months and I've been working on modeling the same thing. Sometimes he does great and cleans upuon his own but many other times he just watches me clean or continues playing. Is it appropriate for me to insist that he help, or is it better to just continue to model? I usually try to gently encourage if he doesn't feel like helping by handing him things to put away and making suggestions. I'm a little worried that if I don't take action now I'll end up with a 5 year old who never cleans up. But I also wonder if maybe my expectations are too high (he's my first). I'd appreciate any suggestions!
I think you will find you get more resisting the more you push. I honestly don't push it. An older child will have very different motivations. Joyfully model and trust that he will follow.

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