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March 02, 2020

Toddler Hand Washing - 3 Ways to Make it a Reality

If I had to describe toddlers in two words, I would use autonomy and practical life. Toddlers have a strong need to listen to their inner drives and to work to become independent little humans. Any chance that we can give them to work on their independence is an opportunity for us to fulfill this need. Plus, in a practical sense, if a toddler can do something independently, they are often much happier to participate and it makes for an easier and happier experience for everyone. 

Now, practical life. Practical life describes all the real life tasks that we as humans need to do every day to function. The things we need to do to care for ourselves, for others, and for the world around us. I've said this before but toddlers are creatures of the real world. They love to work on practical tasks and be involved in all the things you do everyday around your home. When you can prepare your environment to allow for a toddler to engage in practical life work in an independent way, then you've really hit the sweet spot. 

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3 Montessori ways to consider adding independent hand washing to your home for your toddler.

Hand washing is certainly important right now in the middle of cold and flu season. So, I thought I would share three possible ways to make hand washing independent for toddlers in your home. It is not necessary to have all 3 ways available but if you prepare even one way you can help to engage your toddler plus help keep them healthy! 

Independent Water Source

What is it: This is any smaller stand with a water source that a toddler can access. It generally includes a water jug or water source of some kind and a basin for that water to be collected in. Sometimes there are fancier options that include a drain. This can be done really flexibility depending on your space and your budget. You can also purchase shelves with basins {like this one} to make this an easy addition to your home. 

How we use it: We use this in our art area for washing hands, dishes, cloth, and art supplies. Ours is a DIY stand

Benefits: Running water is good for a variety of tasks and basin provides other practical life opportunities. Limits the amount of water that a child can use at any given time and cuts down on water waste. 

3 Montessori ways to consider adding independent hand washing to your home for your toddler.

Downsides: You have to make or buy a stand, which can be expensive. It takes up more space. You have to be in charge of refilling the water and emptying it until your child is ready to take on these tasks. 

Bowl and Pitcher

What is it: A small pitcher and bowl where water can be poured into the bowl. The bowl of water can be used to rinse a toddler's hands after getting them soapy. It can be used on a table, counter, or shelf as an easy place to scrub hands. 

How we use it: We use ours in our kitchen for washing hands. Ours happens to be inside the "sink" area of the play kitchen we have adapted for our kitchen work, but it wouldn't have to be. My kids honestly don't use this option a ton once they reach about 2-2.5 years old. But it is their main source of hand washing from the time they stand until that age. 

3 Montessori ways to consider adding independent hand washing to your home for your toddler.

Benefits: Limits the amount of water available to just enough for hand washing which is helpful for smaller toddlers. Very inexpensive and can work in any environment. 

Downsides: Need to empty the water between each child. Small so it is limited to just hand washing.

Adult Sized Sink

What is is: Just like it says, it is the regular sink in your home. Could be in the bathroom/kitchen/laundry room or wherever you have a sink available. However, it is often adapted with a stool, faucet extenders, or a special spout to make it more accessible to a child. 

How we use it: This is the sink that my children use for hand washing after elimination/going to the bathroom. When we did an update to our bathroom we specifically added a spout and handles that are easier for our children to use independently. We also include a large stool for access. 

3 Montessori ways to consider adding independent hand washing to your home for your toddler.

Benefits: Very little additional cost or space to use. Every home has one already. Can be used for other practical life activities - like self care (face washing, brushing teeth, etc.) or dish washing, drinking, or cooking. Self draining and don't need to haul water. 

Downsides: Very young toddlers are going to struggle to use the regular sink even with adaptations making it less independent. There is the possibility for water waste if a toddler has free access to the sink. With more water access comes the possibility of larger messes. 

I'm sure there are other ways to consider hand washing in your home, but these are great options that have worked well for us. 

3 Montessori ways to consider adding independent hand washing to your home for your toddler.

Have you introduced hand washing with your toddler? 

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Anonymous said…
Soap was a big deal for us too--we (luckily?) have a miniature bathroom sink, so with a stool it was easy to access but using two hands to get soap was challenging. We bought an automatic soap dispenser and have not helped our kids wash their hands since!