The girls, although the same age, have different abilities. V has consistently reached physical milestones before E. She rolled over for the first time a day before E, army crawled three weeks sooner, became interested and mastered the permeance box quicker, too. While E has achieved social milestones sooner. She smiled, laughed, and showed excitement ahead of her sister. She also prefers to analyze items for longer periods of time. This is all fine. Children are all different and have their own timelines as to when milestones will be achieved, this is even true for identical twins.
So how do we prepare an environment for same age children with varied developmental abilities and interests? Cautiously. We don’t want to put out work that is too challenging, thus causing frustration for one child, while making sure that the other child is still engaged. The easiest solution would be to create two separate areas. However, our house isn’t very big, so there just isn’t the space to do that.
My goal is to make sure that materials aren’t too challenging to the point that one child is regularly frustrated and challenging enough to engage both children. I also was to ensure that materials (while they don’t need to be exactly as intended) are respected and treated with care.
An example of this are the single shape puzzles. After observing her for awhile, I saw that V was ready for the large circle puzzle. After playing with it for awhile (mouthing and banging) she began to put it together. After weeks of being out, she became proficient enough that it was clear she was ready for an additional challenge. So I introduced the smaller circle as well.
E is not interested in the puzzle as a whole, just mouthing the knob. Currently, she is more into the farm animals. So I present the puzzle in such a way that the easiest is on the left and the more difficult one is on the right, as it should be, but with the pieces flat and in order. If I’m near when E comes across the puzzles and appears interested, I try to separate the large circle and display it for her. This solution has currently worked well, because she rarely shows interest in these materials.
Another example is the farm animals. V likes to go over sounds and the names, but E has started to show interest in matching these animals to laminated pictures I created for them. If it were just E using these materials, I would put the animals on the tray and the cards in a basket on the same tray. Instead, I have the cards just off to the side where they are available to her, but V doesn’t feel she needs to work with them.
The very first post I wrote was about using a Montessori mat (something they will soon be able to do on their own). While this involves me, it has been a great way to start introducing boundaries to the girls. When one of them is working with materials, it helps her sister learn to respect that space. When someone is working on the mat, it’s off limits. I try to sportscast, but it’s ultimately my responsibility to make sure she can work uninterrupted. If you’ve seen our Instagram, you are probably aware that they are often in each other’s business. They love being and working working, but we also need to learn to respect each other’s concentration and work space.
Have you needed to create a prepared environment for same age children in different developmental stages? Did it work well?
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