MONTESSORI TODDLER: SMALL CHANGES TO THE PREPARED ENVIRONMENT

I’m not a fan of change. Being Autistic, I actually find it really difficult to adjust to at times. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for E and V. Contrary to me, they seem to like a few things to change on, what seems to be, a semi-regular basis. They make it known that they need something altered in their own way.

We have some photos hanging at the girls’ level, for them to enjoy. Their weaning table used to be located in the sitting area, near the kitchen, and we had three photos there. A few months after we relocated their weaning table, E and V would start to take down the photos. I thought it was because they just liked the ripping sound that it made as we hung them with Command Strips, so I created a DIY activity for them, hoping to fill this need, but in time the removing of these photos continued.

The photos were kind of kitchen themed and with their weaning table gone, I thought it was time to switch them out for one that was done by a friend of the family. With a new photo placed up, they haven’t attempted to remove it and actually enjoy looking at it for long periods of time. They had made it clear, in their own way, that they were ready for a change. So when they started to remove the photos hanging in their bedroom, I didn’t even attempt to place them back up. Instead, I ordered the necessary materials so that we may swap them out for something different (pieces that they picked out themselves at the last art show we went to, pre-covid).

Climbing the weaning table was becoming a bit of a thing. While we created a movement room and would redirect it would still be a problem enough for us to remove the table it or, as a late resort, flip it. However, once we began displaying an activity, like their DIY buddha board, a puzzle, or transferring activity, the climbing has ceased to become a problem.

What I thought was them just trying to access items on the half shelf between the kitchen and sitting area actually appeared to be them requesting a rearranging. They would repeatedly climb the couch to grab these items and books. It got to the point it was becoming a safety issue (as V stared at me one morning and then proceeded to attempt to climb over the wall onto the counter). But once I rearranged a few pieces of furniture they no longer attempted to grab for these materials and their moods have been much improved. Even as I write this, it seems strange, but here we are with two happy toddlers who no longer toss my items around, haha.

We are slowly starting to use their kitchen set-up more. While they’ve had a few things there, they are starting to understand that these are for meals and not to be randomly played with, like using spoons for the steel drum or banging the egg slicer on the floor. In part, it was learning that these items are only for specific roles. When they started to bring out the egg slicer, we would prepare eggs to eat. I kept hardboiled eggs peeled and ready to use in the fridge for immediate use. I don’t think this would have been as effective if they had to wait for eggs to boil.

They’ve been helping me unload the dishwasher for some time now. While they would originally just hand dishes to me, I slowly started to encourage them to bring me the dishes while I remained by the cupboards. Now, we are bringing their dishes to their kitchen, again enforcing what their kitchen and these materials are used for. The spoon doesn’t just magically show up and can be used for whatever. They removed it from the dishwasher and placed it in its location. They also put it on their table for meals or snacks and remove it and load it in the dishwasher when they are finished. Being part of the whole cycle has greatly helped them understand what items are used for what and what they shouldn’t be used for.

When they were younger and came across small pieces of trash (think crumbs) I would thank them and throw them away. As they began walking, they would request to throw these items away on their own. This leads to us putting a small container (one of these minus the lid) in the kitchen for them to use as their own little trash bin.

They now bring us an item, informing us that it’s trash, and then we agree, “Yes, you found trash; you should put that in the trash.” And they go and put it in their little trash bin. As part of our routine, they empty their trash bin every morning. I open the cabinet and bring out out trash, they dump theirs in and then return it to its spot near the dishwasher.

Just an example of how little changes can make a huge difference.

What little changes have you made at home that have had a great impact?

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