There’s under 21 months between Alfie and India, with such a small age gap you quickly realise that Montessori is a lot easier with just one child! Juggling an infant and a toddler has been challenging for me and I realised fairly early on that I would need to make some changes.
I reached out to some inspiring mothers who had their children close together to see how they do Montessori with toddlers and babies.
This advise comes from me; it’s time to stop winging it! Your regular workload has just doubled and you’ll be carrying a huge amount of mental and emotional info at any one time so it’s time to Prepare the Adult Environment so that you can go on autopilot. Firstly arrange your home so that any manual task you do several times a day becomes automatic. I’ve started putting items in caddies, eg one for nappy changes, one for cleaning the bathroom, one for laundry, one for gardening etc. These become grab-and-go tasks which require zero planning or thought.
Even better prep ahead as much as you can so that some jobs are eliminated every day. I’ve started batch cooking my lunches for the week on a Monday and doing some dinner prep on a Tuesday morning. Alfie can still help with food prep but it removes the urgency and the time wasting process of browsing the fridge, deliberating, preparing, cleaning up every day. Likewise I pack my nappy bag and put the pram in the car every evening.
Involve Older Kids
Kara of Gentle Breeze Montessori is Mum to a 3 year old and a 3 month old – so her house is busy! Her advice is to get older siblings involved and lighten your own burden at the same time. “I involve my older child as much as I can in caring for the baby (bathing, dressing etc). Not only is it great practical life work but it fosters a sense of teamwork as a family.”
That chance for bonding is the real winner here. My son’s interest in caring for his sister was instant and somewhat surprising for me. From their first meeting he doted on her and loves burping her, wiping her mouth after a bottle and offering her toys if she’s sad. As Kara says, capitalising on this natural interest is a perfect way to draw the family together. (Read more about Preparing A Toddler For a Newborn and Helping Siblings Share)
Shared and Separate Spaces
Alfie and Indi can definitely play together but not for long periods of time and as Indi has just started crawling she’s always nosying around in his things! While their shared space definitely brought them closer at the start, it’s time for me to make some changes and define some Alfie-Only areas to protect his right to peaceful and independent play.
Kristen of O, E and Me is doing Montessori with her toddler and preschooler, she has the following advice; “Our set-up is designed to be universally friendly and to have as many shared items as possible. My oldest child has some small parts and knives that are kept high and out of reach (works for now). My youngest has much of what he needs at eye level which helps keep his focus down. I observe and try to select items for each child based on interests and also try to find items that will encourage play together.” A Montessori space is never truly ‘finished’, it’s always evolving to reflect our children’s changing needs.
Prepare The Environment
The power of the prepared environment cannot be overstated! Wether to enable self-care, independent play or snack preparation. I try to by the time morning comes you’ll be grateful you set aside ten minutes to stock up shelves…no matter how tempting it was to just crawl into bed!
There are emotional benefits to a prepared environment too. Julie from The Prepared Nest advises “Having a home environment that is predictable, orderly and calm will help any child feel more centred, secure and stable. Children depend on their routines and when something is out of sequence or in the wrong place a meltdown can ensue – and distress can be contagious!“ And the LAST thing we want to do is to spread panic!
Make use of Routines and Rhythms
The next piece of advise comes from Bree at Kindling Kids Montessori “Work together establishing predictable routines for your most challenging times of day. This supports your child’s seen need for order while encouraging their independence, and eventually frees up space in your brain as daily tasks become a familiar rhythm. Determine what is serving your family and what is not through intentional observation; then begin to very slowly add and remove things as you stay in tune with your child’s needs.”
We rely a lot on routines in our house. I spent the last few weeks of 2018 observing and planning as Bree says and have established a new rhythm that works for us all now. One thing that surprised me was that we ended up eliminating family dinner three times a week, while the idea was lovely cooking a fresh gourmet meal every night and waiting to eat it till Fred got home from work was stressing everyone out. We’ve introduced an early dinner and a late supper on those nights and we’re all much calmer as a result!
Find your Mom Tribe
Support is so important and easily overlooked as a parenting essential, especially for us parents trying to do things differently. Amanda of Your Story Photography has found her friends increasingly important as her family has started to grow. “I really rely on Moms, my anxiety is so bad when I’m on my own, I need my Mom friends even though I never thought I’d be like this. I’m so ver very thankful for them. I had a panic attack yesterday and was able to walk two seconds down the road to my friend to help me, I’ve never felt more thankful.”