Today, Beth Holley is back with another Montessori Practical Life Lesson.
This time we are exploring how to teach your child to sweep, the Montessori way.
Dr. Montessori viewed development as gaining successive levels of independence. She was famous for saying things like “Any unnecessary help given to a child is a hindrance to development.” She tells us that from birth, physical and intellectual independence is the child’s primary aim.
She also tells us to “give and do what is necessary for the child to act for himself.” This maxim inspires all the practical life lessons. Each practical life lesson demonstrates the materials and actions needed for the child to develop an independent function.
At first, this approach is harder than simply helping the child; however, in the long run, it becomes easier for you and your child, if s/he can take care of a task independently. Our natural tendency is to want to help, to jump right in and “make it all better.” There are times we should resist this urge.
If I only had a dollar for every time a pitcher of rice or bowl of beans hit the floor and went scattering to the four winds…and I forced myself to look away, knowing that I had prepared the children to take care of spills.
This is where sweeping comes in. It’s a very handy skill to have in a Montessori classroom.
How to Present Sweeping
- Direct: to learn the movements needed to manipulate a broom, managing one’s body, the broom, and the spilled material all at the same time.
- Indirect: coordination, independence, and concentration.
- child-sized broom
- small dustpan and hand brush
- jar of loose material to sweep such as confetti or sawdust (we used leftover coloured barley, like the kind we used in our spooning practical life lesson)
- removable tape to mark off an area on a hard floor (I used washi tape on my tile floor)
Age: 2 1/2 –4
1. Bring the jar of loose material to the taped–off area. Say, “We’re going to sweep into this square.” (The taped–off square is large enough for the head of the broom).
2. Sprinkle some loose material around the square. Return the jar to the shelf.
3. Retrieve the child–sized broom. Say, “Watch while I sweep it all up.”
4. Sweep the loose material into the square with slow strokes, going all the way around the square. Shake the broom over the square and ask, “Did I miss any?”
5. Return the broom and retrieve the dustpan and hand brush.
6. On your knees, sweep the material into the dustpan. Ask again, “Did I miss any?”
7. Carry the dustpan with the brush across the front such that the material will not slide out. Brush the material out into a wastebasket. Return the dustpan and brush to storage.
8. Invite the child to try.
Points of Interest:
- Does the child sweep all the material into the square?
- Does she get it all into the dustpan?
- Does she successfully sweep it into the wastebasket?
- Does she remember to return the items to storage?
Note: Montessori Services sells lovely child–sized brooms and mops. I’ve had luck finding small dustpans and hand brushes in discount stores.
One safety note: if glass is broken when a pitcher or bowl is dropped, then obviously the adult should remove any dangerous shards, making sure they are not left exposed in a wastebasket. I gave my older children a practical life lesson on securing broken glass in a taped box, so that people removing trash from the classroom or school grounds would not get cut.
Otherwise, store the child–sized tools in an accessible place, and when there’s a little spill, your child can take care of it. No worries.