Today we welcome back Meghan Sheffield from Milkweed Montessori for another guest post in our #30daystoMontessori challenge! Today Meghan is discussing respectfully diapering children and encouraging independent diapering, which are in line with my previous posts on Montessori approaches to toilet learning, here and here.
For those of you who are not in the diapering stage of life anymore (whoa-hoo!) I wanted to give you a related challenge — empowering your child to help dress themselves. There are many ways to do this, from setting up dressing areas to teaching them how to fasten their clothing by practicing with their own clothes, dolls, or dressing frames. I’ll list some links at the bottom of this post.
When my son was born, I thought of diaper changes as something to get out of the way quickly in order to get on with the rest of the day. As all parents know, with a newborn, changing diapers actually is how you spend your day. Learning, growth and development don’t happen only when we intend it (put away those flashcards!) — it happens all the time, including during diaper changes. There is important stuff being communicated — language opportunities, respect for another person (the child), and respect for and knowledge about our bodies. Embrace diaper changing as an opportunity to connect. And when the time comes for work on toilet independence, start embracing potty too.
Talk through it.
It’s a great demonstration of respect if you simply tell your child what you’re doing with and around their body as you do it. Babies are absorbing everything — diaper changes are as good an opportunity as any to let them engage with your facial expressions, the sound and rhythm of your voice, and rich language.
One word of warning though — it is anything but respectful to make faces or talk about how smelly the contents of the diaper are. Let’s choose respect and dignity for even the smallest people in our homes.
If your child can stand, change them standing up.
As soon as a child can stand or even pull up, it makes sense to acknowledge this developmental stage and change them standing up, instead of reverting to laying them down, infant style. This often helps to avoid messy tantrums at diaper changing time, and helps the child to take a more active role, by stepping into and out of pants, for example, instead of lying on their backs passively.
Standing children are also ready to participate in washing their hands after diaper changes.
Change them in the same place every time — and preferably the washroom.
Babies and toddlers are very sensitive to order, which is to say that they respond to and develop better under consistent circumstances, so changing your child in the same place every time helps them to have a better sense of what is happening and to build connections about what order things may happen in. Changing your child in the washroom consistently helps to build an early connection between the washroom and toileting.
Move on (no pun intended!)
According to Montessori philosophy, children are most sensitive (a.k.a. interested, aware and engaged with) toilet independence between 12 and 18 months — much earlier than Western culture’s current expectations, and yet it is a simple and peaceful process for many toddlers. Look into going diaper-free, use cloth diapers, and start offering the potty early and often. The number one thing you can do to promote independence in diapering is to give your child the tools to get out of diapers as soon as possible.
For those of you who are past the diapering phase, there are several other ways you can help your child independently dress!
You can even create lessons on dressing — like Montessori on a Budget did for “Dressing for the Season.”
Or you can do like I did — we used doll clothes to practice! We do have dressing frames now, but the doll clothes seemed a lot more inviting and fun!
If you do something to help encourage independence with diapering, dressing, or any aspect of self-care, make sure to share in on social media using the hashtag #30daystoMontessori — and feel free to tag me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!