Monday, August 6, 2012

Use of Hands

“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. 
The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
Dr. Maria Montessori

This week part of the older children's practice schedules kicked in, and our toddler started getting whinier than usual and crabby!  So Saturday morning we thought we'd try some tried and true tricks that usually get her back on track, like making sure she eats and drinks pretty regularly, trying to protect her nap time, and giving her plenty of exercise outdoors.  It seems to have helped, because last night she was happily playing for a LONG TIME with her DUPLOS.  

Alleluia became very relaxed and happy as she played for a long period of time with these Duplos (part of a board game called My First Builder).

As she was cheerfully making ducky after ducky with the blocks, she narrated in a sing-song voice.  She was so relaxed and happy that I thought of the moms I had spoken to this week who were both frustrated with their toddlers and who felt defeated by what they saw as the demands of Montessori.

We've all had our good days and our bad days.  It's hard sometimes to keep our eyes on the ball and remember the basics--just as we were struggling by the end of last week.  Sometimes if we can stop and remember the needs of a toddler we can tweak our daily routine just enough to get him or her back on an even keel.

Toddlers need to use their hands.  It's essential.  They need to be able to touch, feel, work, build, smear, pour--all of that good stuff.  I thought I'd show some photos of ways we use our hands in a very day-to-day way--NOT going out of our way, not necessarily involving special Montessori materials.  I don't even show photos of finger paint or sandbox play, because some parents don't even want to deal with the mess that they entail.  These are pretty normal, everyday ways that we and our children may use our hands this week!

An 8-year-old can learn to iron.

From an earlier post, watch as your toddler goes from using the whole hand to using the pincer grasp.

Sometimes it takes a lot of muscle to pick veggies!

There are lots of building toys that require dexterity.

Duplos and Primos are easier to use (and babies can't choke on them).

Using different types of paints and assorted brushes

Ironing and folding hankies...

...requires lining up corners and edges carefully.

Lots of peeling and chopping go on in the kitchen.

You can even mix things with your bare hands!

(potato salad, in case you were wondering)

Sometimes slicing requires the use of two hands!

We found some unused Valentines.  We had to tear along the perforations, fold them, use stickers to keep them closed, address them, and deliver.  Do your children ever see you write with a pen anymore?

Plenty of games use the hands, even when you are just messing around with the pieces--not playing according to the rules.  This one is called Topple.

Grating cheese to help make dinner

Chopping requires careful use of both hands.

Tiny pieces require a lot of dexterity.

You can practice sweeping up with items of various sizes (watch for choking hazards, though).

Pouring and scooping are classic Montessori works.

Impromptu games made with wrapping paper tubes require hands.

When chopping various fruits and veggies you learn to use different techniques and different tools (this knife if made to slice soft or sticky things).

Mushrooms present their own challenges.

Even making the materials for a Montessori classroom requires the use of hands!

Using an aerosol spray is easy for adults to do with one hand, but most children use two,

Tesla was using tools at an early age and it still using them!

Over the course of the summer, Alleluia has developed the ability to open and close these dot marker caps.

It has really taken a lot of practice!

This was meant for sorting, but small children may just want to feel the beans and peas.
Did you know there are all sorts of tools you can use with Play-doh?  

Lego makes mosaics, too.

Teenagers enjoy being creative with nail polish.

Toddlers enjoy using tools that really work but that are the right size for their hands.

Pouring everything into the mixing bowl is not easy...

... and titling your hand just enough to get the pudding to drip into the dessert bowls isn't easy, either.

Using stickers to label new school supplies...

..requires peeling them off and placing them carefully in the right spot.

Pixos are appropriate for our 8- and 11-year-olds.

Whacking the Boom Whackers to make music requires the use of both hands and rubber-tipped mallets.

Water play incorporates pouring practice.

You can do this at the local pool, in your backyard or just in the bath.

Molding Play-doh builds muscles in the hands.

Water play can involve child-sized tools, like this watering can.

It's really tricky to try to catch fish with a net!  What started as some water play in the creek became an interesting lesson in ripples traveling across the surface of the water.

Overwhelmed by trying to do everything right?  Step back and take some pictures of what you are doing for one week or one month, as a family.  If you have little ones at home, focus on the many ways you use your hands.  If you remember to "never give more to the mind than to the hands" first, you'll be doing things "right," as far as Dr. Montessori is concerned!

Montessori Monday


  1. This is encouraging! Thanks for all the great pictures.

  2. I love your pictures ... so many great ideas for use of hands! I appreciate the links to toys that are good for development, too! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page: