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What are the best Montessori activities for 18-month old toddlers? Before we can respond to this question, it is important to understand what Montessori education really means as well as the development of an 18-month old child.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
- The basic principles of Montessori education and how you can structure the activities that you propose to your child around them.
- Your toddler’s development at 18 months and the activities that can help them develop new skills or reinforce those that they have already developed.
The Key principles of Montessori education
Montessori is a renowned educator whose education theories have stood the test of time. She believed that from the youngest age, children sought greater autonomy and that it was important to provide them with multiple opportunities to “do things for themselves”.
She believed that when children were allowed to choose by themselves the activities in which they wanted to engage – and then to stop those activities whenever they wanted to – they developed important skills such as focus and concentration and decision-making skills among others.
Even today, Montessori-inspired institutions practice child-led learning, meaning that they privilege environments where kids can easily access different types of materials, then place those materials back when they are done playing with them.
Before you can choose the best Montessori activities for 18 month old toddlers, it is important to be aware of what your child can actually do in line with their developmental level.
Best Montessori activities for 18 month olds – What do we know about their development?
- They are more independent and they are curious about everything;
- They know and understand more and more words every day;
- They try to imitate the people around them;
- They start pointing with their fingers to show what they want;
- They recognize the objects with which they are familiar;
- They shake their heads when they want to say no;
- They are crawling or walking;
- They can eat with their fingers and can even begin to feed themselves;
- They begin to understand brief and simple instructions;
- They can drink from a cup;
- They “help you to dress them”: for example, they can lift their feet so that you can put on their shoes.
The best Montessori activities are those that take into account their development and the Montessori principles of education.
In other words, the best activities are those that help your child to develop or strengthen their skills in a way that ensures that they participate actively in their learning.
Here are a few simple Montessori activities 18 month old toddlers.
Montessori activities for 18 month old toddlers
Here are a few guidelines to help you determine the best Montessori activities for your baby.
1) Propose the right tools
Montessori strongly believed that children learned best when they were engaged in real-life activities. She also believed that they got greater pleasure from participating in these activities than from pretend play.
In other words, Montessori was of the opinion that it was better to give a child age-appropriate tools – tools adapted to their age and their development – then let them participate in actual tasks instead of pretend tasks.
When it comes to Montessori activities for 18 month old toddler, this could look like:
- Giving your child an age-appropriate wooden knife and letting them help prepare the family meal by cutting soft fruits and vegetables.
- Giving them a real broom set that they can use to sweep and dust. Even a child who is not walking yet will enjoy using a hand broom like this one while seated.
- Proposing a kitchen tower. Kitchen towers are one of the most common tools privileged by Montessori enthusiasts because they are practical, safe, and they allow your child to reach high surfaces such as the kitchen counter and therefore to participate more fully in your family’s life. If you get an adjustable tower like this one, your child can use it for different purposes (brushing teeth, reaching the counter, and so on).
- Help your child learn to “do it themselves”
2) The best Montessori activities for toddlers are those that encourage them to participate fully in their environment.
Young children love to imitate their parents, and they are at an age when they think that chores are fun! That’s a good thing because chores are an easy way to help them to develop multiple skills.
Several scientific studies suggest that introducing kids early to household chores increases their self-reliance, their self-confidence and even their decision-making skills later in life.
The good news is that even at 18 months, your child can participate in simple household chores and will want to do the things that they see you or their siblings doing.
Great examples of chores at this age include light dusting, help setting the table, picking up toys and putting them away, holding the dustpan, throwing their diapers away, and so on.
Just remember to keep things simple, to choose age-appropriate tools, and to show them how to use those tools if they struggle when you first begin.
3) Good Montessori activities for 18 month old toddlers link pretend play to real life activities whenever possible
There has been quite some debate about whether Maria Montessori was against pretend play, and she would later clarify on this issue years later, saying that she believed that children benefited from pretend play if this was proposed alongside other activities.
In other words, she said that different types of play were beneficial to children. We now know that 18 month old babies love pretend play and benefit from this type of play.
Remember that it is possible to relate pretend play to real life activities. For example, if your child has a play kitchen, you can get them an age-appropriate knife and allow them to cut soft fruit in their own kitchen.
4) Prepare your environment
Good activities for toddlers revolve around enabling them to “succeed by themselves”, and this therefore requires them to have easy access to whatever they need.
In other words, the easier the access, the greater the engagement.
Montessori-style shelves are an easy way to ensure that your child has easy access to the toys and tools that they need.
There are two basic rules to making these shelves work: each object must have its own specific place on the shelf, and there should be a limited number of objects on the shelves. This will make it easier for your child to engage with whatever they choose, whenever they choose to do so, and to put things back on the shelf when they are done.
5) Give your child multiple opportunities to “help themselves”
Montessori said that all children wanted to be “helped to help themselves”. By this, she meant that it is important to give children opportunities to do things for themselves.
For example, good activities can allow them to:
- Manipulate books by themselves and thus to strengthen their fine motor skills
- Self-feed and thus to strengthen different skills while helping them to practice their autonomy. Remember to choose an age-appropriate spoon like this one. The beginnings will be rather messy so protect your environment.
6) Propose activities to strengthen your child’s language skills
At 18 months, toddlers are rapidly developing their language skills and learning new words more quickly than before. Their memory is improving and they are therefore finding it easier to remember the names of things and objects more easily.
The more words your baby hears at this age, the easier it will be for them to develop and reinforce their language skills.
The good news is that there are many simple ways to help them develop these skills:
- Talk to them as often as possible;
- Always call objects by their names;
- Help your baby familiarize themselves with their body by touching and naming the different body parts (for example when getting them dressed);
- If your baby points at something, point at the same thing and repeat its name;
- Sing songs;
- Read to your baby as often as you can.
A simple way to choose the best Montessori activities for 18 month old toddlers is to focus on Maria Montessori’s principles. One of her key principles of education revolves around encouraging children to “do things by themselves” and ensuring that they are fully involved in their environment.
The best activities are therefore simple activities that give children the autonomy that they need, and those that make them feel actively involved in the environment around them.