It’s the small things.

I’ve heard people say things like, “why bother with a toddler bed when your kid is just going to grow out of it?” or “I don’t want to spend money on a kid-sized table, because the kids are going to be too big for it in a few years.” At first glance there seems to be nothing so terrible about those statements, but the more I observe children at home or at school, the more I’m convinced that Maria Montessori was right: children need their own tools and furniture in order to be able to operate independently.

Not convinced? Try this: take a tall, cylindrical glass vase (at least 16″ high and 8″ across.) Fill it partway with water. Now drink from it without spilling. Difficult, isn’t it? Even if you didn’t spill on the first go, keep drinking from it for the next fifteen minutes. I’m willing to bet that if it didn’t feel way too heavy at first, it will soon. I’m also willing to bet that you’ll start spilling or even drop the vase after a while. And no matter what, you have to admit that it’s uncomfortable and awkward to drink from such a huge glass.

This is the kind of thing our kids face every day in our adult-sized world. They sit on a chair and their legs dangle (then again, so do mine – I’m kind of short.) They try to eat without spilling food everywhere, but it’s hard when the tabletop comes up to your armpits. They want to pour their own juice but the jug is too heavy and too big for their hands to manage.

Some of the “magic” of Montessori lies in this simple concept. Once children have tools and materials that are the correct size for them to handle – wonder of wonders! – they can do many things just as well as adults can. When adults suggest that a child just can’t pour without spilling, it means that they’ve never seen a child pouring with an appropriately-sized vessel. When Montessori Dad suggests that R will soon be able to use K’s adjustable junior chair he’s forgetting that K still needs it: when K sits in a regular dining chair she spills food all over the table and herself, but in her Tripp Trapp she eats as neatly as we do.

And so our house is full of small things. Small beds, small table and chairs, shot glasses for the babies to drink from, small pitchers (a creamer and a milk-frothing jug), small colander, small cutlery. The kids are thrilled to have their own versions of the things we use everyday, but I think it goes beyond “this little glass is so cute!” Having child-sized (real, not toy or plastic) tools and furniture is an acknowledgement that our children are people. They have the same need as adults do to work, eat, groom and dress independently and with their dignity intact.

After all, we would never want to live in a house where everything was too big to be comfortable. Our home is not just ours – our kids live there too. Shouldn’t our furnishings and household objects reflect that?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ella
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 22:07:47

    great blog topic Sara. We are in the process of finding a good school for Liam for JK next year and reading this just makes a whole lot of sense. We are considering Montessori, but are looking into other options.


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