My preschool child won't take a Montessori lesson!

Young boy hiking, in shorts, through a wooded area

I get a lot of emails from moms of young children who won't take a lesson. (Usually, I get these emails from moms of toddlers! But now I get them for three- and four-year-olds.) What is my reaction? Join the club! Alas, I had the same issue with my son. Some kids will never take instruction (well) from a parent! What to do?!

Try instead to interact with your child during other times, like when he or she is taking a bath, looking at books with you, getting dressed, or sitting down and eating. (I think this is called having a captive audience!) Count the pieces of food while you put them in the dish: count ten grapes or ten crackers; or introduce colors to your children while eating: "This is a red placemat, this is a yellow cup. Can you say red? Can you say yellow?" Then the next day, point to the red placemat and ask her "Is this red or yellow?" And a few days later, ask her "What color is the placemat? What color is the cup?" This is a three-period lesson given over several days.

I did this all the time with my son who has Down syndrome, and by age three he knew all his primary colors and he knew them in sign language! All from interacting with him at mealtime, bath time, getting dressed, looking at books.. and not through a sit-down-at-a-table-or-a-rug lesson!

So what I'm trying to say is you have to be creative and find other ways to "teach" your child without sitting down and giving lessons (for now).

It is harder for moms to give their children lessons because the young child wants to be in control of his or her actions and does not want the mom to interfere! And if you are the type of person who needs to have control, your child is teaching you to let go of some of that control.

But I feel for all you moms who have trouble giving lessons to your youngsters, my son does not let me give lessons or help him do much of anything! I have to be very creative! It keeps us, moms, on our toes to be sure!
Here are some of the many questions I get on this issue, along with my responses!

Three-Year-Old Refuses To Take a Lesson From Mom 

I face difficulty with my three-year-old daughter sitting down, or either to listen to instructions. Most of the time she refuses to observe [take a lesson from me]. She likes to do it her own way without any assistance [from me]. I engaged the circle time this afternoon... she said she wanted to sing another song but then she walked away.

This is not uncommon for young three-year-olds, and you may have to wait until she is four years old to give her lessons. Instead, have activities that she can do independently with little or no help from you.

What you can do instead is interact with her when she is sitting down and eating. Count her food while you put it in her dish: count ten grapes or ten crackers.

You can also introduce colors to her when she is eating: "This is a red place mat, this is a yellow cup. Can you say 'red'? Can you say 'yellow.'" The next day, point to the red place mat and ask her "Is this red or yellow?" And a few days later, ask her "What color is the placemat? What color is the cup?" This is a three-period lesson given over several days.

You can also play I Spy with her when you are in the car, sitting at the Doctor's office, or waiting in line at the store or the bank. (Although she might not show an interest in I Spy until age 3 1/2 as has been my experience.)

So what I'm trying to say is you have to be creative and find other ways to "teach" her without sitting down and giving lessons, for now.

As for circle time, this can be a challenge for some children who don't like to sit for very long. Things you can try (at circle time): play music using a CD or cassette tape, do a puppet show, dance, and do movement time... but make it short! Try doing circle time for only five or six minutes and use a timer. Then, increase it by one minute each week. And sometimes having circle time at a different time of day will help, like after outside playtime or after lunch.

As a mom, it is harder to give your child lessons (than a teacher) because your child wants to be in control of her actions and does not want the mom to interfere! And if you are the type of person who needs to have control, your child is teaching you to let go of some of that control (and perhaps your child is the same way and wants to be in control!).

Four-Year-Old Won't Take a Montessori Lesson From Mom

I have an only son who's nearly four years old. I have started Montessori school at home, and have some friends for him to play with. In the beginning, it was difficult to share mommy, he is now sort of OK with the idea when I give other children some attention.

My biggest problem is he does not want me to teach him anything...When I want to show him some work he will toss the work on the ground and he will tell me that’s not the right way to do it. I really want to help my child and this is a big concern for me. What am I doing wrong?

You are describing my son! I've had this issue with him since, well, forever!

It is not uncommon, I get this question a lot from moms who try to introduce Montessori activities to their young children!

Since you have a son who does not want mommy to "be his teacher" then don't, at least not for now.

Your son will grow out of this as he grows more independent (can zip, button, tie, draw a picture, and so forth). You just have to be patient and use a hands-off approach.

When you are not having school, you will want only activities out that he can do with no help from you, so try to have your Montessori activities in another room, or gated off, or put away, when school is over.

And you are doing nothing wrong, but neither is your son!

What it boils down to are personality and character. Some children would rather do it themselves: to try and try again. And they can handle a higher level of frustration and take a challenge head-on, and they do not give up very easily.

It will be a bonus in the future! (For now, it's a pain!)

When to Introduce a New Toddler Activity

I have a general question. After reading a few books about the Montessori method, I am still not sure how to determine when to introduce a new activity to my toddler. For instance, when do I introduce the pink tower? What kind of readiness should I look for?--LS

If your toddler started stacking her toys, her books, her dishes, and her blocks, that would signal readiness for the pink tower. However, if you thought all ten cubes of the pink tower were too much, you could only put out five or six (of the bigger ones).

And sometimes you won't know until you put out an activity and see if: your toddler repeats the activity each day; throws it and seems confused as to what to do with it (like my son did!); tries it and gets frustrated; ignores it; or does it once and never again...

If your toddler will take a lesson, you can observe how easy or hard the activity is; how soon she loses interest, or if she stays with the activity for a long time...

So, observation is the key! ~Lisa Nolan

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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