Unnecessary Help

We are going through re-enrollment right now. While it is a busy time of year sorting out returning students and helping enroll new ones, it is also a time to reflect on the year so far. 

We are fortunate to have two toddler classrooms with children anywhere from 12 months to 33 months. Maria Montessori believed in the power of the mixed age group and as educators, the faculty and I witness the benefits on a daily basis. At any given time there will be ample opportunity to assist children in self-help skills, lessons, conflict resolution and many other tasks. 

As the day unfolds, children are working independently or together. Then there are times when they need help. 'Help' is an interesting term. While one may think what they are offering is help, it may not actually be beneficial. You may ask, "How can helping not be helpful?" Perhaps when we feel the child is not prepared to do something for themselves or it might be easier to just do something for them. When we are not allowing the child opportunity to come to their own conclusion, help can actually be a hindrance.

Recently, one of my teachers presented me with this article from the Center for Montessori Teacher's Education/NY,, Please read on for simple ways to help children- 

“Any unnecessary help given to a child is a hindrance to development”  -Maria Montessori

Guidelines for Giving Necessary Help:

1.      Entice the child with slow, calm movements (vs. overly enthusiastic or exaggerated movements.)

2.      Watch child’s eyes as the child leads with the eyes before the hands.

3.      Be observant of the tiniest movements indicating interest toward the activity (a tiny finger poking forward.)

4.      Wait and give the child time to participate.

5.      Be observant of yourself and the child so that you will be able to move in and out of a child’s energy field without disrupting it. (We do not want to overwhelm a child with our presence.) Montessori stated that we should not substitute our personality for the child’s.

If you will consciously practice the above skills, you will increase your sensitivity and be more aware of when to help and when not to help. The child is then free to grow in independence and self-awareness.

Credit: Center for Montessori Teacher’s Education/NY