MAKE YOUR HOUSE A CHILD-FRIENDLY HOME
By Elizabeth Foss
Imagine that you have just walked into a darkened room. You reach for
the light switch but it is up high on the wall, just beyond your
fingertips. You sit on the chair in the room, but when you scoot all
the way back, your feet no longer touch the floor. There is a lovely
vase of flowers on the table and you are intensely curious about how
they smell and how the leaves feel but you know it is against the
rules to touch them. You are increasingly frustrated in this room and
find yourself falling into bad humor. Pretty soon, you are going to
One of the overriding principles of Montessori thought is a prepared
environment. Both adults and children live in a home and both should
feel comfortable there. A child who is truly at home in his house is
likely to be much more pleasant. The first step in making a home
child-friendly is commonsense baby-proofing done by almost all
parents. If something presents a hazard to the child, remove it or
change it. Dangerous situations should not be object lessons or
training grounds for obedience.
In , Patricia Oriti gives many other ideas
for creating an environnment where children and adults are
comfortable. Go back to our imagined room. A special strap attached
to the light switch makes it simple to operate. A small chair allows
a child to sit comfortably. Accessible flowers in a unbreakable vase
are suitable for little fingers. There will be no power struggle
There are many benefits to an environment where children are welcome.
Among them are the likelihood that the child who is free to explore
in his home will become more alert, self-sufficient, and content to
play alone with Mom nearby than a child who is confined to a playpen
or walker in order to restrain him from the "adult house." The former
child is supported by his environment not frustrated by it.
A home that is kept orderly and that appeals to a child's innate
sense of order (strongest between the ages of 1 and 3) will foster
lifelong habits of organization and stewardship. Oriti suggests low
dresser drawers with baskets in them and shelves with more baskets
for toys. The child as young as two is eager to sort her own clothes
and toys into the appropriate place, keeping her room neat, without
coaxing or cajoling.
Child-sized mops and brooms make the real work of cleaning floors as
enjoyable as a game. Dishes stored down low and child-sized cooking
utensils encourage little helpers peeling, scrubbing, and mixing at a
time when many moms resort to playpens, television, threats and
bribes in order to prepare dinner in peace.
Natia Meehan is a theologian and a certified Montessori teacher. She
and her husband, Greg, have created a home enviroment that embraces
children. In 2-year-old Clare's room, a low mattress on the floor
with a long mirror mounted horizontally has been Clare's bed since
she was born. She knows that she can sleep comfortably there when she
is tired and can get up all by herself when she awakens. She also
knows that she can seek and find comfort from mom and dad should she
need them. Her room is completely safe and completely Clare's. The
pictures and the crucifix are hung low enough that she can easily see
them. A choice of clothing for the day is hung on low pegs to
facilitate learning to dress herself. The room reflects both loving
care and respect on the part of her parents.
Before she had children, my sister-in-law had one of the most
beautifully decorated homes I'd ever seen. The furniture was lovely
and it all fit perfectly in immaculately kept rooms. Now there is a
Little Tykes playhouse in the middle of her "Early American" living
room. There is a child-sized picnic table in the kitchen. A basket,
brimming over with toys and a child-sized leather chair have replaced
the overstuffed armchair in her family room. Do the children feel
comfortable there? Absolutely! My children love to play at her house.
Do the adults feel comfortable there? Without question. Visitors are
never fearful that children will misbehave. Visits aren't distorted
into opportunities for a test of wills. The environment is not
chaotic or dictated by children but it is peaceful, encouraging and
supportive of them.
Foss is a freelance writer living in Springfield.
This article appeared in the May 18, 1995 issue of "The Arlington
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the
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