We had a chat with mummy Olesya on the creative ways she's using Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf principles to raise her son.
While there’s no right way to raise our kids, getting inspiration from those who are doing a great job can’t hurt. Olesya, mum to two-year-old Lucas, has done the research – actual academic research – on how to best raise her son. We’ve gotta hand it to Olesya – while we’ve read a few parenting books ourselves, we’ve never really seriously thought about methodology or philosophy. And Lucas seems to be having a grand ol’ time, constantly working on art projects that challenge his creativity and, as a big plus, help taper down all that energy. We spoke to Olesya on how she’s handling it all:
Why all this research?
Like any mum out there, I always want what’s best for my child. This is why I spent a lot of time doing research on all the parenting options and philosophies out there. By the end of my semi-academic research, I was overwhelmed. The key takeaway was that only you know your own child best and only you can decide what upbringing methodology is the right fit. I decided on a mix of three philosophies: Reggio Emilia, Montessori and Waldorf.
That’s a lot of work! What did you like about each philosophy?
Montessori: I want Lucas to learn leadership skills, self-care, independence and confidence. This means following his lead and focusing on developing practical life skills through hands-on learning. For example, by now Lucas has learned how to brush his teeth, pour a glass of water from a water dispenser, undress, sweep the floor, load the washing machine, help in the kitchen with basic food prep and baking. Another important aspect of this philosophy for me is independent play. If Lucas feels comfortable and confident playing on his own, he will also be capable of doing tasks on his own.
Waldorf: l like this approach to learning through “head, heart and hands” (in other words thinking, feeling and doing). It is a balanced learning through experiential activities. Why does it work for us? Because this philosophy prioritises the arts and using one’s imagination. What’s also cool about this philosophy is the fact that there are no textbooks in the Waldorf education. Instead, kids write their own lesson books!
Reggio Emilia: I like the focus on cooperation, teamwork, and project-based learning. I agree that children should be treated as active collaborators in their education, instead of being passive observers. Another important aspect in this approach is encouraging kids to communicate through whatever means they can (words, objects, songs, movements, painting, drawing, building, crafting etc.).
How do you plan out activities for your son?
We do a lot of arts and crafts at home, because these activities help enhance fine motor skills, influence language development, develop creativity and support decision-making and critical thinking. I’d look through books and do online research for art and craft activities for toddlers, select those that are the most appropriate and try them out with Lucas.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it leads to new and unexpected outcomes. That’s the beauty of art and crafts – there’s no right or wrong. Regardless of the outcome, your little one still practised painting, gluing, drawing, tearing, assembling etc. That’s why I believe craft activities for toddlers should always be process-oriented, which means that the process involved in creating a piece of craft is more valuable than the outcome.
Do you have any advice for mums who want to keep their toddlers busy?
Follow their lead. Let your child experience and and engage in activities that interest him/her without rushing and that nurture curiosity. Guide them through the learning journey and allow them to show you what they’re interested in.
Put their toys within easy reach. Allow for independent play by placing open-ended toys on low shelves for easy access. Open-ended toys are the toys that can be played with in many different ways.
Get involved. When it is arts and crafts time, join in! Apart from helping your little one with learning new skills and creating an art piece, make one of your own too.
Rotate their toys. Got a child who easily gets bored with their toys? Rotating toys sparks their interests. I try to rotate our toys and books every week.
Let them to help out. Let them help you, whether you’re baking, cooking or cleaning. Explain what needs to be done and give your child a job that he/she can handle.
Start a family project. For example, grow a plant or vegetables. We sprouted carrots for weeks, making sure Lucas watered the carrots each morning and checked on them regularly. He was totally immersed in this project and was very happy to see when the sprouts appeared. Alternatively, you can give your child a small plant to care for.
Thank you, Olesya!