10 Aug 5 EASY Steps on How to ‘Follow the Child’.
There are so many Montessori terms that are used that may not be so easy for everyone to understand. One such term is ‘Follow the Child’.
This beautiful term was coined by Dr. Montessori and is at the core of her philosophy.
As a parent and teacher trainer, this is one of my personal favorite lessons from Dr. Montessori.
I believe that if we can understand this term and apply it correctly, Montessori will bring out the best in our children.
So what does ‘follow the child’ mean?
And how can we ‘follow the child the way Maria Montessori wanted us to as parents or Montessori guides?
Follow the child can also be understood as trust the child.
Trust the child to show you what they need.
Follow them by meeting their unique developmental needs and giving them what they need, when they need it.
But what does this specifically mean for a parent?
- Respecting your child’s interests and keeping your own feelings aside
- Sitting back and watching those interests unfold as and when your child is ready
- Not pushing your child when you see their interest developing
When we follow the child, we must observe what interests and excites them and then we need to find a way to work that into our teaching and our lives.
Following the child requires our patience. Standing by as our child repeats the same activity over and over, without interrupting them or forcing them to move on to something else.
I once had a parent who asked me a question during a seminar. They said to me: “My daughter loves to transfer water with a sponge. She can do this repeatedly for up to an hour and she’s been doing the same thing for almost 2 weeks. Tell me how do I stop her?”
This parent was exasperated and desperate.
And you know what I told him? “You absolutely don’t stop her… you have to follow your child.”
When a child repeats an activity over and over again, it is actually a golden opportunity for a parent or a teacher.
The child is actually showing you exactly what she loves doing, what her interest are!
So, we follow her.
Now this does not mean we just sit back and not do anything!
We can create other similar activities that will give her some variations to what she enjoys: maybe change the sponge or the containers in an attempt to offer her a challenge.
We could even extend it into our daily lives by offering to show her how to use a sponge to clean a table. We build on her interest and help to develop it. Is it becoming more clear now?
Next: How do we follow the child?
Let me break this down into 5 simple steps for you so you can follow your child with ease.
Step One: Observe
I can never stop emphasizing how much value there is in observing your child – it is the key to finding out so much about your child. Now, what exactly do you want to observe?
- What are they drawn to?
- How does their body move?
- What do they repeat?
Step Two: Provide Opportunities
It’s important to give them opportunities to develop their own interests. You could expose them to books on different topics, spend time with them in nature, or lay out new materials that allow for creativity and open-ended play.
Step Three: Space and Time
Give your child the space and time to ‘just be’. When we have children on a rigid schedule or agenda they don’t have a chance find their interest and explore it.
Step Four: Respect
Always show respect for your child’s interest. We must never laugh at it or show disappointment in their choice. We must also never try and persuade them away from what excites them.
Step Five: Sharing
Share in your child’s joy and interest. Help them to build upon it and follow their passion. Even if it isn’t yours.
When one of my sons was 4 years old he was fascinated by insects – something that I am totally averse to. He had a magnifying glass and would love to look at bugs up close.
One day we were in the park and he ran to me, so excited, and grabbed my hand pulling me to a nearby bush. He pointed to the stems and said – “Look Mama, look! So many cocoons”.
And sure enough, when I looked there were dozens and dozens of cocoons on the branches. Let me be totally honest with you, to me it was the creepiest thing to look at.
But here was this little boy, who couldn’t contain his excitement and had SO many questions for me: when will the butterflies come out, will it all be on the same day, what color with they be and on and on and on.
So, what did I do?
We stood there looking at this cocoon-filled bush for 30 minutes just talking and watching. I continued to develop on that interest with some homemade Montessori materials and activities. I ‘shared’ in his interest.
And you know what…
I enjoyed it and learned so many new things too! My sons are 18 years old now, and guess what? I STILL do this till today – whether its Broadway musicals or Hollywood movies or painting – I share in it all and its helped us develop a deeper bond.
Following the child means offering more support and giving up a bit of control. The returns are going to be long-lasting.
- Patience now means a happier, more fulfilled child later
- Support now means a more independent child later
- A genuine yes now means later when you need to say no, your child will hear and respect it because they have come to see you as a person they can rely on
So… whether its bugs or rocket ships, the solar system or dinosaurs – respect your child, watch your child, follow your child.
Sunshine Teachers’ Training