Maria Montessori was all about the observation of children. She found that she was able to be far more effective in guiding children when she took the time to stop directly interacting and diligently observe them.
Why is observation important?
- When we, the adults, are observing, children are given the chance to interact with the environment based on their own desires and needs.
- We get to see what children are really interested in. It might be the floor vents (and after all that work I did selecting such lovely toys!). That’s o.k.!
- Once we know what our child is really interested in, we can select a time to join the fun and add some vocabulary or extensions. If, like my child, your little one is interested in the floor vents, you could introduce the words “air” or “wind”. I offered my son some small scarves to place over the vents when the air is on and he loves it. I also noticed my son’s fascination with our trashcan. Instead of a new set of blocks, I bought him a trashcan of his own.
- Children concentrate for longer periods of time when they are engaged in self-directed play. This builds their attention span. Woohoo!
- The parent or caregiver can take a break from center stage. Sometimes we need to just watch and not feel guilty about it. Observation is not ignoring. Observation is enthusiastically watching what our child does. If my son clearly wants me to engage, I do, but if he is looking at books, I sit quietly and watch him.
- Children learn how to be self-directed and independent. Independent play leads children to feel confident and to learn to solve their own problems.
How to make it happen.
- Create a completely safe environment for your child to explore. Place toys/works on shelves that your child can reach so that you can sit back and watch the fun. Here is a photo of our playroom (former dinning room).
- My son usually wants me to interact for a while before he is ready for me to step back. When you see a window of opportunity to step back, discretely drop into the background.
- It is so hard to watch a child struggle with a puzzle or with anything whatsoever, but the confidence and joy a child feels when she solves problems on her own is incredible. She may not even notice that she solved the problem because she might not have even considered that there was a problem. I try to let M solve the problem on his own, but I’m very willing to lend some encouraging words or actually help if need be.
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