The value we give to independence in our classrooms, translates to the way activities are created in the Montessori environment, so children can do as much as possible on their own. Not only Montessorians, but many psychologists have claimed the importance of independence for children’s self esteem and confidence throughout their lives. Studies have shown how children, who are able to do things independently, are more confident in their abilities, and develop a more profound level of creativity. Recent examples of famous innovators, including Sergey Brin and Larry Page- co-founders of Google-, who attended Montessori schools, suggest that being in an environment where your abilities are trusted, and you are given the freedom to explore and make your own discoveries, results in more creative problem solving abilities and a higher level of executive functioning skills. Children, from birth, are provided with everything they need to survive and adapt to their time and place. Developmentally, each child is pre- programmed with a series of steps that ensure their successful adaptation. Nature does its part by giving the child the tools and intelligence to grow, learn, and form a personality. Our only job as adults (a very important one) is to provide the child with a supportive and rich environment, where he or she feels safe, successful and confident to grow and develop those tools that nature has given. This is not to say that everything should be easy for the child. The child should have some experience with challenges and a friendly relationship with error. These experiences build resilience and perseverance.
When it comes to independence there is a fundamental principle in our classrooms that is easy to implement in your family life: Don’t do for them what they can do on their own. Your child may phrase it as: “Help me do it myself” or “I can do it” or “Let me do it”. The best way to start is by adapting each of your areas at home, so your children can have access to what they need in order to become independent. The adaptation of each area has to have safety as a key component. A second key component is how easily children can access their belongings and items both personal items and things they use to help contribute to the family at home. For example, in a lower compartment of your refrigerator make space for your child’s snacks. Explain to your child when and how this new space is going to work, and also show your child how to keep it clean and tidy. Remember to move slowly when showing your child these things and know in advance that you may need to repeat the demonstration more than one time. Children love to feel a part of their environment, and to feel trusted with responsibilities that spark their intelligence. Finally, observe if the new changes that you have made to your home environment are working for the child. And remember the two key components of safety and accessibility mentioned above. Good luck in providing your child with an environment that honours and serves their potential!