If you've read our day-in-the-life / our-day-in-pictures post, you'd have seen a little that we're a lot into cleaning in our home. Our now 19-month-old has a 6-piece cleaning set for inside; a set for outdoors; color-coded (more for my need for categorizing for now, since she doesn't mind the colors just yet) rags, washcloths, and sponges; a broom in every room; and we're on the look-out for a child-sized vacuum.
It must be "nurture" As a child, we were the kind of family that spends random Sundays general cleaning. Also "nature"? My own mother is the kind--if there was anyone else like her--the kind of 9-year-old who cleans rooms from ceiling to floor without anyone prompting her. For us, it's also, largely, because of Montessori. Here's more on why we clean, with our now-19-month-old, in our Montessori home.
1. It's a great, productive way to bond.
The sink and the suds are eavesdroppers to countless conversations among my sisters, my mother, and I as we wash the dishes; the sound of the range hood and the clang of pans are perfect for concealing surprises, secrets, and gossips as we work in the kitchen; the boxes and tin cans of old letters and mementos and the subsequent reminiscing together are the reasons why cleaning a cabinet always takes longer than vacuuming the entire house. That's how we were growing up and I see our family doing the same, with Cara.
Daddy, who just came home from work, was invited to sweep.
2. It fosters responsibility and care for the environment.
There was a time, when I was teaching in a Montessori school for children 3-6 years old, when the colored pencils--which were supposed to be sorted according to color into wooden pencil holders--were always mixed up. To address this little concern, I showed the children a little presentation which involved putting the colored pencils in trays, cleaning the pencil holders one at a time, and sorting the colored pencils back into them. It worked wonderfully--later on, the older children were also sharpening the pencils! When I see a material being misused, I show how we gently handle it; and if more modelling is needed, I show how we clean it. When the children see how much attention we put in meticulously wiping, washing, putting the materials back in place; they usually care for the materials, for the environment more. Instead of just saying, "we take care of our things", we are showing them a concrete way to do such.
I didn't even know how we'd use this cleaning tool, but our 19-month-old took it and used it first on the slide, and then on this puzzle--dusting them.
This made me really see that now's a good time to expose young toddlers to cleaning (we started the same time she started eating solids as we always offered a washcloth for her to wipe the table) because...
3. It responds to the child's sensitive period for tiny things and sensitive period for order.
Sensitive period for tiny things. Perfect--since they see the tiniest things! A small speck on the floor, she'll pick it up and throw it in the trash. And I didn't even see that white spot on our couch. But Cara did and tried to clean it with water from the sprayer.
Sensitive period for order. Children observe (observe, meaning watch; and observe, meaning follow) order. While it doesn't always seem to be that way for us adults, they really have a sense of order. Take for example this one time Cara opened a box full of hotel toiletries while I was taking a shower. She took them all out and I thought she was just bringing them all to her table. When I finally saw her table after my shower, I realized that she had been sorting the toiletries--grouped the ones that are the same together!
And have you seen this video of that time when it looked like she was taking out all the materials from the shelf and putting them all on the floor bed? Watch the video and see that as it turns out, she showed me a better way to clean the shelves!
And because cleaning responds to these sensitive periods and fulfills for the child certain innate needs...
4. The child just loves to do it! (And this, for me, is reason enough.)
Cara was 9 months here when she took a fabric from our cloth basket and wiped the floor, just as I do with a rag everyday.
One time I saw her stand on her chair and wipe the walls so I thought we'd wash something high (instead of the usual low floors) and here she is washing the gate.
For more of our Montessori, like Montessori on Mars on Facebook and follow @montessorionmars on Instagram.