Updated: Feb 11, 2021
After some interesting insights over on my socials, I am excited to be writing a series of blogs on how to choose activities for your kids.
I often get asked "what activities can I put on the shelves for my child!?" but this really is a bit of an impossible question. I can't actually tell you, because your child is unique and without observing them, it's difficult to know what they're into.
What you're probably asking for is ideas because you're unsure on what your child ought to be doing at what particular age. I'll be covering this in the coming blogs, but for now, let me teach you about observation, which is a really important skill when it comes to choosing the right activities for your child.
In this first blog I'll be helping you develop your observation skills so that you can identify your child's needs in the moment.
What is observation?
Observation is simply watching and listening with intent. When you do this, you will gain huge insights into your child's interests and then use this information to plan activities or shelf rotations based on this. By understanding your child's needs, you can deter your children away from exploring areas of the house that you'd prefer them not to, by creating an activity that you can redirect them to.
Set aside some time.
So firstly, set some time aside for you to observe your child. You'll need about 15 minutes of uninterrupted time, a notepad and a pen. Make sure you and your child are well rested, fed and happy before going ahead. You won't get the results you are looking for without this.
Let them be free
Observing your child should be an opportunity for your child to experience freedom of choice. By allowing this, you'll be able to see their true interests.
This does not mean, however, allowing them to participate in dangerous activities like exploring the knife drawer - you have to keep them safe! But for the most part, it should be an activity that allows them as much freedom as possible.
It is really important not to interrupt your child when you are observing them. If you do, you could break their concentration or redirect them to a task that they may not naturally have gone for.
If they speak to you or request your attention though, you can engage with them. Observing is about taking a step back, not ignoring your child completely.
Watch and listen
When you observe your child, you'll need to watch and listen carefully and note down anything that seems relevant.
Watch their movements: Where are they going? Are they using particular body parts? How are they walking? What do they do next?
Watch their hands: What do they touch? How do they touch it? What do they do with it? Are they manipulating an object? How are they moving it (i.e. twisting, throwing, patting, pushing)?
Watch their eyes: What are they looking at?
Listen carefully: What are they saying? If non-verbal, what noises are they making? Are they repeating any words or sounds? Are they asking questions or making statements? What do they say to you (if relevant)?
Look for repetition
Are they making the same body or hand movement, or repeating spoken words? You might notice that patterns appear across different activities. This is a sure sign that your child has a particular interest they want to explore. From this, you can create an activity that suits your child's interests!
This is not the kind of activity you only do once. Your child is growing and changing all of the time - observing them regularly not only helps you to keep practising but also means you can keep on top of what they're into and provide activities to suit.
Read part 2 here on how to create the best play space for your kids!
Want to learn more about Montessori? Check out my workshop, Intro to Montessori here.