Create the appropriate environment for the child's development
Children want to experiment different sensations to develop their skills and stimulate their curiosity. To do so, we can help them by creating an environment in which they will feel comfortable, safe and respected and where their autonomy will be encouraged.
Guiding children in their activities
We can communicate with babies as from their very first days and encourage him to be autonomous. After all adults are only collaborators to the development of children… so let’s make it happy and joyful! Children will learn even more if they are in a peaceful and enthusiastic environment.
Being kind and courteous can be transmitted from the very beginning. A baby will appreciate people who speak with respect, smile and who use a quiet and soft voice; it will give him the desire to do likewise.
Forcing a child to be courteous is not beneficial, however by showing him the right example the child will then reproduce what he has observed in daily life.
Freedom of movement
The fundamental idea is to have confidence in a child and to leave him discover his world (see Emmi Pikler). Nevertheless the adult is responsible for providing a safe and caring environment which is adapted and suitable to allow the child to develop his full potential.
We will use the term “play” to simplify matters, even if some specialists consider that children in their desire to learn, do not play but work. The main objective for children is not to play but to always learn new things. They will therefore enjoy intelligent games that will have meanings and impact in their daily life.
We also need to keep in mind that it is important to give the right amount of stimulation in order to nourish their curiosity without over-stimulating. It is important also to respect the development stage and to not stop a child in the middle of an activity.
We could also leave a child interact not necessarily in the intended or “right way” with a toy, as long as he is enjoying it. However, a child who is frustrated because he cannot use a toy (and will then discard it for example), will not take advantage of the activity, so it can be preferable to suggest another activity which is better suited to his current development stage.
A pleasant and well-organized environment will help children to feel independent and will enable them to concentrate better.
Children appreciate rooms with neutral and light colors, without too many toys. From the start, children have a natural taste for pretty things, they instinctively appreciate art. We can for example hang up artwork or paintings,…
The choice of the objects that will surround children is important because they will absorb every single detail of their environment. These objects need to capture their attention, be attractive, be of quality and be adapted to their size and capabilities.
Create within the room the following dedicated areas (which can be adapted according to the available space):
- The sleeping area
Often the notion of empathy can help us to make the right decisions for children. For sleeping for example, as adults we enjoy sleeping in a large open bed (without bars), the same goes for children.
For security reasons, it is recommended to put the mattress on the floor with cushions all around (the easiest and most cost efficient way).
Where to put the mattress is also guided by our common sense. A corner in the room would be ideal for a child to feel the security of the walls and where he can also get a general overview of his room and observe his books, mobiles, pictures and photos…).
- The play area
The desire to make new things, to concentrate, and to look for more autonomy is the main reason for the children’s motivation and at the very core of their self construction.
In order to help them we can dedicate a space for exploration adapted to their development stage. In another corner of the room, we can put a mattress with the same security characteristics as the space for sleeping. Hanging up a mirror in this area will motivate children to move about and to further develop their motor skills. We can also hang up mobiles from the ceiling and mount a small shelf alongside the mattress to display all the different items (paying attention to not overcrowd with too many items).
The living room
In order for children to feel integrated into the family area without however invading it, we can dedicate a specific play area and also make space on the family bookshelf for their own books.
Adapting the bathroom to their size and needs, will help children become more autonomous and feel proud of doing things by themselves.
In order to do this, we can put a small basket for dirty clothes, a bin for used nappies, a mirror (it is easier to brush your teeth whilst looking in a mirror…), a washcloth and towel so they can wash their face.
Helping in everyday life
Getting dressed becomes an important activity giving children the opportunity to learn a deep and personal learning experience: they are learning to inhabit their own Self.
Leave the progress of the child to guide you, so getting dressed will become an enjoyable moment and not merely a mission to accomplish. Avoid aggressive movements and adopt delicate movements where clothes simply glide on. Clothes easy to put on and made of natural fibers will also help the child feel comfortable.
Dress a baby gently and softly. Talk to him, describe what you are doing and invite them to participate. In order to help the baby assimilate the getting dressed routine, always follow the same order and same distinct and gentle movements. The baby will soon be able to cooperate and participate.
For walking toddlers it is more gratifying to dress them when they are standing up. You can take a stool for yourself to be at their height and at ease. Invite and encourage them to participate by suggesting to put their dirty clothes in the basket or dirty nappy in the bin, however without forcing them.
In order to progress and encourage autonomy, here are few tips:
– Use your everyday dishes so that children get used to looking after them (avoid using valuable dishes…).
– Use a placemat where each dish and utensil is labeled to teach them how to set a table.
– Transparent dishes (bowls, cups) will help them become aware of the color of what they eat and drink.
– Give them a bib that they can pull on and off on their own, this will give them the sensation that they have control over things in their lives.
Establishing a routine at night time can help children to fall asleep.
Here are a few suggestions:
– Anticipate bedtime and tell children in advance so that they can get ready and integrate the idea.
– Heading to the bathroom to brush their teeth is a first step towards calming down.
– Reading a story. As from 9 months they can already choose between two stories.
– Turning out the lights, singing a lullaby, giving thanks for the day… all of these actions will help children to calm down.
– Say goodnight with affection and leave calmly and avoid going back repeatedly.
These steps need to be adapted accordingly to what is the custom in each family, the most important being that the child gets into a well-established and peaceful bedtime routine.