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Order, order! Establishing routines

Maria Montessori used to observe the children all the time. She was observing both their behaviour and their actions throughout activities. From her observations she could see that the children were working with great deep concentration and continued repetition. She then began to realize that their purpose while busy wasn’t only to complete the activity, but it was also to satisfy an inner need. She said that “they knew” how to do the work but they were driven to repeat it several times as if to complete something within themselves.

Montessori recognized eleven sensitive periods happening from birth through the age of six whereof one these sensitive periods is for order. During the sensitive periods the child has powerful capacities. Sensitive periods are happening naturally, effortlessly, and as Dr Montessori stated, they are universal.

However, some sensitive periods are more noticeable than others, such as, the sensitive period of movement, while other sensitive periods need a bit more work and involvement from the adults as they are not as obvious. One of these sensitive periods, is the sensitive period for order and this is when the child needs to be given a properly prepared environment and a routine that s/he will thrive in.

“These are special sensitivities, which are found in evolving beings, that is, in infantile states, which are temporary and are limited to the acquisition of a certain character. Once this character is developed, the corresponding sensitivity ceases. Each character is established with the help of an impulse, of a passing sensitivity " -

Maria Montessori

Order is an internal sense that allows us to distinguish relationships between various objects rather than with the objects themselves. Working well and prepared together with your child during this sensitive period will encourage their independence, emotional wellbeing, promote peace and will allow the construction of the mathematical mind in the near future. The children need to have external order to create their internal order, and for this the role of the adult, is fundamental.

The Montessori environment meets the child’s need for order by making sure materials are stored in the same place every day. Lessons are presented in the same sequence and each activity ends with the child returning the activity to the shelf. This physical sense of order sets the foundation for higher level thinking skills such as classification, as well as helping the child order his own space and time. In every Montessori environment children has the freedom to explore and work within solid well-established ground rules, and also, they all have their own tasks and responsibilities which they learned in order to successfully complete, by presentations, practice and allowance for repetition.

Routines and responsibilities are very powerful and successful tools which we use in order to display every child’s responsibilities and routines within our environment. For instance, routines and responsibilities charts offers the children the sense of being equal with each other, gives them the opportunity to become responsible and independent, and also allows them to organize themselves in an easier and productive way. Below you will find a guide of how you can create a routine chart for your child at home.

It is best to prepare a routine and responsibilities chart, and remember to involve your child, that is, let the child create it, with your support. For example:

A bedtime responsibilities & routines chart.

The idea is that the child will collaborate in creating the chart, and that s/he will fully agree with what will go on it. As the adults, we are the ones knowing our children best, so we will offer a range of responsibilities that our little ones have the skills and the understanding to complete. Let’s think of how for instance we can make a chart of routines for bedtime.

First of all, we will need to organize our thoughts and put down what we want to gain out of this chart. Then we will need to decide which responsibilities we will involve. Keep in mind that the chart needs to meet your child’s needs and skills at the age he is, and that you can always make changes and additions as s/he is growing.

You will then need to prepare some pictures related to bedtime routines only. They need to be real, you can even take pictures from your house, to focus on one responsibility at the time, and easy to understand from a young child.

You need to sit down with your child and tell him or her that you are going to create a chart of his or her bedtime routines. If your child is old enough you can involve them by asking them to tell you what things s/he usually does before going to sleep.

Write down everything your child tells you on a sheet. It cannot be too many things. Then you can narrow down the list. Imagine that your child tells you that s/he likes to watch TV, play with the construction games, eating dinner, playing in the bathtub, having a shower and listening to a story.

Well, now it's up to you to shorten the list and put it in a logical order. It could perfectly be the following: Watch TV a bit or play, bathe, have dinner, brush teeth, listen to a story and sleep.

Explain to your child that s/he will now have to create the routine chart on a board. You can do this by gluing the pictures and pasting them according to the established order: first a child watching television followed by playing in their bedroom; tidying toys away; helping to set the table; dinner; bath; brushing teeth, and; listening to a story.

Place the board with the routine chart in a visible place in the house.

Gentle reminders, lots of encouragement and enthusiasm will need to take place from you as parents every day. Be patient and stick to the routines! You will soon find that your child is gaining great independence and is becoming more responsible during bedtime routines. Your child itself is going to take great pride for themselves as s/he will realize that s/he is capable of performing certain tasks without help and on their own initiative. As Maria Montessori stated “Order is one of the needs of life which, when satisfied, produces real happiness”.

Elena leads the Topaz classroom at Little Gems in Nicosia. She is a mother of twins and have plenty of experience as both a practitioner and a mother. Please contact Elena should want more tips regarding 'establishing routines'.


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