The Importance of Slowing Down with Young Children

There is so much in the world to discover!  And young children are trying to learn everything they can.  Maria Montessori described an inner drive that every child has to explore and be independent.  If a child’s world moves too quickly and to many things are done for them they can become passive and miss all the little joys in life.  

Young children can be more independent than most people think.  One of the biggest differences in how an adult does something independently compared to a child is adults are much faster and efficient.  When a child is taking longer adults either help to make things more efficient or assume the child can’t complete the task and do it for them. If a child is given the time to complete the task independently they will build confidence from this independence. It is helpful to remember the very way an adult approaches an activity is different thank a child.  

“The essence of Independence is to be able to do something for one’s self.  Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be.  Such experience is not just play… it is work he must do in order to grow up”  – Maria Montessori 

Slowing down to provide a child time to care for themselves and problem solve lets a child engage in the world in many different meaningful ways.  When a child does something purposeful they will naturally start concentrating.  A child can not force themselves to concentrate like an adult, a child needs work that is purposeful and interesting to them.  Practical life materials are wonderful for developing concentration and are found in every aspect of a child’s life.  These include getting dress, brushing their teach, cutting an apple to sweeping the floor.  If a child knows from experience that they will not be rushed or interrupted they can develop even stronger concentration. 

Children also have what Maria Montessori called Sensitive Periods for learning.  In the first 6 years of life, a child has sensitive periods for language, movement, order, social behavior, and refinement of senses.  A child is naturally drawn to these and will easily learn as much as they can.  For example, a child’s sensitive period for language is so strong that a child can easily learn any language without an accent just by talking to people.  They can also learn multiple languages if regularly exposed to them. The more we slow down the more a child can learn.  Here are ways to slow down to meet a child’s sensitive periods 

  • Language – Slow down and have real conversations with your child,  remember to look them in the eye and truly listen. 
  • Movement – When working with your child only do one thing at a time so they can watch or even participate.
  • Order – Have orderly routines in a logical sequence and leave lots of time for your child to be independent. 
  • Social Behavior – Take the extra time to tell your child ahead of time when you are going somewhere so that they know what to expect and are then more likely to engage.
  • Refinement of Senses – Take time to feel, smell, etc.  Take nice walks listening for birds.  Take a few extra minutes when making dinner to let your child smell and/or taste all the ingredients. 
  • Extra tip 1 – Slow down enough so that you are not talking and moving at the same time when showing your child something new.
  • Extra tip 2 – Focus on one aspect of something and let them focus on that before moving on.  For example, if you want your child to help with dishes only have them dry dishes for a while until they are confident with that then slowly, slowly they can rinse and then wash.
  • Extra tip 3 – Slow down and take the time to observe your child, you can learn so much watching them. 

“If the idea of the universe is presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying.” – Maria Montessori 

Written by – Emily Suarez